Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) of a Conversation With the Mexican, Ambassador (Castillo Nájera)


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I then handed the Ambassador an aide-mémoire on the question of the work of the Agrarian Commission of which the following is the text: [Here follows text printed supra.]

I emphasized to the Ambassador my very great dissatisfaction with the way in which the work of the Commission had been progressing due to the fact that the Mexican Government had been so utterly unwilling to agree upon the basic principles involved in the work of the two members of the Joint Commission in determining the fair amount of the claims. I said that if this delay continued until after the first of January the Mexican Government might be sure that the question would be discussed at very considerable length in the Congress of the United States and that the just complaints of the claimants would be unanimously supported by public opinion in this country. I said that it was over a year now since the agreements constituting the Agrarian Commission had been signed and that up to the present time the two Governments had not agreed upon the valuation of one single claim. I concluded by saying that in view of the spirit which animated the two Governments when these agreements were signed, it seemed to me imperative that the two Governments now agree without further procrastination upon the way in which the claims were to be evaluated.

[Page 661]

The Ambassador said that of course the primary difficulty was the question of determining whether stock held by American citizens in Mexican corporations should be included in the claims to be paid and to be evaluated under the agreements constituting the Agrarian Commission. He said that he had just received a telephone call from the Mexican Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs saying that the Mexican Government believed the total value of claims presented would amount to some $36,000,000 of which $21,000,000 represented the properties of five Mexican corporations. Señor Beteta had implied, the Ambassador said, that this $21,000,000 should not be regarded as subject to the jurisdiction of the Agrarian Claims Commission. I replied that I could not possibly agree to any such contention as this and that my point of view on this aspect of the problem had been made clear in the aide-mémoire already handed the Ambassador.

The Ambassador said that he agreed that no legitimate distinction could be made between the property of American nationals in one category or in the other, but that his own task had been made infinitely more difficult by the insistence of Ambassador Daniels in all of his conversations at the Mexican Foreign Office that this Government was solely interested in the claims of the small American landholders and that the larger landholders, notably those who had incorporated their properties in Mexico, had no legitimate claim for payment. The Ambassador said that every time that he got to the point of getting his Government to find some way out of the difficulty presented, Mr. Daniels convinced the Mexican Government that there was no need to find a way out of the difficulty. The Ambassador nevertheless said he would take the matter up again with his Government and urge that he be instructed and authorized to agree upon a global method of payment which would avoid the need of divorcing claims arising from ownership in corporations from the claims arising through the expropriation of properties held by Americans. I replied that I would agree in principle to this procedure but with the clear and specific understanding, as stated in the aide-mémoire, that this Government could not agree to a procedure which would result in the scaling down of the just and legitimate claims of American nationals whose properties had been expropriated during the past twelve years.

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  1. For the portions of this memorandum dealing with the oil question, see p. 710.