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

No. 5971

Sir: I called to see President Medina at noon on May 22, 1944, this audience having been arranged on May 20, following my request for it made a few days earlier.

One of the purposes of my visit was to present a bound volume of photographs commemorating the visit of President Medina to the United States in January 1944, which I had been requested to hand to him. This he received with appreciation.

President Medina then referred to the Memorandum which I had left with the Foreign Minister some time ago concerning the recent Resolutions affecting new petroleum concessions which might be granted thereunder, and asked me if the reply sent was satisfactory. I told him that the reply had been referred to the Department of State for answer. I remarked that it brought up many juridical questions which were apart from the real issue regarding which clarification had been requested in my Memorandum. I said that there was no intention to question any regulations of a purely internal character, but that he might have expected that a Resolution which delineated a geographical area which included Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the Canal Zone and parts of Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil would be matter of interest in many Chancelleries. His contention was that the Resolutions had no practical effect at present but were a matter affecting the future of Venezuela’s economy.

Without disputing this point, I stated that our primary interest is at the moment the successful prosecution of the war effort to be followed by plans for post-war reconstruction and that the Resolutions, as worded, might appear to be in conflict with these plans. He then gave me the assurances which I reported telegraphically to the Department on May 22, 1944,56 stating wholeheartedly “that nothing in the Resolutions implied a departure from his determination that Venezuela meant to do everything within its power to help promote the war effort and to cooperate with the United Nations in their post-war planning.”

I made a point of assuring President Medina that the representations made had no bearing whatever on local control of the petroleum industry in Venezuela. He then said that the issuance of new concessions under the Resolutions had been stopped pending further developments and I urged the opinion that the matter is now one for diplomatic discussion and that there seemed to be no reason why the normal relations with the industry should be affected.

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It is my opinion that this action on the part of the Venezuelan Government is the first step in a determined policy to put an end to the refining of Venezuelan crude oil on the Dutch islands of Curaçao and Aruba. This “intermediate industry” has been a sore point for many years. It has its roots in an ancient grudge against the government and people of the Netherlands West Indian islands. It is largely a local Caribbean problem and has very little to do with Venezuela’s attitude toward the Kingdom of Holland.

Informal conversations with oil officials of various companies give a unanimity of opinion that the resolutions recently decreed, while aimed directly at the refining industry in the Dutch West Indies, will have no particular effect in the foreseeable future, i.e., for the next fifteen or twenty years, a period during which many things can happen and many changes will occur in the government of Venezuela. The interests of our American companies are not materially affected.

The matter of immediate concern, therefore, seems to be to prevent this diplomatic exchange, which is of only theoretical importance, from being blown up into an issue that will have the very practical effect of a handicap to the various sectors of the industry in their negotiations with the Government for new concessions.

Respectfully yours,

Frank P. Corrigan
  1. Telegram 539, not printed.