817.00 H 35/2: Telegram

The Ambassador in Mexico (Morrow) to the Secretary of State


418. Embassy’s No. 413, November 18.17a Yesterday morning I received word through the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Señor Estrada, that President Calles would be pleased to have me call upon him at 11 a.m. at Chapultepec Castle. I kept the appointment …

The President then referred to the Supreme Court decision in the oil case mentioned in Embassy’s 412, November 17, 1927, 6 p.m., and said that he was very much pleased that the decision had been made, and that it was the duty of the Executive and Legislative Departments to follow the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, and that they would do so without doubt. The President said further that although only one amparo case had been decided, he had no doubt that additional cases would be decided in accordance with the same principles, as soon as they could be prepared for decision. The President told me he was not a lawyer, that he had not yet received from his legal advisers an opinion as to the proper course for the Government of Mexico to follow; but from his understanding of the matter, it would now be proper for the Government of Mexico to alter the law or the regulations so that:

Section 14 of the petroleum law, which provides for a grant of a 50–year concession instead of a perpetual right, would be altered or repealed;
Full confirmation of rights to take out the oil, unlimited in time, would be given to those who had such rights prior to the Constitution of 1917;
A sufficient time, probably one year, would be given to all such owners of the surface to come in and get their rights to the oil confirmed.

I did not discuss with the President the terms of possible new legislation because, as I explained to him, I had not had the opportunity to read an English translation of the decision. The President made it quite clear, however, that he wished all substantial rights of the oil companies to be observed by the Government of Mexico. The President went so far as to state that he knew many of the oil companies were greatly disturbed over the actual state of their titles to the surface, and feared that the Government of Mexico might commence a radical attack upon titles, but that their fears, in this respect, were groundless. The President stated that of course some preliminary [Page 197]arrangement would have to be made by which third parties who disputed titles should be given an opportunity to be heard, but that the Government of Mexico was desirous of confirming titles under which actual money had been spent rather than disturbing them on technical grounds.

Señor Martinez de Alva of the Division of Protocol of the Foreign Office acted as interpreter at our conference, and when riding back from the Castle with him I invited his attention to the fact that the present law was confused in sometimes using the word “confirmation” and sometimes using the word “concession”; that I understood President Calles to be in favor of “confirmation” of rights held prior to the Constitution. Señor Martinez de Alva replied that he was familiar with the law and that President Calles had used the term “confirmation” and had never referred to the term “concession”.

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