812.779/7: Airgram

The Ambassador in Mexico ( Messersmith ) to the Secretary of State


A–493. I wish to recommend in the strongest and most emphatic form that all restrictions now being placed by our authorities, whether they be by the Inter-State Commerce Commission, the American Association of Railways, or by any other agency of our Government, on the movement of freight traffic between Mexico and the United States, be eliminated immediately and for a period of 90 days—this not to include the application of Order M6397 to certain articles as now applied. The reasons for this far-reaching recommendation, the putting into effect of which immediately I believe to be in our national interest, are as follows:

While a partial embargo and restrictions on the movement of freight cars and freight from the United States to Mexico have been in effect for about a year,98 the recent drastic action of our authorities in stopping the movement of practically all freight cars and freight to Mexico99 has caused and will increasingly cause what amounts to economic disaster in this country and will almost certainly have political and economic effects which will be as undesirable for our country as for Mexico. The Department and various agencies of our Government are familiar with the importance of the movement of corn and [Page 1238] wheat to Mexico and of the efforts of the Mexican Government, with the collaboration of our own authorities, to provide an adequate supply of corn and wheat.1 The situation with respect to both corn and wheat in this country is critical, and in several areas political disorders are bound to result if there is not an adequate movement of both corn and wheat to Mexico.

The whole industrial structure and the economic life of Mexico are being affected by this embargo. Already mines and plants producing strategic materials which go to the United States are suffering in their production because they cannot get either the necessary supplies from the United States nor cars to move their products to the United States. Many industries in Mexico vital to the internal economy of Mexico or the materials in which we are interested are suffering from the lack of supplies which they have to get from the United States. I will not go into detail, but this situation is real and the effects of the embargo are already being felt in the Mexican economy, as well as in the food supply.

The application of the embargo can only have the effect of aggravating the situation in Mexico and causing political and material harm to our own country. We have many major problems with which the Department of State is familiar, and the President, which we are treating with Mexico and in which we are getting the most complete collaboration from the Mexico authorities. While we can expect from the Mexican authorities understanding of our problems, the Mexican authorities can reasonably expect from us, understanding and appreciation of their internal problems. The maintenance of the Mexican economy and of political stability are at this time as important to us as they are to Mexico, from the material as well as from the political point of view. We are creating through this embargo, disorganization in the Mexican economy to a degree which, rightly or wrongly, the responsibility for lack of food, disorganization of industry, and unemployment, will be laid on us, and this will inevitably affect our whole relationship with Mexico and the major problems with which we have to deal.

The embargo cannot cure the ills which our authorities have in mind, but will only aggravate the situation. We are understanding here of the problems confronting our own authorities and the need for every car being returned from Mexico to the United States without delay. The number of American freight cars in Mexico had reached its maximum in September of last year. As a result of the measures taken by the Mexican Government and the Mexican Railway authorities with the collaboration of the United States Railway Mission in Mexico, this number was reduced very materially within the course [Page 1239] of a few months. While the number of American freight cars in Mexico today is still excessive, the cure for this does not lie in the application of an embargo, but in the carrying through by the Mexican Government and the Mexican Railways, of the effective measures necessary to bring about a reduction of the cars to normal. So far the result of the embargo has only been to hurry back to the United States, empty freight cars, which is contrary to all good practice, and there have been all the other consequent disadvantages above indicated.

As I see it, the application of this embargo has been and will be, as disastrous a measure for Mexico and for ourselves, as I can envisage in our economic relationships. In view of the situation created here by the embargo and the deep preoccupation of the Mexican Government, I have asked Mr. Stevens, the head of our Railway Mission, Mr. Ransom, the head of our Procurement and Development Office, and the Counselor of the Embassy, Mr. Bursley, to meet with me this morning, and they are in complete agreement with me in the recommendation which I make at the beginning of this airgram. They believe with me that the best interests of our Government, as well as those of Mexico, would be served by the complete elimination of the embargo so as to permit the free movement of freight to Mexico. The Mexican Government will unquestionably be responsive to our action and we will be able to get more far-reaching and effective action from it and from the Mexican Railway authorities through the complete removal of the embargo, than by any partial action. It is my intention, if we remove the embargo in accord with this recommendation, to take up the matter with the Mexican Government in order to bring about the effective measures which will have to be taken here to keep the number of American cars in Mexico at normal.

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  1. United States General Imports Order M–63; 6 Federal Register 6796, 7 Federal Register 4198, 4878.
  2. An embargo system was put into effect in February, 1943, to correct an excessive accumulation of United States freight oars in Mexico (812.779/11).
  3. On February 7, Mexico’s newspaper Excelsior reported that the United States authorities had stopped all movement of freight cars into Mexico in excess of the number of foreign-owned cars being returned across the border.
  4. For correspondence on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. vi, pp. 429 ff.