862.85/2121: Telegram

The Chargé in Costa Rica (Dwyre) to the Secretary of State

135. Department’s telegram number 96 dated June 5, midnight. I called on the Foreign Minister this morning to inform him of the contents of the Department’s above-cited telegram. I found him with Anderson and was asked if Don Anderson might remain to discuss the matter, to which I consented.

Prior to my interview with the Minister for Foreign Affairs he had already spoken with the President on the subject. Also, the President had asked the Legation if it had any information concerning the transfer of the seamen from the Canal Zone, since it appears [Page 93] that he had heard the news last night by radio from Panama and had read it in this morning’s newspapers. At the time of the President’s inquiry this morning the Department’s message had not yet been completely decoded and he was informed that while the Legation had received a telegram from the Department on the subject, its contents were as yet not known. The President appeared worried and remarked that he was at a loss to know what to tell his critics and the Costa Rican courts.

Minister Echandi, after being informed of the contents of the Department’s telegram, reviewed our negotiations leading up to the departure of the seamen for the Canal Zone. He stressed the fact that it was his understanding and the understanding of the Costa Rican Government that the seamen would be permitted to leave the Canal Zone under the terms set forth in the Department’s number 73, May 16, 11 a.m. (see also the penultimate paragraph of my telegram No. 104 of May 17, 11 a.m.17) and that he had so promised the German and Italian diplomatic representatives. He added that he was on the verge of so informing the German Minister today in reply to the protest from that diplomat (see my telegram number 128, May 31, 1 p.m.) but that he is now unable to find a basis on which to refute the German Minister’s allegations. (Text of the German protest was transmitted to Department under cover of my despatch No. 3266, June 4, 194117.)

Señor Echandi feels that in view of the fact that his promise to the Axis diplomats, to the effect that the seamen would be permitted to leave the Canal Zone for Japan on the first Japanese vessel, has been broken by the transportation of the men from the Canal Zone on an American vessel bound for the United States, apparently without waiting for the arrival of a Japanese ship, his only alternative is to resign and take the blame for the Costa Rican Government’s broken [promise?]. The Foreign Minister seemed much perturbed by the fact that the seamen were taken from the Canal Zone by the United States authorities without prior consultation with or advice to the Costa Rican Government.

I feel that the resignation of Foreign Minister Echandi might have other undesirable repercussions in the Costa Rican Government, and might, if he decided to justify his stand in the press, cause an unfavorable reaction toward the United States throughout Latin America.

This could be avoided in my opinion by a statement from the Department, which I might be authorized to communicate to the Costa Rican Government in writing and which it in turn might publish, to wit: (a) [Page 94] that the crews were transported from the Canal Zone to San Francisco because the United States Government had reliable information to the effect that their stay in the Zone might be indefinite due to the non availability of space on Japanese ships touching the Zone; (b) that these men are to remain in the United States under the surveillance of the American authorities and that the Government of the United States guarantees that their status while in the United States will be the same as it was while they were in the Canal Zone; (c) that they will be at liberty to take any ship whatsoever, individually or collectively, Japanese or otherwise, which is most desirable for them, to proceed to Japan within a reasonable period, say, 60 days.

I shall see the President this evening and will be in a position to give the Department his views in the matter tomorrow morning. In the meantime I respectfully recommend that the Department give favorable consideration to the above proposed statement and advise me by triple priority telegram of its decision.

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