812.52 Agrarian Commission/125

The American Commissioner, Agrarian Claims Commission ( Lawson ) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Under Secretary’s letter of February 10, 1940 regarding additional difficulties which have arisen in determining a practical procedure for the adjudication of agrarian claims, and inviting a full and frank expression of my views regarding the proper course of action to bring about a prompt settlement. Reference is also made to my reply of February 13 regarding my proposed trip to Mexico City to consult with the Mexican Commissioner.

I arrived in Mexico City on February 16 at noon, and have had conferences with Commissioner Serrano on February 17 and this morning.…

While the Mexican Commissioner is agreeable to undertake the evaluation of claims before a definite agreement regarding technical questions is reached, it is my belief that these questions would be likely to arise in any joint consideration of individual claims and that, even if they should not arise at that time, the Mexican Government would be certain to raise them in subsequent negotiations with respect to the final settlement. It is also my belief that, whatever the form of presentation to the Mexican Section of the facts of individual claims, disagreement by the two Commissioners on any point, whether as to facts or technical legal matters, would be likely to result in the invoking [Page 953] by the Mexican Government of the provisions of the agreement relating to decision of disputed points by a third Commissioner. In this latter respect, it is my belief that the present Administration in Mexico would welcome an opportunity, even that offered by reference of claims to a third Commissioner, to delay final action until after the incoming Administration assumes office in December.

It is, therefore, my considered opinion that further efforts should be made at this time to effect a definite agreement along the lines previously discussed and covering the several technical points which have arisen; and that, meanwhile, this Section continue its work of analysis of claims. It is expected that this phase of the work, which is essential to a proper appraisal of claims, will be completed by March 15.

It is also my considered opinion that even with an adequate agreement covering technical points which have arisen, differences as to facts and values will arise, with inevitable delay, if each claim is jointly considered by the two Sections. Accordingly, it would seem highly desirable that provisions be made for each Section to make an independent examination and appraisal of all claims and submit a separate report to its respective Government regarding the total values involved, such reports to serve as the bases for negotiations in Washington for an en bloc settlement. Such arrangements, coupled with an agreement on the disputed technical points, would remove the existing dangers involved in the presentation of claims to the Mexican Section and would, I believe, be the most practicable and expeditious manner of reaching a final settlement.

If arrangements of the above nature, i. e. for a definite agreement on disputed points and for independent appraisals by the two Sections, could be made by March 15 this Section would be ready by that date to proceed with its appraisal of claims, and at the same time to deliver claims to the Mexican Section for examination and appraisal. While it is difficult to state definitely, it is believed that this Section could complete the work of independent appraisal in about two months, beginning about March 15.

If arrangements of the above nature can not be made within a reasonable period, I would recommend that as soon as this Section is ready to begin the final appraisal of claims, now estimated at about March 15, the Mexico City office be closed and the appraisal work be carried on in El Paso with the view to the submission to the Department of a report regarding the amounts involved. At the same time the reduced staff handling this work could undertake the appraisal of properties which have been expropriated since July 31, 1939 and of those which may be expropriated in future in order that the Department may have full information regarding seizures of American-owned lands. To undertake such work in El Paso there would be a [Page 954] requirement for the services of Executive Officer Winters, Secretary Scherer, Legal Assistant Shaner, Engineer Tighe and one or two others of the present staff.

Respectfully yours,

Lawrence M. Lawson