611.2131/218: Telegram

The Chargé in Colombia (Washington) to the Secretary of State

74. Department’s 58, September 22, 2 p.m. [noon.]

Treaties and conventions must be approved by project of law passed by both Houses of the Colombian Congress.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs may request that provisions of a treaty or convention be debated in secret session. However, debates in open session are customary with regard to treaties and the Colombian Government has on several occasions promised Congress and the public that open discussions of the commercial treaty with the United States will be held before the treaty is ratified. These promises were made to meet the objections of certain national industries, such as the textile industry, which are nervous concerning the effect of the treaty upon them.
The project of law authorizing a treaty or convention must be approved by each of the Houses of Congress in three debates on three different days thus making [it?] possible to pass a project in a total of 6 days, provided the debates are not prolonged.
The President of Colombia must sign or veto a law within 6 days after its passage by Congress or, if Congress adjourns within this period of time, within 10 days of such adjournment. The law is published immediately after he signs it.
If the law of Congress which approves the treaty so authorizes, the President may proclaim the agreement after Congress adjourns.
It is believed unlikely that President Lopez would ask Congress to grant him extraordinary power to conclude a trade agreement with the United States within his discretion or to reenact the provisions of law 35 of 1932, not only because members of his Government have stated on several occasions that an open discussion of the commercial treaty with the United States would be permitted before it is ratified but also because he stated to the Liberal members of Congress several days ago that he would not have signed the Rio de Janeiro protocol6 before consulting Congress and would promise not to sign any other international agreement before it has [been?] discussed by Congress.
The Government was authorized by law 31 of 19337 (see despatch 5968, November 30 [23], 19338) to negotiate a commercial treaty with Venezuela but the terms of the treaty were strictly limited by the law which was thoroughly discussed by Congress.
No official of the Colombian Government with whom I have talked thinks that Congress will adjourn before the early part of 1935. Commercial Attaché and I do not believe that the budget for 1935 can be presented to Congress before the middle of November. It is believed discussions regarding other internal affairs and the Rio de Janeiro Pact will be prolonged so as to force the President to call a special session. It is even believed in some informed circles that the President wishes to keep Congress in session until June in order to place upon it the responsibility for governing. Consequently it is felt that the Department can readily ask the Colombian Government to postpone consideration of the trade agreement by its Congress at least until December, if not later.
  1. Vol. iv, p. 361.
  2. Colombia, Diario Oficial, November 21, 1933, p. 418.
  3. Not printed.