821.24/146: Telegram

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

435. Department’s telegram No. 316, September 25, 11 p.m., arrived just as I was leaving for appointment with President. I therefore arranged for another meeting with him at 6 p.m. on September 30 and would appreciate receiving by the morning of that day any further comments which the Department may care to make. In the meantime the following may assist to clarify the situation:

For well over a year the Colombian authorities have been discussing with me, but only in general terms, military requirements. However, despite my repeated requests for concrete data and suggestions that their needs be worked out to a finality in cooperation with our Military and Naval Attachés and Missions, they have apparently not even yet reached a decision in these matters.
The nearest approach to a definition of their needs appeared in my April 16, 1941, memorandum “Colombian Request for Financial Assistance”52 and enclosures thereto left by me with the Under Secretary and in which Colombian military needs were indicated at just under $4,000,000.
This afternoon the President told me that Turbay had informed him that October 2 was the deadline for presentation of financial condition under the Lend-Lease Act. The Ambassador had added that an informal approximate and tentative list should be presented [Page 31] to the Department before that date so that Colombia would be sure to get something. Santos says this list will be ready to show me when I see him September 30.
All of the considerations in paragraph 2 of the Department’s telegram under reference I have already presented to the President, but I shall do so again at our next meeting. … The foregoing observations also apply to the antepenultimate paragraph of the Department’s telegram under reference; in fact on September 9th, when Santos in a preliminary way casually mentioned his objections to the draft contract, I suggested that he prepare a redraft for our study. This he promised to do, but on September 19 excused himself on the score that our draft was too divergent to be accommodated with his as it appears thereto.
I entirely share the Department’s unfavorable impression with Colombia’s handling of this matter. … However, for the reasons set forth on page 3 of my despatch No. 1122 of October 28, 1940,53 and subsequent communications on this subject including the penultimate paragraph of my confidential letter August 9, 1941, to the Under Secretary,54 I have been content to let the discussions drag but always taking especial pains to keep the record absolutely clear that every delay has been of their making.
With reference to paragraph 3 and 4 of the Department’s telegram under reference, while “free funds” requested by the President might in part be considered as an economic loan, I have always discussed it as a purely military loan to be segregated from other credits extended for economic purposes. In this connection, the following is pertinent:
Santos is vacillating on the military loan in the same way but in greater measure than he did on the economic credit.
The 6 million dollars requested by the President and approved by the Export-Import Bank in April55 was an estimate rushed out by him because he wished me to take it to Washington. Subsequently an increase thereto was requested largely because of Alfonso Lopez’56 attacks on the administration for not having obtained more money from us and also I believe because Turbay wished to gain kudos by obtaining more than the President had requested.
The Department may recall that when the question arose of increasing the Export-Import Bank credit from 6 million to 12 million dollars, I recommended that the additional amount be earmarked for expenditures next year and I assume that, since the Bank must give its prior approval for all expenditures, my recommendation will be followed in practice.
Six million dollars now requested by Santos he states is for purely military purposes. Therefore, it should be considered from [Page 32] the military aspect alone and should not be lumped with the 12 million dollar Export-Import Bank credit.
This afternoon the President confirmed to me his desire to obtain this 6 million dollar military loan under the conditions described in my telegram 417.57 Therefore, Turbay’s statements to the Department may again be an attempt by him to make a better trade than was contemplated by the President.
So soon as the garbles in the Department’s telegram under reference have been clarified and I have had my September 30th conversation with the President, I will reply to the other questions raised by the Department, but my preliminary conclusions are as follows:
This Government definitely wants a loan from us for military purposes;
As a gesture of inter-American solidarity and friendship for Colombia, we should assist this country with such a loan within reasonable limits, and if possible in such an amount as will make them content. Moreover, Siemels [sic] giving them this financial assistance in order that they may acquire sufficient equipment to enable our Naval, Aviation and Military Missions to function efficiently and to avoid the criticisms which otherwise might be cast upon these Missions. Also for the army to obtain some new equipment may assist the Government to keep the officers content and thus help in the maintenance of internal order. Finally, there is a remote possibility that Santos might be willing to establish a Colombian Intelligence Service to function smoothly with us; if this could be accomplished I could [would?] be willing to recommend that some of the loan be dedicated to this purpose.
In so far as possible we should not supply Colombia with equipment which, in the event of a successful subversive movement here, could be used against us.
Excepting for reasons outlined in (a), we must recognize that, due to Colombian inefficiency the proceeds of a military loan will serve in only a minimum degree for protection of the Panama Canal and hemisphere defense.
In short, any advances made should be kept as small as possible. I prefer to see the Colombian estimated requirements before making a final recommendation in this particular, but, since Santos in March only requested 4 million dollars for military ends and has now twice committed himself to me for 6 million dollars, I consider the latter figure one that we should stick to unless convincing reasons are presented for increasing it.

  1. Post, p. 57.
  2. See footnote 43, p. 19.
  3. Not found in Department files.
  4. See pp. 55 ff.
  5. President of Colombia, 1934–38.
  6. September 19, 8 p.m., p. 26.