821.24/126: Telegram

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

158. For Under Secretary.11 Conversation with President Santos yesterday afternoon may be summarized as follows:

(a) He was delighted with word from Colombian Ambassador in Washington12 that latter had been informed by the Secretary that $16,200,000 loan for defensive purposes would be available to Colombia under the terms of the Lend-Lease Bill,13 and Turbay understood a portion would be free for use in Colombia in projects such as the construction of military road from Quibdó to the Pacific Coast.

To resolve details, Colombian Military Attaché there, Director General of Navy now in United States, and Chief of Air Corps leaving here Monday, would work with War and Navy Departments while Colonel Strong14 and I pursue conversations here.

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He was surprised when I informed him only 3 to 4 million dollars would be available in 1941 and the balance in 1942 and thereafter and said Turbay had not mentioned this.

I strongly recommend that closest liaison be maintained throughout these conversations by our governmental conferees in Washington and this Embassy, together with our Military and Naval Missions.

(b) He accepted War Department’s interpretation of staff agreement hence there was now complete accord on that document. However, he desires to formalize it as a matter of public record through an exchange of notes between our two Governments summarizing essentials without going into details which might provoke prolonged debate in Congress. He would instruct Minister of Foreign Relations to prepare drafts for submission to us. This exchange of notes would be submitted to Congress at July 23 opening during the second debate on Habana Convention15 and as an implementation thereof. He argued this procedure was desirable from aspect of Colombian internal politics and would obviate necessity for our reviving same matters with next administration.

I seized this opening to indicate exchange of notes might be analogous to what I understood comprised recent agreement with Mexico16 including reciprocal uses of bases also mentioning General Van Vorlet’s [Voorhis’]17 suggestion to me that there be arranged joint maneuvers of Canal and Colombia military planes. While neither of us knew the terms of Mexican agreement he was receptive to both ideas. Hence, I request prompt instructions and if feasible copy of Mexican agreement. While Santos is in receptive mood we should grasp opportunity to cover the requirements of any military nature now foreseeable as necessary for us to get from Colombia. Santos was anxious that both military and economic loans be concluded before he presents exchange of notes to Congress thus avoiding charge that one was based upon the other.

(c) President was favorably disposed to allow our military planes armed or otherwise en route between Canal and Caribbean bases to pass over Colombian territory with emergency landings on simple notification prior to departure but any subject to granting of previous permission as presently.

(d) He was greatly concerned about difficulties in the acquisition of materials and equipment from the United States and adequate supply of shipping. I assured him both matters were receiving [Page 6] most continuous and careful consideration by my Government and that we would endeavor always to meet Colombian necessities but that exigencies of the situation unquestionably would impose sacrifices on every one concerned.

(e) President declared conditions respecting economic loan had entirely changed during my absence. Amount had to be considerably increased above 6 million dollars he had originally requested because that sum would appear unbalanced when compared with military loan; public opinion would not understand why Colombia received so little when Cuba18 had been given 25 million and Ecuador19 20 million and I doubtless had noted violent attacks on his administration by Alfonso Lopez in this whole matter.

I presented self-evident counter arguments to his, strongly advising good impression created in Washington by reasonable presentation of request for 6 million dollars not be weakened by this sudden and inconsistent increase especially as I had stated to Washington authorities additional financial assistance would be required next year. Only then did he aver additional amount was required (1) for stabilization purposes (2) because lower revenues prevented Colombia contributing to public works program as had been anticipated (see my April 16 memorandum: Colombian Request for Financial Assistance20). In my opinion these two points merit scrutiny. He had no idea as to sums required under these two categories but would request recently appointed Minister of Finance to go into details with me. …

I pointed to his having importuned me prior to my departure for Washington to obtain 6 million dollar loan as quickly as possible and that his memorandum was the basis used by me to carry out his request speedily and successfully; Export-Import Bank authorities and others in Washington would be unable to understand sudden change and in view of progress made pursuant to his request 6 million dollars had to be starting point for conversations even with new Minister of Finance. He feared that mention of this amount would induce new Minister to put entire matter back in his lap.

I gave him no encouragement as to increase excepting that … perhaps consideration could be given to earmarking additional sum requested for a loan next year. He seized upon this with alacrity.

Providing we obtained all of quid pro quo we desire such as those mentioned in my April 16 memorandum, section (b) of this telegram and adjustment of such matters as Japanese trade encroachments on which I will cable shortly, it may be desirable to accommodate matters by earmarking an even perhaps small additional [Page 7] amount this year. On this entire subject I urge most complete and prompt interchange of information between the Department and this Embassy.

  1. Sumner Welles.
  2. Gabriel Turbay.
  3. Lend-Lease Act approved March 11, 1941; 55 Stat. 31.
  4. Lt. Col. Carl H. Strong, Military Attaché.
  5. Convention on the provisional administration of European colonies and possessions in the Americas, signed July 30, 1940; for text, see Department of State Treaty Series No. 977, or 56 Stat. (pt. 2) 1273.
  6. See pp. 403 ff.
  7. Gen. Daniel Van Voorhis was appointed Commanding General, Panama Canal Department, in January 1940.
  8. See pp. 116 ff.
  9. See pp. 291 ff.
  10. Post, p. 57.