812.52 Agrarian Commission/186³⁄₅

Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics ( Bursley ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Welles )

Mr. Welles: We now seem to be reasonably assured that Messrs. Lawson and Serrano will be here on August 1 in connection with the Agrarian Claims discussions. In this relation Dr. Córdova24 and I [Page 966] have informally discussed the matter of a further extension for thirty days of the period for the Agrarian Claims negotiations, which apparently presents no difficulties.

It is not unlikely that the press will learn of these negotiations and the question arises of how these inquiries shall be dealt with. I should think that we could say, provided the Mexicans agree, that the two Commissioners have held conversations in Mexico City and in El Paso, and that they have now come here for what is believed will be the final negotiations. If the Mexicans want it said that the present discussions are informal, we could doubtless go along with that.

… There is strong likelihood that the two Commissioners will not move far from their recent positions and that a “political” settlement will be necessary. Dr. Córdova has suggested that it might be advisable for him and for me to sit in on a conversation between the Commissioners in an informal way, in order to understand clearly their divergent viewpoints. I could then report to you and Córdova could report to the Mexican Ambassador.

Alternatively, it might be desirable for you first to have a conversation with the Mexican Ambassador with a view to determining the broad lines upon which the conversations should proceed. It may be desirable to recall to the Mexican Ambassador’s attention that we have as yet had no reply to our memorandum of April 9, 1940, suggesting the general ideas we have in mind. Moreover, the memorandum seems to furnish a suitable basis for discussion of all points except perhaps that of values. In the event you see fit to use it, we have a strong point in the fact that the Ambassador’s assurances of November 10, 1938,25 to the Secretary were not fully observed.

I think it is inevitable that at an early stage of the conversations, the Mexicans will say that it is all very well for us to insist upon a given total amount, but that they know they will also have to pay the General Claims and without knowing what we would accept in settlement for the latter group, they are quite unable to agree upon an amount on the Agrarian Claims since the total of the amounts due which we would consider reasonable may be beyond their economic capacity. It accordingly seems to me that some one in the Department should be prepared to discuss this aspect of the matter.… As to Agrarian Claims, Mr. Lawson has already stated to Serrano what he considers is the lowest figure, namely around twenty-three million dollars. It is my understanding that tentative studies by Le26 have indicated that we should, as an absolute minimum, want nearly thirty million dollars net to ourselves, for the General Claims, leaving to Mexico the settlement of any valid Mexican claims.

[Page 967]

Because of the technical legal aspects of claims matters and the historical background of some of the cases and precedents, I do not feel qualified to discuss claims matters, and particularly those relating to General Claims in other than their broad policy aspects, concerning which I think I understand your views or could obtain further instructions if necessary. In other words, it seems desirable that an attorney fully informed in claims matters should be readily available for consultation if not actually present at the discussions. In view of the pressure on Le, it may have some difficulty in sparing any one for this duty, at least until the conclusive stages, when we shall need Mr. Hackworth.27 I have not seen Mr. Bert L. Hunt28 recently but understand he is in Washington. He would possibly be available with or without compensation. In many ways he would be invaluable as a consultant for Mr. Duggan or me, or whoever may be charged by you with such part of the forthcoming discussions as you may desire to have handled on your behalf.

If you can spare a few moments, perhaps you will call me in to receive directions as to preliminary preparations for the conversations.

  1. Roberto Córdova, Legal Counselor of the Mexican Embassy.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Office of the Legal Adviser.
  4. Green H. Hackworth, Legal Adviser.
  5. Former Assistant to the Legal Adviser.