412.11 (41) Agreement/19

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

Participants: Sumner Welles, Under Secretary of State,
Señor Dr. Don Francisco Castillo Nájera, Ambassador of Mexico,
Señor Dr. Don Roberto Córdova, Mexican Embassy,
Mr. Hackworth,
Mr. Bursley.

In the course of a preliminary meeting, Mr. Welles, after discussion of the matter with Mr. Hackworth and Mr. Bursley, decided upon a minimum amount which would be acceptable as payment from Mexico on account of all outstanding property claims, it being understood that, in addition, Mexico would relinquish in so far as the United States is concerned all Mexican property claims against this country. It was also decided that Mr. Hackworth would outline the total amounts of each group of claims, as well as the total amount of all of them, in order that the Mexicans might see to what an extent the Department had scaled down within the limits of fairness each group of claims and particularly the acceptable total.

Shortly thereafter, the Mexican Ambassador and Mr. Córdova entered and Mr. Hackworth set forth the figures. The Mexican Ambassador and Mr. Córdova indulged in some remarks largely repetitive of the stock Mexican arguments in these matters, including the difficulty of inducing the various Mexican authorities to pay Mexican corporation claims and the like. The Mexican Ambassador said that at the time he returned to Washington recently he was authorized to offer only $25,000,000 in settlement of all these claims but that on his own responsibility he had offered $30,000,000, subsequently obtaining the approval by President Cárdenas of this action.

The Under Secretary made it very clear that we could not, in justice to American claimants, accept the $30,000,000 offer. Twice in the course of the conversation he emphasized the Department’s very real [Page 1055] concern over reports we had received to the effect that the Potrero lands were about to be expropriated. The Under Secretary pointed out that such a development would be very unfortunate at a time when the two Governments were seeking to dispose of practically all pending questions between the two countries. In the course of the conversation on this point allusion was made to the assurances given the Secretary by the Mexican Ambassador on November 10, 1938.92 Mr. Welles stated his understanding of these assurances, but the Mexican Ambassador, as on several occasions in the past, sought to establish that these assurances did not go as far as they actually did. To the Mexican Ambassador’s statement that the most the assurances provided for was consultation between the two Governments in the event any new expropriations were undertaken, the Under Secretary made it clear that the reported proposed action in the Potrero case, which was admitted by the Ambassador, did not even afford an opportunity for such consultation between the Governments.

After some further discussion the conversations were adjourned until November 14, at 4 p.m., the Under Secretary, in view of the attitude of the Mexican Ambassador, having refrained from advancing the Department’s bedrock figure for settlement.

Herbert S. Bursley
  1. Not printed.