800.85/525: Telegram

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

38. My telegram No. 33 January 9,3 a.m. … Minister of Foreign Relations this morning after lengthy explanation placing blame for delays so far on Argentina said Italians asked $2,850,000 for two tankers or approximately 2 million dollars more than our evaluation, a sum which Colombia could not afford and he therefore requested us to make an offer for the vessels, including therein delivery to Colombia of either one large (up to 8000 tons) or two small (about 4000 tons each) merchant vessels.

I pointed to discrepancy between his proposal and that of President Santos in that latter had suggested arbitration of price after the war and our taking possession of tankers immediately without making delivery of merchant vessels by us a condition but merely a facility which the President earnestly hoped we could give when possible.

The Minister argued that arbitration in any case would be an ultimate measure and Colombia had learned from sad experience that a small country always lost in arbitration with a large one. I replied that this objection could be eliminated by the United States as a party in interest joining Colombia in the arbitration.

The Minister had no further comeback excepting to say Italy would be enraged by Colombia’s action and in fact already Colombian Minister in Rome was being discriminated against by being confined to the Legation whereas Mexican and other American diplomats were at liberty. Moreover he said Colombian merchants and industrialists are so alarmed at possibility of not being able to make shipments [Page 195] that the Government would have to satisfy them by at least demonstrating every effort had been made to obtain merchant vessels.

Since Santos of course has the final decision I recommend any proposal the Department may care to make be based on his statement to me and if at all feasible include as definite a proposal as possible looking to the delivery of one or two merchant vessels.

The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey representative has not been informed of my conversations with the President and Minister.