852.75 National Telephone Co./356: Telegram

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

99. My telegram No. 94, April 23, 9 p.m.84 During my interview with General Franco today at which I handed him the aide-mémoire set forth in the Department’s telegraphic instruction No. 36, April 2, 7 p.m., and 38, April 4, 7 p.m.86 I received the following repeated and categorical assurances:

That the International Telephone and Telegraph Company would without delay be restored to the possession and control of its properties thus returning to the status of 1936 and that any new American employees which it might be necessary to substitute would be permitted immediately to go to work and would receive the necessary work permits without further restrictions or objections. To clinch the matter I asked the Caudillo whether I might transmit to my Government [Page 879]his personal assurances on these points and he unhesitatingly replied in the affirmative.

During my interview I brought up as a secondary matter, but one which I considered of considerable importance, the question of the exclusion by the Spanish Government of certain of the present American personnel of the telephone company. I stated that while I had no intention of questioning Spain’s sovereign right in the matter of the residence or expulsion of foreigners I must maintain the point that it was not equitable that these men should be expelled without having been informed of the accusations against them or having been given a fair opportunity to defend themselves against these charges. Franco insisted that I was misinformed and that the accused had been informed of the charges against them and had been given an opportunity to defend themselves. I replied that this was contrary to my information but that in any case I would take an early opportunity to present to his Foreign Minister in accordance with the latter’s suggestion my comments upon the informal list of charges which has been transmitted to me and that I felt sure that the Spanish Government would study and consider these comments. To this he agreed.

With regard to the previous postponement of the annual meeting of the stockholders of the company the Caudillo remarked that this meeting was to be held to consider the balance sheet, which could now be prepared in a few weeks. I replied that according to my information some months must elapse before a balance sheet could be prepared and that the reason for the delay in the preparation of these accounts was due to the refusal of the Spanish Government to permit the American employees of the company access to the company’s books and an opportunity to prepare the balance sheet. To this he made no reply.

The Caudillo went to some length to explain his previous refusal to see me along the lines set forth in the memorandum from the Foreign Minister which has already been telegraphed to the Department in my 66, April 9, 6 p.m.

While these assurances would appear to make it difficult if not impossible for the Spanish Government to fail to return the control of the telephone company to the American majority stockholders forthwith I cannot escape the conviction that although it may be possible to secure at least a pro forma rehearing of the charges against the present American personnel, the expulsion of these employees represents the pound of flesh upon which the Spanish Government will insist on one pretext or another. I will of course continue my efforts to obtain a fair and ample hearing of the charges against this personnel but as already indicated in previous telegrams I am frankly doubtful that these efforts will do more than delay the final exclusion [Page 880]from employment of these American employees of the telephone company who are unacceptable to the Spanish Government.

Behn has been informed of the substance of the foregoing.

In order that there may be no possibility of future equivocation I am today transmitting to the Foreign Minister the following note:

“I have the honor to inform Your Excellency, as you have doubtless already learned, that during an interview with the Chief of State today he was good enough to give me his assurances that the International Telephone and Telegraph Company would without delay be put in possession and control of its properties in Spain and that any new American employees whom it might be necessary to substitute would be permitted immediately to go to work and to receive the necessary work permits without further restrictions or objections. These assurances I have taken the greatest pleasure in telegraphing to my Government.

With regard to the secondary though important matter of the present American personnel now employed by the company in Spain, I took occasion to inform the Chief of State that I would seek an early opportunity to comment upon the list of charges which you were good enough informally to transmit in communication of April 9, 1940, and that I trusted that these comments would receive your study and consideration.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest and most distinguished consideration.”

Weddell
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