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

The Mexican Ambassador called to see me this morning.

I said to the Ambassador that I had understood from my last conversation with him that President Cárdenas did not intend to consult with other members of his Government with regard to the basis for agreement proposed by Mr. Richberg at Saltillo and that the Ambassador was waiting to hear from Mr. Richberg what the attitude of the companies might be. I told the Ambassador that I did not know whether Mr. Richberg had as yet anything to say to him in that regard, but that I had gathered from Mr. Richberg that he understood that the Ambassador was to inform him what the attitude of President Cárdenas might be. I said that if any misunderstanding existed, I wanted to be as helpful as possible in clearing it up and that it seemed to me very desirable that the very useful and agreeable contact which had existed between the Ambassador and Mr. Richberg should neither be broken nor suspended. I said it seemed to me that if any delay of an inordinate character now took place, those in Mexico opposed to the reaching of an agreement would be given time in which to try and stir up public opinion against a reasonable agreement, and in the same way such individuals within the oil companies as might be disposed to take a view of complete intransigence in the negotiation of a settlement might be given additional time in which to make their views prevail. Furthermore, I added, if the press and public opinion in this country were given to understand that the Ambassador and Mr. Richberg were not even talking with one another, we would probably soon see stories published alleging that negotiations had broken down, and I told the Ambassador, as I had said so often before, that public opinion in the United States was getting [Page 676] very much aroused about this problem and I felt any indication of this character would probably be sufficient to call forth a series of articles once more attacking the Mexican Government and creating an atmosphere in which friendly and reasonable negotiations might be difficult.

The Ambassador told me that he confirmed what he had previously said, namely, that President Cárdenas did not intend to discuss the basis proposed with any one else, but would make up his own mind with regard thereto. He said that General Cárdenas had telegraphed him a couple of days ago saying that during the next few days he would be travelling in the desert regions in the states of Chihuahua and Sonora where there were no telephonic or telegraphic communications and that it would not be until May 24 that he would reach Hermosillo from which place he would write to the Ambassador his definite conclusions. In the meantime, the Ambassador said he would be very pleased to have the opportunity of talking over the situation with Mr. Richberg and he agreed with me that conversations would be useful and desirable. The Ambassador said that some new ideas as to handling some of the points had occurred to him and he expressed the very definite considered opinion that none of the points in the basis as proposed by Mr. Richberg would present any obstacle other than the point covering management. He said that public opinion in Mexico, when the basis had recently been made public, had almost unanimously protested against the plan for management, alleging that this was merely a device for returning to the companies the complete and exclusive control of the properties. He said that he did not think President Cárdenas could stand up against this hostility.

I insisted, however, that in my own judgment the basis provided a reasonable, equitable, and fair means of adjustment and that it seemed to me that all that was now required was ingenuity and good will in developing formulas. I told the Ambassador I would be glad to communicate to Mr. Richberg the message he had given me.

S[umner] W[elles]