852.48/750: Telegram

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

553. Department’s No. 250, October 12, 3 p.m. At his request I today called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Minister said he had examined the proposed statement to the press setting forth the arrangement for sending wheat or flour by the Red Cross and suggested the following as a substitute:

In accordance with the suggestion of the President of the United States the American Red Cross has offered to the Chief of the Spanish State the shipment to Spain of a cargo of wheat or flour to meet the most immediate needs of the civil population. President Roosevelt, aware of the foodstuffs difficulties of the Spanish people has authorized the Red Cross to make the necessary shipments from funds available for aiding foreign civilian populations. Representatives of the American Red Cross will visit Spain to maintain direct contact with the charitable interested Spanish organizations for its distribution.

The Minister said that the announcement of this gift of wheat would constitute “a political bombshell” in Spain and that the substitute form of press statement which he hoped would be agreeable to my Government had been approved by the Caudillo himself and was adapted to Spanish psychology. He said further that it would be given full publicity in the Spanish press. I promised to lay it immediately before the Department.

In my opinion the proposed substitute is unobjectionable and I recommend its acceptance. Following the arrival and in the course of distribution of the shipment I would make every effort to insure continuous and favorable publicity.

The Minister then added that as soon as the text of statement had been settled the Caudillo would be pleased immediately to receive me to discuss any further details that might arise. This, however, may be unnecessary.

With regard to Minister’s previous suggestion concerning an announcement of pending negotiations for credits at this time he now feels that the appropriate time to make such an announcement would be when these have actually been begun. The Foreign Minister referred to the possibility that some credit could be arranged for gasoline and said that it would be most helpful if such gasoline as might become available to Spain through a credit arrangement could be transported in American tankers because of a shortage of available Spanish tanker tonnage. He concluded by again referring to the necessity for prompt action both as regards the initial wheat or flour shipment and the proposed credit negotiations.

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I have also taken occasion today to see the Minister of Industry and Commerce who stated that the first shipment from the Red Cross might be either wheat or flour in the discretion of the American organization. If as was hoped there were subsequent shipments the Spanish Government would prefer to receive these in wheat since the milling by-product would be available for animal consumption, the wheat could be mixed with other cereals to increase the quantity of bread thus made available and employment would be given to Spanish mill labor. The Minister would greatly prefer that the first Red Cross shipment be made to the ports of either Echo or Huelva instead of to a northern Spanish port in view of the great existing need for flour in Andalusia.

The Minister of Industry and Commerce then referred to the question of initiating negotiations for a credit in the United States and said that he is very desirous of being informed of the total sum of credits which our Government can make available. He continued that only when the global sum is known can he intelligently allot its division covering the commodities, quantities and values to be encompassed within such credit. He further considered it essential that he be informed of the possible movement of the credit terms, form, interest and method of repayment which we would be prepared to consider as a basis for negotiation.

With regard to the foregoing I am inclined to recommend (1) that flour should be sent in the first shipment instead of wheat for the reasons set forth in the Department’s telegram under reference; (2) that the Department inform me immediately of the basis upon which it would be prepared to begin negotiations for credits for a minimum of 600,000 tons of wheat and 200,000 tons of corn, that I be informed at the same time of the problems which we desire to place before the Spanish Government which should be discussed from the time that the negotiations begin.

As to further credits it is suggested that the Department now consider at least in a preliminary way the possibility of extending credits for other foodstuffs and necessary raw materials and equipment to aid the economic rehabilitation of Spain. These would of course be dependent upon the success of the arrangements for the first credits, the degree of reciprocity encountered with regard to our own problems and finally upon the evolution of the international political situation. An indication of the Department’s views on this latter recommendation would be most valuable in the event the Minister of Industry and Commerce should press his request.