821.24/144: Telegram

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

316. Your 417, September 19, 8 p.m. The Department continues perplexed by the wavering Colombian attitude on lend-lease.

Please see President Santos again in an effort to untangle present confusion. The Department goes into the following detail so you will have its full thoughts: Colombia entered into lend-lease discussions on the same basis as other countries. The Colombian Congress authorized the negotiation of a defense loan. Colonels Buenaventura and Tamayo came here to study availabilities and indicate Colombian needs. The results were practically nil. As reported in your no. 304, July 30, 1 p.m., upon the return to Bogotá of the aforementioned officers, the Colombians raised several objections, including implications that the Agreement had “political flavor”. These points were answered in the Department’s no. 234 of August 5, 5 p.m., and it is felt that point “third” of the Department’s last mentioned telegram should be reviewed to President Santos, to indicate that far from being an Agreement between belligerents, it in addition has no political flavor.

Colombian instability is further illustrated by Turbay’s, last Spring, requesting $6,000,000,51 stating this was all for a year. This was procured promptly. After actual approval by the Export-Import Bank, the Ambassador completely reversed his position by wanting $12,000,000. He reiterated no further credits would be requested for a year.

It is recalled from your telegrams that you were then dubious regarding both the need or desirability of the additional sum. Nevertheless in an endeavor fully to satisfy the Colombians, the increase was procured with difficulty and embarrassment to the Department. Santos now tells you he wants $6,000,000 more, making a total of $18,000,000 this year, in addition to the $10,000,000 last year. This time they do not even say they will not seek more.

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Turbay called at the Department on September 16, saying Colombia was not interested in receiving $16,200,000 worth of lend-lease equipment, but preferred to cut this down to about $10,000,000 and make a repayment arrangement of that amount proportionate to the tentative Agreement which had already been reached for the higher sum. He said Colombia really needed about $5,000,000 for local defense expenditures as a loan on regular interest and amortization basis for as long as possible (it is assumed these are the same funds Santos mentioned to you). He was told that this would require the Department’s most careful consideration and that he should make concrete his requests. No commitment of any kind was made to him.

If the Colombians do not want the $16,200,000 arrangement, they should indicate what their desires really are. The Department is far from favorably impressed with the Colombian handling of this matter. They persist with an outspoken trading attitude and, at the same time, produce nothing concrete on the basic problem. They should state once and for all what they desire and follow that definite course.

In all frankness to you, the Department at this juncture does not wish to raise Colombian hopes for a defense loan other than the lend-lease arrangement and you should not mention this possibility to the Government. However, in view of the confusion, the Department would appreciate receiving urgently your own opinions concerning the necessity for such a loan, giving your reasons why you feel it should or should not be extended, together with an indication of the minimum amount you feel justifiable or would satisfy the Colombians. This will enable the Department better to consider the matter.

The Department does not understand Santos’ statement to you that his Government is not empowered to sign a contract along the lines of the lend-lease draft. Is it for lack of authority or other reasons that he cannot sign and what kind of a contract could he sign? While the Department will listen to such modifications in the Lend-Lease Agreement as Colombia might care to propose, it should be made clear that the objections raised do not appear valid and that no other Government has suggested that the Agreement appears to be between belligerents. Several Governments have already signed and others are on the point of signing.

The need for the provision regarding suspension should be obvious to Santos, quite apart from its being required by the Act of March 11, 1941. Although this Government has every intention and hope of supplying the equipment Colombia desires, it cannot unequivocally bind itself, on account of the uncertainties of war developments, to definite commitments. This Government believes that the terms are liberal and entirely within Colombia’s capacity to pay.

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Regarding “aviation, Coast Guard cutters, and some infantry equipment” may the Department repeat that Colombia may obtain this equipment under the lend-lease allocation and that unless it is so obtained, delivery, which may be slow in any case, would probably be deferred indefinitely.

Please have a frank talk with the President at his earliest convenience and make the Department’s views clear. It should be pointed out that the longer Colombia delays, the slower delivery dates will be, because of previous orders placed by other Governments which have already signed or which are progressively signing. Throughout, please make it unmistakably clear that the “United States is not urging Colombia to take advantage of the lend-lease arrangement and that the decision of whether Colombia wishes to receive any armament from the United States rests solely with Colombia.

Please report by telegraph.

  1. See pp. 55 ff.