812.52 Agrarian Commission/214½

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

Participants: Under Secretary, Mr. Welles
The Mexican Ambassador, Señor Dr. Don Francisco Castillo Nájera
Mr. Hackworth91a
Mr. Córdova of the Mexican Embassy
Mr. Bursley

Mr. Welles said that he understood the Ambassador had come in to discuss the Department’s recent suggestions for settlement of certain questions now pending, particularly claims. Mr. Welles then read from the Department’s memorandum the categories of claims which [Page 1053] were under discussion. The Mexican Ambassador said that careful study had been given to the matter of these claims with appropriate officials including the President of Mexico while he was in that country recently. The Ambassador said that it was felt that $12,000,000 would furnish a very satisfactory settlement of all agrarian claims from 1927 up to about November 1, 1940. (In the course of the conversation Mr. Welles had mentioned that Mr. Lawson’s figure on agrarian claims did not include any cases which could not have been filed before July 31, 1939 or any other expropriations the Mexican Government might have in mind saying that we really had not thought there would be any “new” expropriations after July 31; the Ambassador smiled wryly as if in confession that certain assurances had not been fulfilled.) The Mexican Ambassador said that his Government did not see how it could pay more than $13,000,000 for general claims. He said, however, that his Government would agree to total payments of $30,000,000 for the Agrarian, General, and other pending unsettled claims. He said he thought the offering of $30,000,000 was really quite liberal under the circumstances.

Both the Ambassador and Mr. Córdova made some attempt to show that Mr. Lawson’s appraisals were far too high, especially in the matter of lands near the border which they said Mr. Lawson had valued as though they were in the United States. To this Mr. Welles replied that the Department was convinced Mr. Lawson had made very fair and reasonable appraisals. On the question of general claims, there was some discussion as to the value of the Mexican claims introduced for trading purposes. Mention was made by Mr. Córdova of one American claim of apparently inflated character.

Since Mr. Welles had to leave for the White House, he said that further study would have to be given to the general claims and to the Mexican suggestions and arrangements were made for the Mexican Ambassador to return on Monday at 4 p.m.

The meeting continued for a while and the following matters were discussed:

Mr. Bursley inquired what exchange rate had been used when the Mexican Government reached the conclusion that the agrarian claims were worth 60,000,000 pesos (this being the $12,000,000 mentioned above). The Ambassador said that he himself had raised this question with the Mexican authorities who stated that while the calculations had been based on surveys made in 1930 or 1931, allowance had actually been made for difference in exchange rates and for difference in land values.

Mr. Hackworth pointed out that if the agrarian claims which fall under the general claims convention were settled on the basis the Mexicans proposed for the settlement of the agrarian claims subsequent to 1927, the amount proposed for settlement of the general [Page 1054] claims including general agrarian claims was very low. There was some general discussion following in which Mr. Córdova and Mr. Hackworth said they would examine the claims which fall into the general claims figures.

Prior to Mr. Welles’ departure from the meeting the Mexicans raised the question of Mexican corporations. Mr. Welles said that it had long since been agreed that the Mexican Government would not raise the question and the Mexican Ambassador assented.

  1. Green H. Hackworth, Legal Adviser.