The Minister in Guatemala (Des Portes) to the Secretary of State

No. 994

Sir: With reference to my telegram No. 36 of September 12, 7 p.m., 1939,18 I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy and translation18 [Page 181] of a Memorandum, No. 13340, of September 12, which the Legation has received from the Foreign Office, in which the possible inclusion of a resolution regarding the Belize question in the program of the forthcoming Panama Conference19 is discussed.

As reported in my telegram under reference, I was at pains in presenting the suggested agenda to the Foreign Minister to mention that my Government hoped that the Government of Guatemala would not propose the addition to the agenda of any questions not directly pertinent to the purposes of the Conference. The receipt of this Memorandum consequently came as a complete surprise.

The Department will note that the Memorandum asks whether the United States would be disposed to back a resolution to be proposed by Guatemala at the Conference which would recommend to the study of the American Governments the territorial question between Guatemala and Great Britain, with the eventual purpose of reaching a declaration of continental solidarity in favor of Guatemala in this question.

The Memorandum is, as reported in my telegram, but one more evidence of the determination of President Ubico to get something done in regard to the Belize question in the immediate future. The Legation has received information from a variety of sources in recent weeks (see, for example, despatch No. 966 of August 12, 1939), that this was the case. To a certain extent this may be discounted as having been given to impress the Legation with the President’s seriousness, but the President’s stubbornness in pursuing his convictions suggests that he must be rebuffed very gently if this is to be done.

I understand that the British Minister called on the President a day or two ago to express his Government’s appreciation for the resumption of service on the Guatemalan sterling debt, and tried to impress on him the difficulty of giving adequate consideration to the question in the Foreign Office at the present time. In spite of the obvious truth of this, the President, so I understand, was obdurate that something be done about the matter in the immediate future.

I am also informed that the German Minister called on the President on his return and expressed sympathy for the Guatemalan claims. In this connection the Minister of Finance, Gonzalez Campo, informed a friend that Guatemala would receive Belize within a year—from Germany. The remark was merely a manifestation of Gonzalez Campo’s well known German predilections, but the thought behind it might well work on President Ubico’s mind if he accomplished nothing by other means.

The Memorandum under reference, then, is but one move in a well planned campaign inspired by the President’s determination to get [Page 182] something done in the Belize question. It looks to the recommendation by the Panama Conference that the American Republics study the question, and to an eventual declaration of American solidarity with Guatemala. If the recommendation is sidetracked—as it presumably must be—President Ubico is almost certainly going to be annoyed, and may rock the Pan American boat or take other action which would be detrimental to United States interests. The President is clearly of the opinion that only by making a rumpus can he express his determination to have the matter settled. I therefore respectfully recommend that, if the Guatemalan request is rejected, every effort be made to show consideration for Guatemalan susceptibilities.

Respectfully yours,

Fay Allen Des Portes
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See pp. 15 ff.