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


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I told Dr. Quintanilla47 that the second matter I wished to discuss with him was the very serious situation which I feared was now developing as the result of the last communication sent to Mr. Richberg by the Mexican Ambassador and by reason of a reply sent to the Ambassador by Mr. Richberg. Dr. Quintanilla said he was not informed of the nature of the reply sent by Mr. Richberg and that he had only seen the press references thereto. I explained to Dr. Quintanilla in some detail that Mr. Richberg and the companies by which he was retained had reached the very definite conclusion that the bases for settlement set forth in the Ambassador’s last letter departed completely from the general bases agreed upon between the Ambassador and Mr. Richberg and likewise brought into the scope of the proposed agreement elements which would be totally unacceptable to the companies. I said that while I was in no position to discuss details of the negotiations nor at this stage to express any opinion as to the merits of the points insisted upon by the companies, I, nevertheless, after talking with Mr. Richberg, obtained the impression that the bases proposed in the Ambassador’s last letter did in fact depart very materially from the point of view which had always been expressed to me by Mr. Richberg and which had been confirmed to me in our conversations by the Ambassador himself.

I said that I was sure Dr. Quintanilla would understand that if the present negotiations were now completely to break down, this Government could no longer remain out of the picture and that although we had over a period of 18 months hoped that negotiations between Mexico and the companies would prove successful and had time and again done everything we could to facilitate the course of these negotiations, it was quite impossible for the United States Government indefinitely to refrain from undertaking to interpose its support in behalf of what we regarded as the legitimate and well-founded complaint on the part of nationals of the United States that the Mexican Government had seized their properties, was utilizing [Page 687] the properties to Mexico’s own benefit, and was making no effective effort whatever to offer fair and adequate compensation to the individuals whose properties had been confiscated. Furthermore, I said that I had been informed that the companies, believing that all hope of a successful conclusion of the negotiations must now be abandoned, were preparing to issue a public statement to the American public setting forth the complete history of the incident itself and of the negotiations which had subsequently taken place and of the reasons why they felt it impossible to continue these negotiations. I said that, of course, if this statement were issued a very serious situation would be presented which would be one which I was sure would be exceedingly unsatisfactory both to the Governments of Mexico and to the United States. I said that I thought this statement would not be published until it was ascertained by the companies what the nature of the attitude of the Mexican Government might be with regard to the points set forth in Mr. Richberg’s last letter and that I felt quite confident that the publication of this statement would not be long withheld. I said, therefore, that it seemed to me that the situation is exceedingly urgent and that I trusted Dr. Quintanilla would communicate immediately with the Ambassador and apprise the latter of the very great concern which I felt, as well as of my most earnest hope that upon further consideration the Mexican Government would find it possible to attain an agreement with Mr. Richberg as to the general bases for negotiation, without which, he felt satisfied, no further negotiation would usefully be undertaken. I said that Dr. Quintanilla could not emphasize too strongly the very great disquiet which I felt.

Shortly after the termination of our interview Dr. Quintanilla called me on the telephone from the Embassy to inform me that he had tried to get in touch with Dr. Castillo Nájera in Mazatlan but he had learned that the Ambassador had already left the latter city, intending to arrive in Mexico City tomorrow. In order to save time Dr. Quintanilla called up his Foreign Minister on the telephone and had urged him to see that the letter which Mr. Richberg had mailed to the Ambassador in care of the Foreign Office and which should have reached the Foreign Office, be placed in the hands of the Ambassador at the first possible moment so that he might consider it and discuss it with President Cárdenas before they both reach Mexico City. Dr. Quintanilla told me that he would without fail telephone Dr. Castillo Nájera tomorrow and would communicate with me immediately thereafter.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Luis Quintanilla, Mexican Chargé.