The Minister in the Dominican Republic (Schoenfeld) to the Secretary of State

No. 3373

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department, with reference to recent despatches on the subject of the interpretation to be given Article III of the American-Dominican Convention of December 27, 1924, that, in conversation today with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Señor Bonetti Burgos intimated that the Dominican Government was at a loss to reconcile the general policy of the United States as exemplified in revised treaties of general relations negotiated latterly with other countries in the Caribbean area, such as Cuba37 and Panama,38 which he mentioned, with the policy represented by the note I had delivered under the Department’s instructions on May 18 last on the subject of the interpretation of Article III of the Convention.

[Page 447]

The Minister gave me to understand that the policy of our note of May 18 would be interpreted by the Dominican public, if its contents should become known here, as a return to the policy in Dominican financial matters which had served as a “pretext” for the military intervention in this Republic some twenty years ago. The Dominican Government was confident that the American Government entertained no aim in relation to the Dominican Republic which was out of harmony with the policy enunciated in recent years by the American Government in relation to all the countries in this area. In the nature of things, these countries would always be affected for good or ill by their relation to the United States—a circumstance which the Dominican Government recognized and willingly accepted in entire good faith. The Dominican Government, the Minister continued, had reason to believe, from assurances repeatedly given its representatives at Washington and reiterated here, that the American Government looked upon the Dominican Government “without prejudice” (sin recelo) against the latter. The Dominican Government hoped that the American Government would not now insist, as it had not heretofore insisted, upon the policy represented by my note of May 18 which implied, the Minister indicated, the subjection of the Dominican Government’s proposed expenditures to consultation with the American Government even though the Dominican Government, which had no desire to accumulate debt, should be as scrupulously careful as the present administration in this country was, to incur no financial obligations it could not reasonably expect to meet. The Minister seemed not to consider it practicable on the part of the Dominican Government to consult the American Government regarding the assumption of obligations on the basis of revenues anticipated to be received beyond the end of a fiscal period. He indicated that the Dominican Government is more than reluctant to subject its revenues and expenditures to the kind of supervision implicit in the consultation called for in our representations regarding Article III of the Convention.

I said to the Minister that I believed the Dominican Government rightly assumed that the policy of the American Government enunciated in relation to the countries of the Caribbean area was a settled and primary policy, which would be kept in view in all dealings between the American and Dominican Governments. So far as the new treaties negotiated with Cuba and Panama were concerned, I expressed the view that the relations between the United States and those two countries under previous treaties involved an essentially different degree of obligation on the part of those countries towards the United States than was involved either in the Convention of 190739 or in the [Page 448] Convention of 1924 between the United States and the Dominican Republic; and that the right of interposition stipulated to the United States in the old treaties with Cuba and Panama, was certainly more extensive than any conventional powers exercised by the United States in the Dominican Republic. The existing obligation of the United States Government towards the holders of Dominican external bonds and other holders of valid claims against the Dominican Government remained secondary, I said, to the postulates of the so-called Good Neighbor Policy and was in no way incompatible with that Policy. The present special relation of the Dominican Republic to the United States was based upon the conventional engagements of the Dominican Government, which had been again confirmed in the most formal manner in President Trujillo’s proposal of August 10, 1934 to the Foreign Bondholders Protective Council, Inc.,41 and in the note of August 7, 1934, from the Dominican Minister at Washington to the Secretary of State.42 In these circumstances, I said to the Minister, it seemed to me that the Dominican Government’s position, as he had expressed it, seemed to be influenced to some extent by sentimental rather than by logical considerations. I intimated that the considerations in question perhaps grew out of local recollections of the intervention and thus accounted for the apparent failure to realize that my Government’s present attitude was not in conflict with the Good Neighbor Policy in any of its implications. It was the desire of the United States to see the Dominican Government comply effectively with its reasonable obligations under Article III of the Convention that had led to our representations and I was confident of the Dominican Government’s eventual comprehension of the justice and expediency of such compliance.

The conversation proceeded no further along the lines above indicated and the Minister turned to the matter of the Dominican Government’s floating debt. He gave me to understand that he had urged upon President Trujillo a plan, which I have occasionally alluded to as likely to prove practical, for securing systematic amortization of the floating debt by paying smaller admitted claims indiscriminately and with a minimum of delay in order to be able more rapidly to devote the Government’s resources to the payment of larger claims. The Minister said that, in urging such a plan upon the President, he had in mind advising me when it would be opportune for me to urge the same ideas upon President Trujillo. My comment on this topic was that I was confident that the adoption of a systematic and impersonal method for handling the floating debt would do more to create in the business community here and abroad the favorable impression which [Page 449] the Dominican Government desires to see prevail, than could be accomplished by current publicity regarding the prosecution of an elaborate program of public works. The Minister for Foreign Affairs did not deny the force of this presentation of the matter. After remarking upon the confidence felt by President Trujillo personally in the friendly disposition of the American Minister, he gave me to understand that more could be accomplished in influencing President Trujillo’s policy in financial, as on other, matters by friendly personal advice than by “diplomatic notes” or formal diplomatic methods.

I thought I detected in the statements made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs towards the end of our talk some signs of an eventual change in the attitude of the Dominican Government in respect of the matters discussed today. Its attitude towards these matters has been one of substantial indifference for some time past. This attitude of indifference may be attributable to specific causes, including also our own past policy in Dominican affairs, but it now seems unnecessary to dwell on them and I am hopeful—though by no means confident— that a more realistic policy on the part of the Dominican Government can soon be induced.

Respectfully yours,

H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld
  1. Signed May 29, 1934; for text, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 866, or 48 Stat. 1682. See also Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. v, pp. 183 ff.
  2. Signed March 2, 1936; for text, see Treaty Series No. 945, or 53 Stat. 1807.
  3. Signed February 8, 1907, Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 1, p. 307.
  4. Foreign Bondholders Protective Council, Inc., Annual Report, 1934, p. 59.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. v, p. 199.