The Consul at Nuevo Laredo ( Wormuth ) to the Secretary of State

No. 146

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the Department’s instructions (code telegrams) of June 17, 1932, instructing me to obtain information as to whether District Attorney Valls of Laredo, Texas, would cause any trouble to General Calles while crossing through Texas to New York with his wife, who is ill.

I have the honor to confirm the report made by long distance telephone to Mr. Johnson, Chief of Mexican Division, about 5 p.m., on the same date, assuring Mr. Johnson that there would be no molestation of General Calles or any of his party, on his way through to New York, but that there might be upon his return.

General Calles and his party passed through Laredo about 7:30 p.m. June 17th and were received quietly, without demonstrations, in accordance with the wishes of General Calles, by Major Chambers in charge at Fort McIntosh, with Captain Hodapp, Lieut. Lorence and Lieut. Currie of his staff, and the usual courtesies were tendered him, but declined. These officers were personally received by General Calles, as well and [as] myself and Vice Consul Harper, and the Mexican Consul and staff in Laredo and a few other prominent citizens. The Department’s instruction relative to courtesies to be offered at request of the Secretary of War was communicated to [Page 760] Major Chambers and fully complied with. A clipping from the Laredo Times is herewith inclosed29 descriptive of the incident, which is quite accurate.

Some little difficulty was experienced in obtaining an assurance from District Attorney Valls that he would not occasion any trouble in this matter. The following is a brief résume of the steps taken to secure such assurance.

On the morning of June 17th, after carefully studying our Ambassador’s instructions and the telegrams and despatches therein referred to regarding the previous incidents in 1929, when General Calles crossed the border with considerable turmoil resulting in disastrous consequences to both Nuevo Laredo and Laredo and considerable ill feeling engendered between the two countries, accompanied by Vice Consul Harper, who throughout a very trying day was a tower of strength to me in decoding the various telegrams received and assisting me with his advice, counsel and unremitting industry, I visited Mayor Albert Martin, of Laredo, who is personally very friendly to both Mr. Valls and the Consulate and who is extremely anxious to preserve the most friendly relations between the two countries. In accordance with my instructions, I asked Mr. Martin if he thought there would be any trouble if General Calles passed through Laredo. He stated that in his opinion there would be none, but advised a personal interview with Mr. Valls, on the ground that no definite assurance could be given without such an interview. The Mayor was kind enough to arrange such an interview and accompany us. At 2 p.m. we saw Mr. Valls personally and he stated that his attitude had not changed since 1929 and that he required the same assurance from the Department that he had received in that year direct from the Department stating that the diplomatic standing of General Calles was recognized by the Government of the United States and that he was entitled to protection from arrest or molestation while within the confines of the United States. I pointed out that it would be difficult to submit this request to the Department as, on account of the illness of Mrs. Calles, the matter was one of the gravest urgency, but agreed to submit his request to the Ambassador by telephone. This I did and the Ambassador suggested that I show his telegram to Mr. Valls.… I examined the correspondence again and found that the Department had authorized Mr. Boyce in 1929 to communicate with Mr. Valls and state to him that at that time General Calles was in possession of Diplomatic Passports entitling him to the usual immunities and courtesies attached thereto. It was now about 3 p.m. and we had received another telegram from Ambassador [Page 761] Clark stating that the train would arrive at about 5 p.m. I therefore prepared a short letter stating that I had been informed by the Ambassador that General Calles bore a diplomatic passport and I also stated that such a passport entitled the bearer to the usual immunities and courtesies.

In our telephone conversation, the Ambassador suggested that I get in touch with Fort McIntosh and I therefore called up Major Chambers and asked him to meet me at the Mayor’s office. (The Department’s last instruction relative to the courtesies to be extended by Major Chambers had not yet been received). We met at the Mayor’s office and I asked the Mayor and Major Chambers if they wished to accompany me, but both deemed it inadvisable, so that about 4 p.m., accompanied by Vice Consul Harper I proceeded to Mr. Valls’ office and stated that General Calles was expected some time that day and that it was impossible to procure the direct assurance he requested but that I could show him a copy of the Ambassador’s telegram or give him a letter as Consul stating that General Calles bore a diplomatic passport properly visaed by the Embassy entitling him to the usual immunities and courtesies. At first he refused to accept even the letter, stating he had refused such a letter in 1929 and he could not reasonably change his position at this time for the reason that local inhabitants would feel that he had weakened in the matter. He claimed that General Calles might as well have passed through Vera Cruz but came through Laredo purposely to “show him up.” We discussed the matter at length from about 4 p.m. to about 5 p.m., stating and restating our position until finally, although I fear rather reluctantly, Mr. Valls stated that in view of the emergency existing and the illness of Mrs. Calles and the good relations existing between our respective offices, he would accept such written assurance from me personally to cover the passage of the entire party through Texas, but he would expect direct assurance from the Ambassador or the State Department to cover his return, or otherwise he would arrest him just as he threatened to do in 1929 upon his return.

I realize that such a letter should not be furnished under the regulations without specific instructions from the Department, but in view of the fact that it was authorized in 1929 by the Department’s instruction dated December 9, 1929,30 File No. 812.001 C 13/58 [77], to Consul Boyce and in view of the emergency requiring immediate decision, I trust the Department will approve of my course. A copy of the letter is herewith attached,31 and it was explained verbally to [Page 762] Mr. Valls that it covered just the points raised by him and not some other references by the Ambassador to our files.

I immediately returned to the Mayor’s office, notified the Mayor and Major Chambers. I then got in touch with Mr. Johnson who had been trying to reach me for about an hour from the Department and assured him that the General and his party would not be molested on their way to New York but might on their return. I then returned to the office, where we were at once immersed in decoding the Department’s code telegram referring to the instructions to Major Chambers, which we transmitted to him. In the meantime the train had been delayed and we hurried to the Nuevo Laredo station to meet it and arrived just in time to see it pulling out for Laredo.… Vice Consul Harper succeeded in getting me to Laredo in time to meet the train, where we were presented to the General and waited until the train pulled out unmolested, whereupon we reported to the Department and Ambassador that the party had passed without difficulty.

In this connection I believe I ought to state my impression of District Attorney Valls during this trying day. In the first place I believe that he is a deadly enemy of General Calles. However, I also believe that an assurance that Calles is entitled to diplomatic immunity from our Ambassador or the Department will avoid any possible action on his part, as he impresses me as a gentleman of scholarly attainments and a reputation of being a fearless public prosecutor, with a very remarkable record of convictions. I believe he is a man of his word, and for that reason I hesitate to express an opinion that it would be safe for General Calles to return, unless the Department give Mr. Valls the assurance requested or be prepared for the action he threatens to take. Valls is a man of means and powerful politically. He was appointed and elected in 1930, in spite of the disastrous consequences to Laredo of the incidents happening in 1929, with which he was so intimately connected. He is running again in the Democratic Primary, to be held July 23, next, and while he is opposed by an estimable young man, Mr. S. T. Phelps, Jr., it is believed he will be nominated, which is of course equivalent to an election.

Respectfully yours,

Romeyn Wormuth