721.23/2423: Telegram

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

6. The British Minister today has telegraphed to his Government urging that it ask the League of Nations to request the Peruvian Government’s agreement to an extension of the time limit for the exchange of ratifications of the Rio de Janeiro pact until January 31st and to request the Colombian Government that it ratify the pact without any modifications or interpretations before the above-mentioned date, the League’s requests to the two Governments to be made publicly, He also suggested that friendly powers take action of a similar nature directly and separately and stated that he feared that unless such steps are taken the situation here will deteriorate irreparably. The above confidential and urgent telegram of the British Minister was repeated to the British diplomatic representatives in Washington, Lima, and Rio de Janeiro.

On Saturday, Olaya4 told me that the President had given up hope of obtaining ratification by the present Colombian Senate and contemplated asking Peru to extend the time limit for one year believing that a Liberal majority will be elected to the Senate in May after which ratification may be secured. However, many observers besides the British Minister believe that President Lopez can obtain an early ratification if he tries. Senator Vasquez Cobo told Papal Nuncio that he and several of his colleagues would now willingly allow the pact to pass if there were some way by which they could save their faces. Many Conservatives apparently hope that the Peruvian Government through its Minister to Colombia will voluntarily give an interpretation of the treaty which will allay the fears they profess, but the Peruvian Minister here thinks there is little possibility of such action. Officials of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs are [Page 201] in a state of confusion and appear to have formulated no program of action. During the last 2 weeks airplanes have each day been carrying troops to Leticia. Bogotá is full of rumors regarding Peruvian attacks upon Leticia which appear to be unfounded.

Both Dr. Olaya and the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have assured me that the messages sent the Colombian Government by foreign Governments during the last fortnight of December did a lot of good by which I assumed they meant that the messages stirred President Lopez to action which was useful even though the opposition tried to capitalize them in a secret session of the Senate. I believe that if an appeal is made by any foreign countries now it should be done publicly so as to affect Colombian public opinion and I strongly urge that nothing be done to make it appear that the appeal is led or promoted principally by the United States.

  1. Former President Enrique Olaya Herrera. He became Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia on February 5.