The Ambassador in Argentina (Armour) to the Secretary of State

No. 536

Sir: With reference to the Department’s circular telegram of March 2, 4 p.m., transmitting the text suggested by the Brazilian Government of a note of protest to be delivered to the British Government [Page 708] by the President of Panama on behalf of the twenty-one American Republics in connection with the Wakama incident, I have the honor to report that upon receipt of the above telegram I called on the Foreign Minister and handed to him a note embodying the contents of the Department’s telegram under reference.

Dr. Cantilo, after reading the note, informed me that he had been in touch with the Brazilian Foreign Minister on this matter adding that his Government was in accord with the text of the note as proposed and would take the necessary action in so informing the Government of Panama. At the same time, however, Dr. Cantilo indicated considerable scepticism as to whether action as proposed would have any real effect along the lines desired, namely, that the war be kept away from the waters which the Declaration of Panama contemplated preserving for the specific use of intercontinental commerce.

The Foreign Minister added that in talks with the British Ambassador34 the latter had insisted that adherence by the British Government to the proposals laid down by the twenty-one American Republics would give a great advantage to the Germans and enable their merchant ships to navigate without risk within the zone to say nothing of offering a haven for German submarines from which they could prey on British shipping.

Dr. Cantilo was, however, of the opinion that as a matter of record in establishing the position of neutral countries for the future, protests of this sort would perhaps serve a useful purpose and possibly lead, after the termination of hostilities, to the extension of the limited area of territorial waters as now generally accepted under international law.

The Foreign Minister referred in passing to the procedure proposed by his Government35 to be followed in the event of violation of the security zone as later embodied in the protest subscribed to by the American Republics and embodied in the note to the belligerent powers of December last.36 In doing so, however, the Foreign Minister did not make clear that he felt that action such as that envisaged in that note should be invoked in connection with the Wakama incident.

Respectfully yours,

Norman Armour
  1. Sir Esmond Ovey.
  2. See telegram No. 291, December 16, 1939, 4 p.m., from the Ambassador in Argentina, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, p. 100.
  3. For text of note as released on December 23, 1939, see Department of State Bulletin, December 23, 1939, p. 723.