412.11 (41) Agreement/69

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Bursley)

Participants: Dr. Roberto Córdova, Mexican Embassy,
Mr. English,17
Mr. Bursley.

Dr. Córdova was requested to call at the Department after the Under Secretary had informed Mr. Bursley that the Department was not in a position to give to Mexico written assurances that this Government would not extend protection to those American citizens who in the future purchased farm lands in Mexico.

It was explained to Dr. Córdova that the Department had gone to great lengths in recent days to meet the Mexican Embassy with regard to five or more points it had raised but that it was not practicable to give the assurance desired unless it were practicable for the Mexican Government to comply with a somewhat similar request of this Government that there would be no further expropriations of American owned property without the payment of prompt compensation.

A lengthy conversation ensued in which Messrs. Córdova, English and Bursley repeated statements which had been made in previous conversations.

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Dr. Córdova then sought to make it appear that Messrs. Duggan and Bursley had practically agreed to the giving of the written assurances desired by Mexico. Messrs. English and Bursley stated that in all the conversations in which they had participated (and these included those conducted by Mr. Duggan) the position taken by the Department’s representatives had been that the Department could certainly not agree to include such assurances in the Convention, that the Department would give consideration to the possibility of an exchange of notes but could not promise that even this would be feasible, but that in any event, even were there to be an exchange of notes, there would have to be provision for bona fide cases of inheritance, court judgments, et cetera.

Dr. Córdova went through all the motions of being greatly upset over this situation although neither Mr. English nor Mr. Bursley had the slightest thought that this development was at all surprising to Dr. Córdova. Dr. Córdova said that it was his understanding that agreement upon our part to this Mexican desire was a sine qua non and said that he would have to consult with the Ambassador. He left the meeting for this purpose and said that he would consult with us further.

It is only within the past few days that the Mexican negotiators have laid this much stress upon the question of the desired assurances. While they are undoubtedly desired for reasons of Mexican domestic politics, including the question of the relationship between the present President of Mexico and his predecessor, there is reason to question that the Mexicans will insist upon this to the last. There is every indication that the Mexican Government badly needs the signing of the contemplated agreements with the United States. Moreover, the financial arrangements contemplated must appear very attractive to the Mexican Government. It might risk a collapse of the negotiations but this is to be doubted.

Possibly, as a compromise measure, it might be worthwhile considering whether the Department would accept the filing by the Mexican Ambassador of a confidential memorandum stating that it understood that the Secretary or the Under Secretary would not regard it as an unfriendly act for Mexico to prohibit the acquisition of agricultural lands in Mexico by foreigners. (Without commitment, a suggestion along these lines was made to Dr. Córdova, every effort being made to bring out that this was primarily a Mexican domestic matter and was one which could be handled by Mexico without intervention by this Government.)

Herbert S. Bursley
  1. Benedict M. English, Assistant to the Legal Adviser.