The Chargé in Venezuela (Scott) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 17.]
Sir: Amplifying this Embassy’s telegram No. 61 of May 13, 10 a.m.,9 I have the honor to submit the following information.
Upon receipt of the Department’s telegram No. 33 [44?] of May 11, 5 p.m., I called upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs and gave him the Department’s message. He was very pleased at the reassurances which this contained and particularly at the fact that the Department plans to keep in close touch with him concerning developments touching the Netherlands West Indies islands. He set forth in some detail the reasons for his apprehensions concerning the islands. He pointed out that if Holland were completely occupied by Germany the Dutch Government would presumably take refuge in London and under such conditions it would inevitably be dominated by the British. England already had possession of Trinidad and might feel desirous [Page 739] of increasing the chain of its island, possessions along the northern coast of Venezuela by including not only Curaçao and Aruba but possibly other islands as well. This would have the effect of blocking off the northern coast of South America, a situation which he thought unfavorable not only to Venezuela but to the United States. He stressed the fact that the islands of Curaçao and Aruba formed an integral part of the economy of Venezuela and that his country would not be complacent to any change in sovereignty or status which would jeopardize this relationship. He expressed certain scepticism as to whether the Dutch Government itself had been very anxious for England and France to land troops. Dr. Gil Borges made it clear that his explanation of the reasons for his concern did not imply any lack of complete confidence in the attitude of the American Government.
In commenting on public opinion in Venezuela the Minister said that there had been very little excitement with respect to the occupation of the islands except that a student organization known as UNE11 had issued an inflammatory manifesto the day following the occupation, inciting Venezuela to attempt in some manner to obtain the islands. (A copy of this document with translation is enclosed.12) The Minister added that the Dutch Chargé had protested concerning this manifesto and had requested that the Venezuelan Government take appropriate steps to stop such a hostile incitation against a friendly power. The Minister said that he had given every assurance to the Dutch Chargé that this did not represent any responsible opinion in Venezuela and that he would call in the head of the student group and inform him that the students would have to desist from publishing further inflammatory material of this sort. In commenting to me further he added that while this did not represent any important opinion in Venezuela the matter was of some concern to the Government since he was afraid that the Nazi organization might exploit this student group to make trouble with regard to Curaçao. The Minister said that the Nazis in Venezuela had been under quite close surveillance and had not been as far as he knew very active during the last few months, but that the entrance of Holland into the war, coupled with the recent German victories in Europe, might encourage activities of the local Nazi party.
Mr. M. J. van Schreven, Dutch Chargé d’Affaires, in a conversation with me this morning, confirmed the information given by the Foreign Minister and stated that he had overlooked previous newspaper articles virtually advocating taking over the Dutch islands but that he felt he should now put a stop to the growth of any movement of this sort.[Page 740]
With respect to the landing of the French and British marines Mr. van Schreven said that this move had been at the request of his Government and was merely for the purpose of temporary assistance on the part of allied nations. The landing of troops to help did not fall in any sense within the term of “intervention”. The Dutch Chargé expressed himself as satisfied with the attitude of the Venezuelan Government which he said was cooperating in every way. As measures toward preventing a surprise attack by Germans he said that the Venezuelan Government had sent a small gunboat with a detachment of men to occupy the islands known as “Islas Aves”, which are a few miles east of Curaçao. These islands belong to Venezuela but are uninhabited, and the purpose of the detachment will be to prevent their being made a base by Germans for an attack on Curaçao.
As of further possible interest to the Department it should be reported that Colonel A. H. Gilkesom, who was making a navigation training flight from the Canal Zone (See Department’s telegram No. 28 of April 13),14 was at Aruba at the time the French marines were landed. The Colonel informed me that he had had an interview with the Governor of the island, who stated that the landing of the marines was not at his request. Colonel Gilkesom said that he had the impression that the Governor was not pleased that the marines were landed. He also informed the Embassy that high officials of the Standard Oil Company at Aruba had told him that upon declaration of martial law by the French marines the civilian American guards that had been employed by the company had been made to turn over their arms to the French authorities. He added that this step was resented by the Standard Oil Company and the American colony in Aruba.