852.75 National Telephone Co./375: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Weddell) to the Secretary of State

432. My 406, July 29, 9 p.m., Department’s 18793, and 168, July 20, 4 p.m. I to-day called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs. On entering I said to him that what I was going to say would be with a frankness which was dictated by a real friendship for Spain and a desire to promote good relations between our two countries. I told him that I had reported my recent conversation with him and was instructed to say that his observations had been duly noted by my Government; further, that equally under instructions I wished to tell him of my Government’s surprise that the Spanish Government should bring up such a question94 in view of its failure to put into effect the solemn promises from its Chief Executive and the Minister of the Interior regarding the telephone matter. I added that as he was aware my Government had been prepared to cooperate and assist in arriving at a satisfactory arrangement concerning a number of matters on which we had been approached during the past year but that naturally we had expected Spain would accord American rights and interests just and equitable treatment in accordance with the principles of international law.

I returned [referred] to the promises made to me by the Caudillo and by the Minister of the Interior that the direction and control of the company would be immediately returned to the American majority stockholders which had been duly reported to Washington and equally [Page 892] recalled the formal assurances given in this respect by his Ambassador in Washington more than a year ago. I said further that the failure of the Spanish Government to carry out its promises certainly put it in no position to raise with the United States any questions in which they thought their interests and welfare were being affected. I closed this part of my remarks by telling the Minister that under no circumstances would my Government bargain with regard to this matter.

The Minister heard me in an obviously embarrassed silence but finally remarked that he was not familiar with all the details of the case but had supposed that what we desired was the re-establishment of the status quo ante. I assured him that he was correct and that at least four steps were necessary to bring this about: first, to permit the annual meeting of the stockholders to be held, something which the Minister of Gobernación had successfully blocked up to the present; second, to allow that body to name a board of directors; third, for the various directors to be promptly approved by the Government in order to permit the final step of the entry into the direction and control of the company’s properties; and, fourth, that the Government delegates be instructed to limit their activities to the rights and duties set forth in the contract between the company and the Government.

The Minister then referred to the agreement arrived at between Behn and the Minister of the Interior. To this I remarked that I had felt that this would give effect to the solemn promises made to me but that now Suñer denied its physical existence and therefore certain concessions made by Behn in the agreement naturally fell with it and I urged again the re-establishment of the status quo ante which would put into effect the four steps described above.

I told the Minister that all these things were matters that I wished to lay before the Caudillo since it was from him that I had first received the solemn assurances of essentially equitable treatment for the company. I reminded him of my several requests that this interview be arranged. He replied that he would immediately push the matter with the Caudillo who was not accessible today and hoped to fix the meeting for Tuesday the 6th.

The Minister then made the astonishing statement that of course the Caudillo’s promises were “symbolic” and that naturally matters of “administrative detail” would have to be worked out by subordinates. I declared by remarking that I knew of no details that were not fully covered by the promises referred to which involved the restoration to the true owners of the direction and control of the Telephone Company in accordance with the contract between the Company and the Government. I further made the observation that the failure of the Spanish Government to settle this matter was poisoning every relation between the two countries concerned and that it was [Page 893] for his Government to decide whether a group of wilful men now in the Telephone Company and operating through the Minister of the Interior should be allowed to jeopardize matters of even greater importance.

Shortly before leaving I mentioned in referring to what I thought had been the obstructive attitude shown by the Minister of the Interior that a cartoon (my 406, July 29, 9 p.m.) published here and printed and distributed, so I had been assured on reliable authority, by the Minister of the Interior, should be permitted to display an offensive caricature of the President of the United States; all this in addition to a generally hostile press attitude.

Apparently sensing an opportunity to shift the conversation into a more bearable channel the Minister literally screamed to an assistant to bring him a copy of the broadside in question; none could be found in the Ministry. I volunteered to send him a duplicate copy I had. He said that he would be grateful, declaring that it was “monstrous” that a Chief of State should be so attacked. I remarked that I had written to the Minister of the Interior to ask if the seemingly preposterous story that his Ministry was printing and distributing this sheet was true but that I was as yet without reply.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs had raised the question of a supply of American gasoline for Spain. The Department informed the Ambassador that sending gasoline to Spain was contrary to the policy of the American Government.