714.44A15/170: Telegram

The Minister in Guatemala (Des Portes) to the Secretary of State

36. The British Minister informs me that he has been sending messages to the President and receiving them from him through a [Page 437] mutual friend in connection with the Belize dispute. The Minister has now heard that the President is willing to abandon the Guatemalan claim to the sovereignty of Belize on condition that Great Britain cede the territory south of the Sibun River and pay $5,000,000. The President has just sent an additional message containing a number of threats to impose extra surtaxes, instituting propaganda throughout Latin America, break off negotiations, et cetera, if the British Government did not come to an agreement with him. The Minister informed me that under such circumstances his Government would probably break off negotiations and that he had stated to the third party, apparently in no very conciliatory language, that the proposition was ridiculous and he could not even transmit it to his Government.

However, the British Minister gave me a copy of a cable which he alleged he was sending to his Government this afternoon, suggesting the renewal of the offer of arbitration on condition that the claim of sovereignty be abandoned but empowering the tribunal to recommend an ex gratia territorial cession. Both parties seem to be assuming an unreasonable attitude in this dispute and I greatly fear an early rupture in the negotiations unless pressure is exerted by us. The Guatemalan threats are likely to infuriate the British and the British offer of an ex gratia settlement, if made, to infuriate the Guatemalans. Nonetheless, from hints received from both sides it does not appear that there is a very great discrepancy between what the British really expect to lose and the Guatemalans really hope to gain as a result of an arbitral reward.

I recognize that the Department (telegram No. 13 of March 2, 1 p.m.) is reluctant to express any opinion regarding any specific point in the negotiations but I respectfully suggest that I might nonetheless be empowered to make appropriate comments regarding the dangerous points mentioned in the preceding paragraph. I, moreover, venture to suggest that the Department might be willing to have [a statement?] worded along the following lines made to both parties:

The Government of the United States wishes to reiterate its sincere hope that the Governments of Great Britain and Guatemala will be able to reach an agreement either for a direct settlement of the Belize dispute or its arbitration on mutually satisfactory terms of reference.
The Government of the United States would greatly regret it if unwillingness of either party to recede from an extreme [position?] in connection with this dispute should result in the failure of its friendly initiative.

It could, perhaps, be hinted to the British Government that the latter phrase is meant to imply that the United States would be displeased at a failure to make concessions and to the Guatemalan that [Page 438] the phrase implies that the United States might be impelled to abandon its efforts altogether if the parties to the dispute did not show more of a spirit of conciliation and compromise.

Referring to the Department’s telegram 25, April 12, 5 p.m., the British Minister reiterated today that he had received no instructions from his Government to enter into negotiations or conversations with the Foreign Minister.

Des Portes