810.20 Defense/3068

Memorandum by the Ambassador in Colombia (Lane), Temporarily in the United States

Memorandum of conversation between President-elect López19 of Colombia and Under Secretary of State Welles at the above address20 on July 24, 1942, from 6 to 7 p.m. Ambassador Lane was also present at the interview.

[Page 155]
Mr. Welles referred to the oral understanding which we now have with President Santos to permit, in the event of an emergency, United States forces to enter Colombian territory and Colombian territorial waters and expressed the hope that this arrangement could be continued with the government of Dr. López. Mr. Welles said that Mr. Lane had fully explained to him Dr. López’ views and added that we wished to follow the President-elect’s wishes as to the manner in which the arrangement should be worked out. Dr. López then explained that … he preferred to take Congress and the nation into his confidence so that in case the necessity should arise he could state that he had consulted Congress, or at least the Committee on Foreign Relations. He expressed the conviction that the Colombian people, regardless of party affiliations, enthusiastically supports the present policy of collaboration with the United States but in order to avoid possible future criticism of his government and of the United States he would prefer to have either authority from Congress to take emergency measures or an informal understanding with the Foreign Affairs Committee to take the action which President Santos had taken at our request. Mr. Welles enquired whether the present arrangement with President Santos could be considered to be in effect until such time as a new arrangement were made with the government of Dr. López. The President-elect replied in the affirmative.
Dr. López said that he had been somewhat worried by the status of military and naval observers attached to some of the American Consulates in Colombia. These observers were known officially as assistants to the consuls but this subterfuge was generally public knowledge. Mr. Lane said that the Army and Navy would prefer to come out into the open in any way desired by the Government of Colombia. The present arrangement had been made between President Santos and Ambassador Braden. Mr. Welles then emphasized that the activities of all representatives of other United States Government departments should be known to the American Ambassador and should be entirely under the latter’s control; furthermore that Mr. Lane should keep the Colombian Government completely informed regarding such activities. Mr. Welles also specified that all the information obtained by our agents should be put at the disposition of the Colombian Government; that the names of all agents would be furnished to Dr. López after his inauguration; and that all agents would cooperate with the Colombian authorities in such manner as Dr. López might indicate. Mr. Welles assured Dr. López that our activities had only one aim: the defense of the hemisphere.
Mr. Welles said that we had just received a request from General Andrews to endeaver to obtain permission from the Colombian Government to establish a base in Colombia, on the Caribbean, for the purpose [Page 156] of refueling and servicing PBY flying ships. Mr. Lane said that he had recommended to Mr. Bonsal21 that no action be taken on this request until after Dr. López’ inauguration, as an unfortunate impression might be created if action were taken during the last few remaining days of the administration of President Santos. Mr. Welles then requested the Ambassador to ascertain from General Andrews, on his way through Panama, the details of the project and discuss them with Dr. López after his inauguration. Dr. López said that a project of this importance should be discussed with Congress so as to allay possible criticism. He again pointed out his complete support of our objectives but in order that his support could be of the most practical type, he wished it to be entirely constitutional and with the advice and consent of the representatives of the people. Mr. Welles observed that such procedure would be entirely consistent with democratic principles and that he could well appreciate the wisdom of Dr. López’ point of view.
A[rthur] B[liss] L[ane]
  1. On a visit to the United States during most of July 1942.
  2. The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
  3. Philip W. Bonsal, Chief of the Division of the American Republics.