812.52 Agrarian Commission/195

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

Mr. Welles: A report on yesterday’s meeting between Mr. Lawson and Mr. Serrano is attached.31

In view of the apparent hopelessness of any acceptable agreement between the two Agrarian Claims Commissioners, I believe there is [Page 975] nothing to be done except to arrange for conversations between you and the Mexican Ambassador, having as their object the reaching of agreement on a sum we could accept and Mexico could pay. (Possibly you would want me to have some preliminary exploratory talks with Licenciado Córdova. I think, however, that the status of the matter is such that the bull will have to be taken by the horns by officials with authority to make final decisions).

I believe that the conversations in Washington between the two Commissioners served a useful purpose in that our position was improved when the objections, reasonable and unreasonable, raised by the Mexicans were answered and since the way was left open for Mexico to propose a reasonable compromise—which, unfortunately, was not forthcoming.

… we should insist upon a large measure of justice for the claimants. I venture to express my opinion that we should not accept less than $11,000,000 (in the published notes “chiefly farms of a moderate size, with a value claimed by their owners of $10, 132,388” were referred to as having been expropriated. We also said “this figure does not include the large land grants …”).32

Assuming, as there is every reason to do, that Mr. Lawson’s figures are substantially correct, I would be of the opinion that around $15,000,000 would be a fair settlement. The full $23,000,000 (especially if to this is to be added interest) would represent a heavy and lengthy burden particularly when it is recalled that we also have a group of “new” agrarian claims of undetermined value. Moreover, there is the question of General Claims to be faced, when the agrarian claims matter is out of the way, involving perhaps $30,000,000.

There are numerous indications that the Mexicans may continue to resort to procrastination and to seek to involve us in discussions of details. May I suggest that the Mexican Government, if not now in possession of accurate data, has had time to acquire them; that it is highly desirable that we reach and sign an agreement this month; and that we seek to proceed in accordance with the Department’s memorandum of April 9, 1940 to the Mexican Ambassador (blue attached)32a to which we have not had a formal reply.

In accordance with the arrangements he made with you, Mr. Lawson is leaving Washington tonight. Mr. Lawson thinks that the continued presence of Mr. Winters here might encourage the Mexicans to resort to attempts at case by case and detailed discussions. I said that I doubted you would want Mr. Winters to leave since you might want details on given cases for your own information but suggested that he let it be known that Mr. Winters also probably soon would leave [Page 976] Washington. Mr. Lawson is furnishing me a good deal in the way of detailed data on each case but I do not feel free to release Mr. Winters without your approval.

Herbert S. Bursley

[Further negotiations regarding these claims were merged in efforts to arrive at a general settlement of outstanding questions between the United States and Mexico. See pages 1040 ff.]

  1. Supra.
  2. See note to the Mexican Ambassador, July 21, 1938, Foreign Relations, 1938, Vol. v, p. 674.
  3. Ante, p. 955.