852.75 National Telephone Co./329: Telegram

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

54. My number 48, March 14, 4 p.m.; Department’s number 31, March 15, 7 p.m. After careful consideration and review of all the developments in the telephone company case to date I am of the opinion that the whole problem may be now boiled down to a simple question of the good or bad faith of the Spanish Government. … This question of good or bad faith, to my mind, can under existing circumstances in Spain only be resolved by an authoritative assurance from the head of the Spanish State as to whether the statements contained in the Foreign Minister’s notes reported in my telegram No. 3, January 8, 8 p.m., and 23, February 14, 1 p.m., actually mean that the company shall forthwith enjoy its former status quo and that Americans who have had no connection with the Spanish Civil War or who have been cleared of any suspicion of “Red” tendencies or who may be awaiting a decision concerning pending charges against them may now be freely appointed and may immediately enter upon their functions without further delay or obstruction on the part of the Spanish authorities.

It would appear abundantly clear from the entirely unsatisfactory results obtained after nearly a year of constant pressure that any assurances received from the Foreign Minister alone may not only be valueless but at times definitely misleading since the forces in the Government opposed to the company appear to be in a sufficiently strong position to nullify any promises given by him.

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Under these circumstances I request the Department’s telegraphic approval of the following procedure: That I inform the Foreign Minister that upon instructions from my Government I desire an interview with General Franco whom I am directed to ask for assurances as head of the Spanish State that the statements contained in the notes from the Foreign Minister referred to above mean that not only will the company be immediately permitted to enjoy the rights and privileges of the status quo of 1936 but also that no further delay or obstruction will be placed in the way of the appointment and functioning of such Americans chosen by the company as have had no connection with the Spanish Civil War or who have been cleared of any charges of having been implicated with the Republican regime or who may still be awaiting examination of such charges. (I would remark here to the Department that I am not losing sight of the seemingly arbitrary treatment accorded the eight Americans which I propose to discuss further with the Foreign Minister at the first opportunity.)

At my interview with Franco I should like to state that I have tried by every possible means to arrive at a fair and mutually satisfactory solution of the telephone case but that after nearly a year of fruitless efforts have come to the conclusion, as has my Government, that only he himself can give the word which would finally dispose of a case which has been and would otherwise continue to be a serious obstacle to those improved relations between our two countries which are so much desired by all concerned.

In the event that Franco gives me the desired assurances I might request him to instruct the Minister for Foreign Affairs to embody them in a formal note. Should he refuse to give them or attempt to evade the issue our growing suspicion of the good faith of the Spanish Government would be abundantly proved and our own attitude toward any further Spanish request for assistance of any kind would become extremely simple.

As regards the question of a fair investigation and a fair decision concerning charges against the eight American employees of the company I am frankly of the opinion that in this the Spanish authorities will inevitably have the last word and while I recommend that this be energetically pursued in an effort to insure just treatment of all those involved I would urge that this question be kept separate from the more vital matter of whether or not the Spanish Government intend to carry out in good faith their contractual obligations to the American company and whether Americans may or may not be appointed and may function without further prejudice, discrimination or obstruction on the part of this Government.