The Minister in Guatemala (Hanna) to the Secretary of State

No. 471

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 401 of October 30, 1934,2 and previous communications concerning the Inter-American Highway, I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy and translation of the report3 made to General Rafael Aldana A., Director General of Roads in the Department of Agriculture, by the Committee designated to examine the highway from this capital to the frontier of El Salvador to determine the changes, improvements, et cetera which the Committee deems desirable.

It will be noted that the Report does not recommend any radical departure from the route of the existing highway between this capital and the frontier of El Salvador, nor does it cover the portion of the highway from this capital to the Mexican frontier. It would seem that the desire of this Government is to confine its efforts and financial resources for the present to the first mentioned portion of the highway for the reasons set forth in my despatch No. 401 on this subject. This appears to me to be a wise limitation of their efforts under existing conditions.

It will be noted that the total cost as estimated in the report of opening up the highway, presumably to traffic all the year round, is $1,303,359. This cost embraces all items, including bridges and twenty-five percent for unforeseen expenditures and miscellaneous, but apparently not including the item of road machinery to be purchased. The estimate is for ordinary macadam pavement. The report states that if asphalt macadam two inches thick were laid the cost would be increased by $870,000. It is stated that if this latter type of pavement were laid, 1,760,000 gallons of asphalt would be required at a cost of $242,000 landed at Puerto Barrios. For a cheaper asphalt, [Page 242] the cost would be $176,000. The asphalt presumably would be purchased of United States producers.

I also reported in my despatch No. 401 that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a conversation with me, said that this Government would be interested mainly in receiving road building machinery and bridge material as its quota of the one million dollars appropriated by the Congress to cooperate in the construction of the Inter-American Highway. Apparently with this in mind, the Director General of Roads set forth in detail in his report the cost of bridges, culverts and drainage pipe which totals $124,837. Presumably some if not all of the drainage pipe costing $51,000 could be manufactured in Guatemala, but the material for the bridges (eight of which are new and represent a total cost of $62,715.00) probably would constitute a considerable purchase in the United States.

The note of the Minister for Foreign Affairs transmitting the report of the Director General of Roads was accompanied by an informal statement of machinery needed in connection with the construction of the highway. I will transcribe it below exactly as received. It probably will be intelligible to the appropriate officials of the Bureau of Public Roads.

[Here follows list of machinery.]

I have received no indication from this Government concerning the extent to which it is able to cooperate financially in carrying out its part of a satisfactory arrangement to utilize the material and machinery which we might donate for this purpose. I suggested informally to the Minister for Foreign Affairs more than a month ago that the inauguration of work on the highway probably would be expedited if his Government could submit some concrete proposal concerning what it is prepared to do by way of financing the work, he having specifically stated in his note of October 24 on this subject that “The Government of Guatemala is ready to cooperate, within its capacity in the construction of the . . . . . . . highway in the section pertaining to Guatemala”. No such proposal has been submitted. My efforts to obtain some concrete statement would be facilitated if, in the light of the information contained in the accompanying report, I could be advised of the definite plans and desires of the Bureau of Public Roads for beginning construction work in this country, by way of responding to the effective cooperation already given by this Government and to its evident good will in this matter. Interest in this matter here appears to be genuine and it should not be permitted to wane through any fault or negligence on our part.

Respectfully yours,

Matthew E. Hanna
  1. Ibid., p. 481.
  2. Not printed.