The Ambassador in Mexico ( Daniels ) to the Secretary of State
[Received January 24.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s air mail instruction No. 974 of January 9, 1936, concerning the negotiations relative to agrarian claims filed with the General Claims Commission.
I called on Mr. Sierra this afternoon by appointment and told him that while in Washington I had discussed the proposed protocol at considerable length with officials of the Department of State and that they had reached the conclusion that if an agreement were not reached by the first of February the American Agent would have to proceed with the filing of memorials in the agrarian claims, since the time within which these memorials could be filed under the protocol of 1934 was fast disappearing. Mr. Sierra replied that under the protocol the American Agent had a perfect right to file these memorials, but remarked that the Mexican Agency, already hard pressed would have a very difficult time handling this additional work.
Mr. Sierra said that he had just completed a somewhat lengthy review of the negotiations which he intended to submit to the Foreign Minister immediately, at which time he would also discuss the subject with him and endeavor to obtain his views and instructions as to how he should proceed in the present stage of these negotiations. He then inquired whether the American Government would be willing to consider some more simplified procedure for arriving at an en bloc settlement and mentioned the expeditious settlement of the special claims which were adjusted within a few months after having dragged for many years.
I replied that any proposal advanced by him would receive my careful and sympathetic consideration, but that the success of a simplified en bloc settlement, such as he suggested, was, of course, dependent upon the amount or percentage offered and that what the American claimants were primarily interested in was, of course, to receive adequate compensation as quickly as possible. I added that many American claimants were insisting upon filing the memorials in agrarian claims without further delay. Mr. Sierra was uncertain of the amount represented by the agrarian claims and would not venture an opinion as to the amount or percentage which the Mexican Government might be willing to offer.
In answer to my question, Mr. Sierra said that he thought that the definition of agrarian claims was the principal obstacle to an agreement. He admitted that the claims arising from the nullification of titles and the sub-division of large estates were negligible and constituted [Page 751] but a very small percentage of the total of agrarian claims, but said that the Mexican Government must insist that these be included as a matter of principle and to avoid a precedent in that the Mexican position was that agrarian claims were those arising from the application of the land provisions of Article 27 of the Constitution.53 I pointed out at some length that ever since the Bucareli Conference in 192354 the usual definition agreed upon by both Governments of agrarian claims was land taken for ejidos and the benefit of centers of population and that it seemed that the all-embracing definition given the term by Mr. Sierra might be made to include not only the splitting up of large estates but also the cancellation of subsoil rights which were likewise covered by Article 27 of the Constitution. I suggested that since his objections to our definition of agrarian claims was simply one of principle, it might be possible for him to work out some formula that his Government could accept but which would only cover purely agrarian claims as we considered them, that is, lands actually expropriated for ejidos and for the benefit of centers of population as contemplated under the Mexican Agrarian Code. He seemed doubtful of this, saying that there were the other countries to be considered and that any concession made to us would likewise have to be granted to the Spanish, the British and other foreign nationals as well as to the Mexicans themselves.
I made it plain that our Government could not agree to waive the right to insist that settlement must be made on the basis of “justice, equity and international law”, and pointed out that the General Claims Convention of 1923,55 Article 9, ratified by both Governments, recognized that the principles of international law, justice and equity would govern and that our Government felt it could not agree that any settlement could be reached upon any other basis, and that the treaty of 1934 had not changed that right.
Mr. Sierra asked whether I had brought him a written memorandum covering the present status of the negotiations as a result of my conferences in Washington, So I gave him a memorandum which I had prepared, based on the Department’s instruction referred to above and of which a copy is enclosed herewith. Mr. Sierra took it and said that he would study the memorandum in connection with the review which he had prepared and would take up the whole matter with the [Page 752] Foreign Minister at the earliest possible moment and would then let me know what could be done.
I emphasized to Mr. Sierra that the American Government had made a sincere effort to meet the views of the Mexican Government insofar as possible without jeopardizing the rights of its citizens under the Claims Convention, and in order to meet the wishes of the Mexican Government that its laws should not be passed upon by an international tribunal had agreed that the Commissioners should merely record their decisions in each case without assigning reasons therefor, and that since the lump sum settlement might be arrived at from these bare decisions the Mexican agrarian laws would in no wise be brought into question. I urged him to do his utmost to expedite the negotiations so that an agreement might be reached before February first and in this way avoid the necessity for filing of memorials on agrarian claims with the General Claims Commission, which, as he said, was already hard pressed to keep up with its present schedule.
I expressed the hope that he could obtain and give me the views of the Foreign Minister this week or early in the coming week. He said he would do all he could for expedition.
- Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 955.↩
- The United States–Mexican Commission meeting at No. 85 Bucareli Street, Mexico City from May 14 to August 15, 1923, negotiated the General Claims Convention of September 8, 1923, and the Special Claims Convention of September 10, 1923, and resulted in the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico, See Foreign Relations, 1923, Vol. ii, pp. 522 ff., and Proceedings of the United States–Mexican Commission Convened in Mexico City, May 11, 1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1925).↩
- Signed at Washington, September 8, 1923, Foreign Relations, 1923, Vol. ii, p. 555.↩
- Foreign Relations, 1934, Vol. v, p. 470.↩