821.24/153: Telegram

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

452. My telegram No. 435, September 26, 10 p.m. In conversation this morning with the President and Minister of War58 I meticulously reviewed all the considerations respecting Lend-Lease agreement outlined in several recent telegrams from the Department. In particular I emphasized that my Government was not urging Colombia to take advantage of our offer, that the decision was exclusively Colombia’s but if he desired any deliveries it was absolutely essential to have complete details in the Department’s hands at the earliest possible date.

Santos by end of talk largely abandoned his previous arguments about political flavor in such matters as “suspensioned,” although he raised one innocuous new point: In article 5 of the draft word “consent” should be changed to “with prior approval.” He remarked that other American Republics had raised similar objections to Department’s draft. To this I expressed doubt because I said I understood most already had [apparent omission] said he was convinced present Congressional authorizations only empowered his Government to borrow money to spend on armaments and did not permit a deal direct from government to government for matériels; hence new legislative authority must be obtained. He added that this was [Page 34] as much for our protection as his own since his successor in office might repudiate the commitments of the present Government. Therefore he proposed to redraft the Department’s agreement in the form of a convention which, if approved by us, he would submit to Congress. I suggested it might be preferable for him first in broad terms to obtain authorization which would permit him to sign a Lend-Lease agreement. He admitted this was possible.

When I pointed out the delays involved in getting Congressional authorization and the necessity for Colombia to get her requirements on our priority lists as soon as possible he said that Turbay now had a list of general classes of equipment needed but without prices or other details. I expressed doubt that such a list would be of much use. He said that he would have detailed lists prepared covering Colombia’s immediate requirements and later others would be presented. I told him for Colombia’s own benefit it was desirable to present now complete lists with all details since otherwise due to wide and large calls on our manufacturing capacity we could promise little or nothing for orders placed in the future. He finally instructed the Minister of War forthwith to prepare complete specifications, as urged by me.

While President once again confirmed 3 million dollar figure for matériel, Minister of War observed it was more likely to be from 6 to 8 million dollars to which Santos by his silence seemingly assented.

Santos said Congressional attacks on recent military aviation accidents had made army officers unwilling to pronounce any Colombian Army plane fit for service. As a result Aviation Corps was practically paralyzed and there was urgent need for small planes—bombers could come later on.

The President again repeated that it was imperative for Colombia to obtain some free funds and implied that the matériel acquired under Lend-Lease already would be measurably ineffective without this cash. I told him it was absolutely impossible to get free funds under Lend-Lease, that Export-Import Bank could not lend for military purposes and moreover in the light of embarrassment caused last May in connection with increase in economic loan from Evans [Export-Import Bank?] notion [sic] neither Colombia nor the Department could return to that institution for another loan for a considerable time to come. He suggested that with Department’s aid loan might be obtained from private institutions. I discouraged this idea and said the only hope I personally could hold out was for detailed estimate of free fund necessities to be prepared for me and for careful checking by my Military and Naval Attachés. Based upon their reports I might be able to send certain recommendations [Page 35] to Washington. Even in this case I said I was not sanguine because of our legislative restrictions.

While there may be some element of a trading attitude in this situation particularly in connection with free funds I think most of the confusion arises from fact that War Ministry even with advice of our Military and Naval Missions has simply been incompetent to decide on exactly what equipment they desire. Also the administration fears opposition attacks in Congress; however, we agree latter connection Santos admitted that presentation to Congress of convention suggested by him would at least make clear exactly who the pro-Nazi elements were among the opposition and we both would know where we stand on this whole question.

Before submitting my own opinion concerning the necessity for a free fund loan I still prefer to await the estimates thereon which are to be prepared and submitted to me by the Minister of War.

  1. José Joaquin Castro Martinez.