812.001 Cardenas, Lazaro/200

The Ambassador in Mexico (Daniels) to the Secretary of State

No. 9178

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that I called on President Cárdenas yesterday afternoon, as I always do prior to even a short visit to the United States.

I expressed, as I have done in all my interviews with President Cárdenas, the earnest hope that all pending questions between the two countries could be settled upon an equitable basis. The President said that was his sincere desire and mentioned particularly the waters and petroleum questions.2 As to the litter he said he had conferred with Ambassador Castillo Nájera and would do so again before the [Page 56] Mexican Ambassador returns to Washington the middle of next week and would outline suggestions which he believed would open the way to an agreement. He said they were not yet fully formulated or he would give them to me, but that they would be in shape before Ambassador Castillo Nájera leaves for Washington. He added that I could assure President Roosevelt that Mexico would do everything possible to insure a settlement.

We discussed the question of neutrality and he said that Mexico was in full accord with the policy of President Roosevelt and that General Hay3 would give the heartiest cooperation at Panama4 toward securing effective continental solidarity. I suggested to him, as I had to Ambassador Castillo Nájera earlier in the day, that because the Carranza Government was pro-German in 1916, 1917 and 1918, there was a fear that German influence would be strong in Mexico in this decade. He said: “That was another and distant day. We live in a different period. There should be no fear of German influence or German penetration in Mexico. It is in full accord with the policy of the United States whose friendship it prizes and we will be found standing together to prevent any European country’s penetration or influence in our policies.”

Referring to the German ships in Mexican ports (about ten) he said they were kept under observation and their wireless installation had been dismantled. “What will become of these ships?” I asked him. He replied that his government was giving consideration to the question. He said Mexico was negotiating with Germany with a view to having two German tankers turned over in payment of the debt Germany owes Mexico for oil it has delivered. The oil was sold to Germany in a barter agreement, but a large part of the electrical apparatus, steel rails, etc. which Germany was to send to Mexico in payment had not been delivered. If Mexico could get the tankers it would be a good arrangement. As to the other German ships in Mexican waters, the President said he did not think Mexico wished them and he could not say what would happen to them until the Foreign Office had completed its studies. I asked him if he thought any American company would buy and operate them. He said that would depend upon international law and any negotiations they might conclude with the German government. He smiled and asked: “Would they take them with everything on board, including the German crews?” He went on to say that if any American company had a concrete proposal that was deemed workable, of course it would be considered. This was in response to my statement that an American gentleman had suggested that the German ships should be put [Page 57] into service and he knew Americans who might be glad to purchase them. I asked if this gentleman ought not to take up the matter with Minister Suárez.5 He answered: “Assuredly”.

I talked to Minister Suárez and he said he would be glad to see the American gentleman (Mr. Elmer R. Jones, President of Wells Fargo & Company) next week. Mr. Jones thinks a way could be found for the utilization of these German ships. Minister Suárez said it would be necessary to consider the international usage before he could be ready even to do more than discuss any proposal Mr. Jones might make.

President Cárdenas asked me if I had heard that France and Germany might ask President Roosevelt to intervene to prevent a long and bloody war. He said that such reports had come to him but without confirmation.

Respectfully yours,

Josephus Daniels
  1. See pp. 667 ff.
  2. Eduardo Hay, Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. See pp. 15 ff.
  4. Eduardo Suárez, Mexican Minister of Finance.