The Acting Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs ( McGurk ) to the Ambassador in Mexico ( Messersmith )

Dear Mr. Ambassador: I refer to your letter of July 29, 1944 and to previous correspondence in regard to the regulation of American freight cars going into Mexico. Copies of your letter were furnished Colonel Johnson several days ago, as suggested by you, and with his concurrence copies were also furnished to Mr. Buford22 for study. This morning Colonel Johnson telephoned that he was ready to discuss the matter and that he had invited Mr. Buford to be present.

The recommendations on page six of your letter of July 29 were taken up in reverse order. Colonel Johnson stated that it would be impossible for him to visit Mexico to discuss the problem at the present time, and that he felt strongly that any discussions on the subject should be held here. He said he would be very glad to have Mr. Ortiz come up with any representatives the Mexican Government might wish to accompany him. He said that Mr. Ortiz had telegraphed an invitation to him to come to Mexico, but that he was replying today by telegram, inviting Mr. Ortiz or other representatives to come to Washington.

In regard to your first recommendation, that the restrictions be lifted immediately and completely, Colonel Johnson stated that Mr. Ortiz had made the same recommendation to him in the telegram under reference. Colonel Johnson’s attention was also invited to the fact that, as stated in your letter and in your telephone references to the subject, this was also the strong recommendation of the Mexican Government.

Both Colonel Johnson and Mr. Buford stated emphatically, and reiterated their stand throughout the discussion, which lasted more than an hour, that it would be impossible to make an exception of Mexico in regard to a system of priorities for car loadings. They pointed out that a parallel situation to that with Mexico existed in the United States with regard to other allied governments, that Great Britain and even our own War and Navy Departments were subject [Page 1260] to similar controls in the interest of the war effort and that nothing was loaded for movement to ports for overseas shipment until the loadings were approved by commissions especially set up for that purpose.

There is enclosed for your information in this regard a letter from Mr. Buford of the AAR23 to which are attached copies of the “embargo” order in regard to Mexico, as well as that which “embargoes” or similarly restricts the movement of freight to ports for overseas shipment. It is unfortunate that the word “embargo” is used in this way since it has undesirable connotations. The so-called embargo is but a regulation, not a prohibition, of freight car loadings.

Colonel Johnson then suggested, as indicated above, that he believed the solution of the problem would be for appropriate Mexican officials to come here to discuss the matter with a view to establishing here a liaison officer who would inform the American Association of Railways, as do the commissions representing other Governments, which shipments should have priority.

Both Colonel Johnson and Mr. Buford pointed out that to remove restrictions, in their opinion, would only result in a rush of materials to the border with a repetition of the movement last spring when regulation was removed. Mr. Buford stated that the AAR was daily flooded with requests from shippers who wanted to send to Mexico large quantities of all kinds of goods, most of which would find a ready market there but which in no way could be considered essential. He said these shipments would very quickly glut the Mexican lines and cause greater complications.

Both Colonel Johnson and Mr. Buford, however, were sympathetic to the idea of a progressive reduction in the ratio between cars delivered to Mexico and those returned as the situation continues to improve. They pointed out that the return of cars during July worked out at 1.72 to each car delivered to Mexico, and that they were willing to permit this ratio to decrease gradually, as efficiency in car service improved.

They estimate that the present situation is that about 8,000 freight cars are still in Mexico, not including refrigerator cars, which would bring the present total to about 8,500.

In the light of the above information, you may wish to discuss this matter with Dr. Padilla and/or Mr. Ortiz. Since a similar arrangement is working satisfactorily with other governments through a liaison officer or commission here, it would appear reasonable to ask the Mexicans to work out a similar procedure whereby their representative would inform the AAR daily as to which loadings should be made up to the limit of possible loadings. On occasion, it is possible [Page 1261] that some preference would have to go to shipments in which this Government was interested for defense reasons, but it is not believed that such shipments would be of a nature or size to cause any controversy.

In discussing this matter with Dr. Padilla, you may state in all sincerity that both you and the Department made the strongest of recommendations looking toward the elimination of regulation, but that these recommendations could not be sustained in view of the fact that the war effort has made it imperative to regulate all freight traffic in a similar manner.

Sincerely yours,

J. F. McGurk
  1. C. H. Buford, vice president of the Association of American Railroads.
  2. Letter addressed to Mr. MacLean, not found in Department files.