812.52 Agrarian Commission/190

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Bursley)

Present: The Acting Secretary,
The Mexican Ambassador,
Commissioner Lawson,
Commissioner Serrano, and
Mr. Bursley (Secretary of Meeting).

The meeting opened with appropriate exchange of greetings.

Commissioner Lawson read a brief statement, of which copy is attached.29

Commissioner Serrano spoke of his pleasure at having been appointed Mexican Commissioner to cooperate in the evaluations with Commissioner Lawson, with whom he had been associated in various official capacities over a long period of years. Mr. Serrano said that he felt his function was primarily that of an appraiser, but that he thought the work he and Commissioner Lawson had done would be [Page 969] useful in furnishing a basis for a global settlement. He explained that the delay in reaching an agreement with Mr. Lawson was due in part to the written instructions under which he was functioning, to the relatively brief time he had had to study partial data presented to him by the American Commissioner, and to various trips on other business that both Commissioners had made.

Commissioner Serrano, consulting extensive tabulations which he brought to the meeting (and later handed to Mr. Lawson),30 raised objections to some of the cases under consideration. He said that there were wide discrepancies in many instances between fiscal and commercial values; that in some instances the claimed values were ten times or more as great as the fiscal values; that in several instances the fiscal values had been raised by the owners in apparent anticipation of claims proceedings to a point where the claimed values were higher than the prices at which the owners had been selling their lands; that some valuations were as high per hectare as though the land were in the United States. He said that in some cases the claimants had not come forward with “clean hands”.

The Mexican Commissioner referred to the several categories into which he had divided the claims, alluding to in passing, but not raising, the question of Mexican corporations. He stressed his view that fiscal values constituted a most important if not a leading element in determining values. Mr. Welles said that while, of course, fiscal values were one of the factors to be taken into consideration, it was not the case in any country in the world that the fiscal values had any real relation to the commercial values. The Mexican Commissioner said that he thought that at least in the United States fiscal values in a general way did approximate 50% or more of the real values. Mr. Welles said that, even in the United States, he thought this would vary widely on account of local conditions, financial needs of municipalities and other entities, and a number of other circumstances. He repeated that, as agreed in the notes of November 9–12, 1938, the United States was quite prepared to have fiscal values considered for what they might be worth, but he emphasized strongly that we could not agree that the fiscal values could be considered as the sole or most important factor.

The Acting Secretary said that since the Mexican Commissioner had raised a number of questions of fact, it appeared nothing further could be accomplished until these questions of fact had been discussed by the Mexican and American Commissioners. The Mexican Ambassador, the Mexican Commissioner, and Mr. Lawson concurred and the meeting adjourned.

  1. Presumably the memorandum by Mr. Lawson, supra.
  2. Not found in Department files.