561.333D3/90: Telegram

The Chargé in Colombia ( Wright ) to the Secretary of State

303. Department’s telegram No. 211, September 30, 8 p.m. I have just spent half an hour with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and informed him as instructed. The Minister replied that his Government’s problems in this particular “were not arithmetical but rather political”. While Colombia naturally wished to make the best out of a bad situation he would not under normal circumstances let 50,000 sacks stand in the way of solution; that quantity would neither make nor break Colombia but its loss under present conditions could well create an untenable situation for the administration.… When coffee quotas had first been mentioned and the so-called New York agreement was discussed public opinion and specifically that in Congress had been built up to expect a quota of 3,200,000 sacks.

The opposition was endeavoring to sabotage the administration on every turn. It hoped to create economic chaos which would result in political chaos and when the administration had been discredited it would then seek to assume control. The man in the street still supported the Government but was wavering and if this economic chaos came he would cease so to do. There could be but one result.

The fallacy in the opposition’s thesis was that once chaos came and they sought to take the reins it would be too late and the United States would suffer as much as Colombia. The best example the Minister could give of the seriousness of the situation was that he yesterday presented to the Chamber of Representatives the Act of Habana.16 Under normal circumstances projects presented for first debate were never discussed. This one was discussed fully and strangely enough no one had any real opinion in the premises. It was pure talk to filibuster the Government. If this continued the Government could not succeed in getting through any of its important projects.

He hoped the Department would understand that Colombia was not being obstinate or selfish. It simply had its own internal political situation and this was serious. If he could offer to Congress and to the public a quota of 3,180,000 sacks he could justify the 20,000 sack cut amply by averring this was in keeping with the decrease taken by Brazil. He earnestly hoped the Department would do everything possible to help him.

I expressed to the Minister that this Embassy and the Department had from the outset been sympathetic to finding satisfactory solutions [Page 403] both for Colombia’s and other countries’ coffee problems. In fact the discussions now in course had resulted in large part from his request to Keith17 that the Department be approached in the premises. The Ambassador had at all times given him the fullest possible support. Nevertheless both my Government and the governments of other producing countries had their own problems and all had to make equitable sacrifices. The Minister readily recognized all of this but reverted to his previous statements on the political situation.

Quite aside from innate selfishness and weakness I am inclined in large measure to agree with what the Minister says. The Government’s position is so delicate that even an insignificant 30,000 sacks might give the opposition ammunition with which to attack it. If the administration gets further bogged down in political recriminations in Congress the mildest result probably will be confusion in many directions.

  1. Second Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics, Habana, July 21–30, 1940, Report of the Secretary of State, pp. 75–77.
  2. Gerald Keith, Second Secretary of Embassy.