810.20 Defense/1009: Telegram

The Ambassador in Colombia ( Braden ) to the Secretary of State

242. For the Under Secretary. Department’s [Embassy’s] number 235, June 25 and 238 of June 27.27 In long conversation with President this afternoon, after giving him ample opportunity to bring up subject of Urdaneta’s 5-point message from him, I broached it recalling his invitation to me. Santos, while admitting discussion with Urdaneta respecting consultative conference of Foreign Ministers, at first denied any mention of bases but later said there had been “some vague reference thereto”.

I outlined as per your indications but not mentioning I had heard from you, that while we were entirely sympathetic with his objectives, a consultative conference might be inopportune at this time. Whereupon Santos agreed entirely and added that these meetings of Foreign Ministers were fast developing into Inter-American conferences with [Page 12] large delegations instead of being limited only to Foreign Ministers; also too many subjects were presented.

I explained I was mentioning air and naval bases to him solely because of Urdaneta’s initiative and I traced for him my conversations with the latter. Santos argued he had recently read in American periodicals that far outlying bases were the only ones of value; that all we would require in the Atlantic was Martinique; and that were the enemy to get through our present bases the jig would be up in any case. (This defeatist attitude is disturbing.) I argued the contrary thesis, telling him of my conversation with General Van Voorhis who felt the necessity for an air base at Barranquilla. Santos remarked that the extension of the present Barranquilla airport was already under way. I said my understanding was that requirement was for a military base with adequate gasoline, supplies and shops.

Santos declared it would be utterly impossible for his administration even to touch upon proposal for bases since it would provide violent attack by opposition and particularly by Alfonso Lopez.

Following my explanation he agreed with my every argument as to desirability of bases from aspect of common defense and said when he retired to private life in his paper and in every other way he would defend that idea, but his Government could not touch the subject. Since he will not retire for over a year these are empty words.

An hour later he inquired whether there was any truth in reports that we were acquiring Galápagos as base. I replied this was a matter in which I had had no part but that here again the question arose of our being unable to bring up matters of this kind even though they might be mutually beneficial.

During conversation Santos several times repeated that in his message at the opening of Congress July 2 he intended to make the most forthright statement he could that relations between our two countries had never been so good as now; from the beginning of the war the United States had never made the slightest move to which any exception could be taken and on the contrary we had been punctilious to an extreme; there was complete confidence in President Roosevelt and his administration and it was imperative Colombia dedicate herself unreservedly to friendship with the United States; and that since Colombia in modern warfare could not protect herself there was further reason for maintaining staunch friendship with the United States.

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I brought up possible repercussions on Catholic population of Hitler’s “Crusade” against Communist Russia. He said this presented a serious problem to all South American Governments.

Braden
  1. Latter not printed.