852.48/746: Telegram

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

542. Department’s instructions 243, October 4, 6 p.m. Upon receipt of the Department’s instruction I called upon the Foreign Minister; outlined the contents of the Department’s telegram; requested an early interview with the Caudillo; and suggested that the Minister be present at the interview.

I was today received by the Caudillo alone and laid before him the considerations contained in the Department’s instruction. The Caudillo requested me to transmit his thanks to the President and stated that he agreed with the proposal and gave his personal assurances in regard to the three conditions laid down in the instruction.

In speaking of the matter Franco expressed the thought that aid through the Red Cross would probably not amount to anything very large in the way of quantity. I replied that I did not know just what the quantity would be but that I did not believe it would be negligible. The Caudillo then went on to speak of Spain’s desperate economic condition, the disappointing cereal crops, Spain’s inability to sell in many markets previously open to the country and finally referred to the deficiencies of the Spanish transportation system which made it difficult to get from one point to another within the country. He added that he supposed that if wheat came to Spain under this plan it would arrive in Vigo which was remote from the central, southern and eastern portions of Spain. I replied that the port of arrival of the wheat was a matter of detail to be worked out but that I thought it possible at least that shipment could also be arranged to Mediterranean and other ports.

I have taken occasion immediately to make known to the Foreign Minister in writing the substance of the above conversation. I desire respectfully to submit the following comments:

It is suggested that I be informed immediately of the date and quantity of the first wheat shipment from the United States, the quantity of wheat that will be supplied under the plan and to what ports the Red Cross contemplates shipping this grain and whether or not the wheat will be transported in American bottoms at the expense of the Red Cross.
I think it essential that negotiations for the desired credit to Spain should be begun at the earliest possible moment. Every effort should be made to avoid offending Spanish pride by unwittingly giving the appearance that Spain is being “bought off” by charity.
As regards the general question of Spanish pride and susceptibilities which made the situation here unique there is considerable doubt in my mind as to the advisability of the American Red Cross undertaking to supervise the handling and distribution of wheat [Page 815] within Spain, although it would probably be advisable promptly to send a Red Cross representative to Madrid who would be in a position to make detailed representations to the Red Cross in the United States as to such quantities as may be necessary from time to time, the Spanish ports to which shipments should be despatched and otherwise remain in contact with the Spanish authorities.
Another matter which will require very careful handling is the question of publicity. This should in my opinion be directed deliberately toward strengthening the moderate elements of the present regime in Spain by sharing any resulting credit with these elements and to avoid giving any basis for Axis propaganda which might allege that Spain had been bought or influenced by humanitarian aid. It might be well in this connection to consider the possibility of laying the greatest emphasis on a gesture between the two heads of states and to play down correspondingly any suggestion of charity to a country which after all desires to believe that it is in a position to take care of its needs if normal credits were available.
I reiterate my previous observations that aid to Spain to be effective must be prompt and would urge that arrangements for the first shipment of grain to this country should be undertaken at once.