Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (White)

I telephoned Mr. Rublee and told him that yesterday evening I was reading over the opinion on the Leticia matter given by Señor Alvarez of Chile to the Colombian Government19 and that it occurred [Page 291] to me, from an opinion Mr. Alvarez expressed, that there was one other possible line of action that might be explored.

Mr. Alvarez stated that Peru could not bring Colombia before a conciliation commission because Colombia has not violated any treaty nor has Colombia any difference with Peru, but that Colombia can bring Peru before a conciliation commission on account of its violation of the provisions of the Treaty of Caracas of 1911.20 I said that Peru had asked Colombia to set up a conciliation commission and Colombia has rejected it on the ground that the Leticia matter is an internal one. If other methods fail, one way which occurs to me of getting the countries to talk and not go to war, if the latter seems imminent, would be for Colombia to take the offensive and ask Peru to come before a conciliation commission regarding its violation of the 1911 Treaty. This would serve to bring about a discussion between the two countries in such a way that Colombia would not lose any prestige, as she might in going before a commission at the request of Peru to discuss the Leticia case. Peru would doubtless accept because she would intend to bring the Leticia matter before the commission. Once the commission is established, it would then be up to Colombia to try to get an expression of censure from it against Peru for violating the Treaty of 1911 and, if Peru brings up the Leticia matter, to have the commission throw that question out of court, suggesting that Leticia be restored to Colombia, after which the countries could get together before the conciliation commission to discuss any economic or commercial questions arising out of the execution of the Treaty of 1922.

Mr. Rublee seemed to think that this was a good idea and offered a possible way out. He said he would think the matter over.

F[rancis] W[hite]
  1. Colombian Legation, International Opinion and the Letician Controversy (Washington, January 1933), pp. 29–42. Typewritten copy of the Opinion dated Paris, October 12, 1932, was transmitted to the Department by the Colombian Minister under covering note of October 27, 1932, not printed (721.23/390½).
  2. Signed July 18, 1911, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cvii, pt. 1, p. 601.