The Ambassador in Ecuador (Scotten) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 27—6:12 p.m.]
753. My conversation this afternoon with the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the Galápagos matter took a somewhat surprising turn. The Minister stated that if we were desirous of quick action on the agreement under consideration, he was willing to sign it before the Constitutional Assembly meets on August 10 but he suggests the following modifications.
The first paragraph of article I is modified to read “to do the following on Seymour Island, also called Baltra Island, located in the Colón Archipelago (Galápagos Islands)”.
He has changed the Department’s draft of article II to read as follows,
“This agreement will become effective from the date of its signature and will continue in force for the duration of the present martial conflict between any of the countries of the Axis and the United States of America.
“When this conflict has ended, the Governments of the United States and Ecuador may agree upon the conditions for renewing the present agreement, introducing such modifications as may be desirable; but if they do not do so, it will be understood that the present agreement will remain in effect for 5 years beginning from today, that is until the . . . . . of July, 1949. Upon the termination of this period, all the works, installations and equipment existing on the base granted shall become the property of Ecuador.”
He suggests the following addition to article IX:
“However, if the Government of Ecuador is interested in seeing that these improvements not be removed, the Government of the United States is obliged to transfer them to its ownership.”
I informed the Minister that I could foresee objections to the request of Ecuador to receive all the movable equipment, including armaments in the base. The Minister is obviously trying to obtain what he can, but I believe that if we object strongly to this request or perhaps if we modify it to the extent of giving Ecuador part at least of the movable equipment, he will withdraw his present request.
He pointed out that article X is badly drafted in the sense that after the words “reasons to the contrary” there should be a period and the rest of this sentence omitted.
The Minister then stated frankly that he was certain that the United States desired a permanent base in the Galápagos as well as an agreement respecting the postwar use of the Salinas base and if so his Government would have no objection to negotiating a global arrangement respecting these two bases. I said this was very interesting and [Page 1071] I would submit to the Department for consideration. This led to a general discussion of what our military authorities would desire as a permanent base. I informed the Minister that I was entirely without instructions but I imagined that the recent warfare in the Pacific had probably convinced them that to make a base really effective, a main airport with several complementary airports would be necessary. I added that if this were true, it might be necessary to construct airports in islands other than Seymour Island where our base now is. The Minister made no objection to this and I believe such an accord could be negotiated to the satisfaction of our Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Minister added that since President Roosevelt had spoken to Ambassador Galo Plaza of his interest in having established in some form a national park in the Galápagos this could also be included in the negotiations if we so desired.
The Minister then indicated without being specific that although Ecuador had very little interest in the Galápagos, it had interest in many other matters pertaining to its national rehabilitation and he implied, that if these bases were ceded to the United States on a long term basis, Ecuador would expect some form of compensation.
He referred again to the term “permanent base” and stated that, since an absolutely permanent concession would involve accession of territory, his Government would be unable to sign a treaty on those terms, but he suggested it might be either for a long term of years or perhaps for periods of years with provision for renewal.
The result of the recent elections has had a tranquillizing effect upon the situation. I believe it probable that this Government will remain in power longer than has been previously anticipated and I am convinced that the present time is propitious for the long term negotiations suggested by the Department.
The Minister indicated that if this were done, he would expect a formal treaty, the provisions of which could if we both desired remain secret.
Although I have not been informed what the maximum and minimum desires of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are, it is my impression that we can obtain either depending of [on] the amount of compensation we are willing to grant.