710.H Agenda/81

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Minister of Colombia42 called to see me this morning. I first of all expressed to the Minister my deep regret for the tragic accident in Bogotá yesterday and told him that we had already sent a message of sympathy to his Government.43 The Minister said he had come in to tell me that he had received Saturday a telegram from his Government requesting him to return to Bogotá immediately for conferences with the Foreign Office and with the President-elect. I reminded the Minister that Dr. Santos had told me when he visited Washington that he trusted the Minister would continue as Minister to Washington after he himself assumed office as President and that I trusted this sudden trip did not mean that there was any change in this plan because the Minister was well aware of the tremendously high regard which all of us here in this Government had for him. The Minister replied that so far as he knew there had been no change but that he had been somewhat surprised not to have any word from Dr. Santos for a long time and that of course his position would be clarified as soon as he got to Bogotá.

The Minister said he had no doubt that Dr. Santos would wish to talk over with him the coming Lima conference and he consequently wondered if there was anything in that connection which I desired to say to him. I told the Minister that so far as our present plans were concerned this Government had no intention of proposing any projects of major importance other than those which dealt with technical questions and a possible project on the coordination of existing peace machinery as provided in Point 1 of the agenda for the conference. I said that in any event we would want to consult with the Colombian Government to get its point of view before any projects we might present were completed and that later on we would have informal [Page 28] conversations with his Government on these subjects. I said that our position with regard to the Colombian-Dominican project for our American League of Nations had already been made clear to him and I reminded him that I had discussed this subject at considerable length with Dr. Santos when he was in Washington. I repeated to the Minister that our belief was that it was a wiser policy for all of the American nations to build up gradually on the solid foundations of treaties and conventions which had already been made, modifying them as experience and unanimous desire made necessary and that the American league of nations project seemed to us to be entirely separate from these foundations and to involve many highly controversial and dubious questions which the majority of the American republics would not be prepared to accept. I reminded him that as he knew that point of view had already been expressed to his Government by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay and that it seemed to me that for a project of this kind to be successful it must receive the whole-hearted and enthusiastic support of all of the American republics. I concluded by saying that perhaps some time in the future some such association of the American nations might be desired by all of the American republics but that I thought it should come gradually and not artificially. I did not say to the Minister that this was exactly the point of view expressed to me by Dr. Santos who had likewise told me that when he assumed the presidency he would withdraw Colombia’s support for this project since I doubted whether Dr. Santos had made this intention on his part known to the present President of Colombia.

I said that while this Government had no plans for the presentation of projects other than those I had mentioned it was evident that several very important questions might come up at the conference. I stated that the fundamental issues involved in the recent note from this Government to the Government of Mexico44 were issues which might perhaps necessarily have to be discussed at the Lima Conference. I said to the Minister that in my judgment the note spoke for itself and presented these basic issues very clearly and that it was the hope of this Government that all of the other American Republics would uphold the principles enunciated therein. The Minister replied by saying that he had found the note an admirable document in every sense and that it seemed to him unquestionable that if inter-American confidence was to be a reality, if the American republics were to obtain the investment of foreign capital, within the limits of all necessary national safeguards, for the development of their natural resources, there must be an inter-American agreement upon the [Page 29] principle that no government unilaterally could abrogate the universally recognized principles of international law and that one country must give the nationals of another country just and equitable treatment in accordance with the principles of international law. I said that I was very much gratified by what the Minister said and that knowing the stand which his brother and Dr. Santos had always taken with regard to the carrying out of the policy of equity and justice to the nationals of the other American republics within their borders, I hoped that the support on the part of the Colombian Government of the position taken by the United States in this matter would be forthcoming in such way as the Colombian Government deemed appropriate.

[Here follows discussion of other matters unrelated to the Conference.]

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Miguel López Pumarejo.
  2. On the occasion of a disastrous airplane accident. See Department of State, Press Releases, July 30, 1938, p. 68.
  3. Note to the Mexican Ambassador, July 21, 1938, p. 674.