810.20 Defense/716

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

No. 1458

Sir: I have the honor to report that in a conversation with President Santos yesterday afternoon he repeated the assurances so often made to me that his Government would take every precaution within its powers to maintain surveillance both of its coasts and inland, to maintain internal order and to insure that no attack ever could be launched on the Panama Canal from Colombian territory. Dr. Santos added:

“We are determined that the United States shall have complete confidence that the totalitarians can do nothing in this country which remotely implies a danger for the Panama Canal, and if ever you or your Government have any observations to make in this particular please submit them to me”.

I am, of course, glad to receive this assurance, but we must at all times keep in mind

that the strength of the President’s declaration is measurably depreciated by reason of Colombian inefficiency and dilatoriness, …
the President and his Administration’s timidity in taking any step which might be subjected to the criticism that Colombia was too supinely delivering itself to the United States.

In this connection it is pertinent to observe that the President again yesterday requested that all important defense matters be handled with him personally and verbally, thus avoiding the existence of memoranda and other papers (sic).

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Perhaps the President’s aforequoted assertion was in part due to the encouragement he has received during the last week from editorials favorable to his foreign policy, which have appeared in the opposition papers—the Conservative El Siglo and the Lopez El Liberal. These editorials resulted from my conversations with Doctors Laureano Gomez9 and Alfonso Lopez, as reported in my Despatches No. 1445 and No. 1447.10

In connection with this entire program I enclose a copy of memorandum10a of my conversation with Dr. Urdaneta Arbelaez, until recently Colombian Ambassador in Argentina, from which it will be noted that he strongly favors and promises forcefully to urge on the President that Colombia construct naval and air bases and permit the United States to use them. Throughout this conversation I took the position that this was a matter which the Colombian Government should first propose to us and that I could not, myself, even discuss the matter excepting in an informal talk between friends, such as he.

Respectfully yours,

Spruille Braden
  1. Editor of El Siglo.
  2. Both dated March 26, 1941, not printed.
  3. Not printed.