The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)
[Received May 14.]
Dear Sumner: Padilla called me to the Foreign Office last evening and when I got there I found a meeting in progress in his office. It broke up shortly after I arrived and Suárez, Garfías, Zevada and General Jara45 were among those who came out. When I got in to Padilla’s office I found Marte Gómez, the Minister of Agriculture, still there.
Padilla opened the conversation by saying they had just had a special meeting of various members of the Cabinet and officials of the Government in order to discuss, at the urgent instructions of the President, the question of water for the Mexicali district. He said that in the meeting which had just ended they had gone into the situation as it stood very fully under these instructions of President Avila Camacho and he had asked Marte Gómez to remain for the conversation with me as Marte Gómez was the member of the Cabinet primarily interested and responsible.
He then went on to say that in the district of Mexicali there are some 36,000 hectares of cultivated land which are almost entirely dependent upon waters from the United States for the irrigation system, the unusually dry season in both that region of the United States and Mexico had aggravated the water situation and that the people living on these 36,000 hectares and their crops were in immediate danger of catastrophy.
In order to meet this situation the Mexican Government had entered into an arrangement with the Imperial Valley Irrigation District for supply of some urgently needed water for which Mexico would pay at the rate of 25 cents an acre foot. It now appeared that difficulties had developed about the delivery of this water and in view of the urgency of the matter the Mexican Government had sent several people up to Washington to talk over the matter, I believe with the Department of the Interior. Apparently grave obstacles had arisen so that the Foreign Office here urgently instructed the Mexican Embassy in Washington to take up the matter with the Department of State and Padilla said that Colina46 had been in the Department twice to talk with us but he was not able to say with whom. The replies which Colina got, Padilla said, were not very encouraging.
In view of the really disastrous situation which was arising in the [Page 612] Mexicali district the President had called some of them in for a meeting yesterday morning and instructed them to have a Cabinet meeting in the afternoon. This meeting had just terminated and it was the unanimous opinion of those present that the situation was serious from many points of view and that I should be asked to come in so that I could take up the matter with you. It seems that yesterday morning the President indicated to Marte Gómez that he considered the situation in Mexicali of sufficient importance to take it up directly himself with President Roosevelt, in view of the fact that a disaster in the Mexicali district could have such unfavorable repercussions on the policies both Presidents were trying to follow.
I think the Cabinet meeting last evening was held on [in] order to see if such direct intervention by President Avila Camacho with President Roosevelt could not be avoided.
Padilla and Marte Gómez said that they did not like this arrangement with the Imperial Valley Irrigation District any more than perhaps some of us did. They were obliged to enter into this agreement because of the urgent necessities of the case and to pay an exorbitant sum for the water and in entering into this agreement with the Imperial Valley Irrigation District the Mexican Government did not intend in any way to create a precedent. They were acting only under immediate and urgent necessity. They said that if there were a water agreement so ardently to be hoped for they should be getting this water for nothing.
Padilla asked me to get in touch with you immediately and impress upon you the really urgent and immediate importance of this matter, for if there is no water in the immediate future all the crops in this district will be ruined and he and Marte Gómez emphasized the unfavorable impression the ruin of these people and their crops would have in Mexico and how much more difficult it would make the policies which they are following with us.
After Marte Gómez left the room Padilla told me that he had particularly wanted Marte Gómez there, as had the President, as it was necessary that Marte Gómez know that he, Padilla, and the Ministry were making all possible efforts to get this water immediately. As you know, Padilla is criticized a good deal by some of these Ministers, and quite improperly, and the President knows this also.
There is no doubt as to the importance of this matter and as the arrangements which the Mexicans have made with the Imperial Valley Irrigation District are not to be considered a precedent and are only caused by dire necessity there is in my mind no doubt that we should make possible the delivery of this water this season. I can assure you that they were not staging a show for me but that this matter is a serious one for the Government here, as well as for the Mexicali [Page 613] area. The fact that President Avila Camacho considered taking up the matter directly with President Roosevelt gives you, I think, sufficient indication as to the importance the President lays on the matter here.
I gave the substance of the foregoing to Larry Duggan over the telephone a few moments ago, who said he would immediately go into the matter and try to have some word for me today. I have, however, wished to give you this more full information in view of the fact that it is likely that it may be difficult to arrange this matter, but I feel that in some way it must be arranged and without delay. The important thing is that the Mexican Government has clearly stated that it considers no precedent of any kind is involved but that they are acting under dire necessity.
With all good wishes,
Cordially and faithfully yours,