The Ambassador in Venezuela (Corrigan) to the Secretary of State

No. 4919

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram No. 870, September 24, 8 p.m.5 reporting the protest of the Venezuelan Government against the activities of Messrs. Freeman and Andersen in connection with Proclaimed List publicity in the Andean States. A copy of the Foreign Office’s memorandum No. 2241, dated September 13, 1943, transmitting this protest, is enclosed6 for the Department’s information.

It will be noted that the charges made are:

The Government of Venezuela has in its possession reports from official sources that in the month of July of the current year, the foreigners Arne Andersen, born in Denmark, and Alton Vernet Freeman, born in the United States of America, both saying they were functionaries of the Embassy of the United States of America in Venezuela, went to the States of Mérida and Táchira where they visited commercial firms in various localities and carried out investigations in connection with the so-called “black lists”.
The above-mentioned Messrs. Andersen and Freeman asked of certain merchants, among other information, the presentation of invoices and business record books and announced to them that they would be included in the cited “black lists” in the event that they carried on commercial dealings with specific German and Italian firms. Intervention was carried to the extreme point of requesting the suppression of commercial advertising signs which some of the establishments visited were exhibiting.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs observes that, in carrying on the activities above described the foreigners mentioned, attributing false prerogatives to themselves, have infringed stipulations of the Venezuelan law. As a consequence, the National Government is studying measures leading to the punishment of the acts set forth.

As stated in my telegram under reference, this whole matter has been given personal study and investigation and I have come to the following conclusions both as to the facts of the case and the underground political pressure that gave rise to the formal protest received.

In the first place, Mr. Freeman of the Embassy undertook this publicity [Page 848] trip with the full knowledge and consent of the Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs, although the Chancery of the Embassy was not advised thereof nor consulted as to the political desirability of such direct investigation. From prior information regarding conditions in the Andean States and from the results of the investigations made and the publicity given to the Proclaimed List in consequence of this trip, however, it is not too much to say that the prosecution of Economic Warfare in these outlying regions, which have remained the stronghold of German and Italian influence, has become a reality to the commercial interests located there which, up to now, had been largely ignorant or scornful of our efforts in this highly important line of war activity.

From the reports of Mr. Freeman, which I have gone over carefully, and from conversations with him in the light of the Venezuelan protest, it does not appear that he went beyond the scope of his instructions. His visit was one of explanation and clarification to those friendly firms that, through unawareness of the scope and implications of the Proclaimed List, had placed themselves under suspicion: it gave publicity to the List and brought to our numerous enemies working in the Andean region a clear-cut knowledge that their actions were neither unknown nor overlooked.

Mr. Freeman carried out his duties with considerable zeal. He sought cooperation and received it fully in the vast majority of instances. He states that at no time did he require merchants to show their books or invoices and always sought to refuse offers to show them. The “suppression of commercial advertising signs”, referred to by the Foreign Office, arose from the logical statement to merchants who denied dealing in black list products that a “Bayer” sign outside their stores gave other implication. The only signs removed or painted out were Bayer signs.

With regard to the alleged “false prerogatives”, Mr. Freeman is an employee of the Embassy staff and was traveling under authority of the Counselor for Economic Affairs on Embassy business and made it publicly known that this was the case. I am convinced that Arne Andersen is an innocent victim of his association with Freeman. It does not appear that he ever claimed any connection with this Embassy or the United States Government on his own behalf. True, he traveled with Freeman in a car having diplomatic license plates, but his reasons for the trip were of a private business nature and to accompany a friend. We owe him whatever informal support that can he properly given.

As the matter now stands a decree of expulsion has been promulgated against Andersen and the Foreign Office has informally indicated that it would be well to transfer Freeman to another post.

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I have so far answered the Foreign Office memorandum with a statement that I am making a personal investigation of the case. I fear that the expulsion decree against Andersen will stand since it has already been published in the Official Gazette. I understand that the Danish Legation in Washington is being informed and that they may request our good offices in the matter. I should be glad to take up his case if instructed to do so by the Department.7

Respectfully yours,

Frank P. Corrigan
  1. Not printed.
  2. Memorandum not printed.
  3. The expulsion decree appears to have remained in force, and on November 18, 1943, Ambassador Escalante advised that Freeman was persona non grata. Both men returned to the United States promptly. Officials of the Division of the American Republics, Foreign Service Personnel, and the Division of World Trade Intelligence conferred; on the situation and indicated in a memorandum of conversation of December 1, 1943, that Freeman’s conduct was approved in the Department of State, and that Andersen was blameless. Freeman was assigned to the Embassy in Panama, February 24, 1944.