The Ambassador in Colombia ( Lane ) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 29—1 a.m.]
1509. At a luncheon today For Minister Echandía29 spontaneously brought up with me policy of granting arms and munitions to South [Page 814] American countries under lend-lease and fixed appointment for Wednesday at 5 to discuss it. He did not specifically mention request for 5000 rifles made by Ambassador Turbay and it is possible that he wishes to speak of the apprehension which a number of Colombians feel that Peru has received a disproportionately large amount of lend-lease material. As the question of lend-lease may naturally lead to a discussion of the specific request for 5000 rifles it would be especially helpful for me to have an answer to the questions raised in my 1505 of today30 by Wednesday morning at latest. See my airgram 714, August 10.31
This afternoon ex-President Santos reiterated to Donald Heath32 and myself his private anxiety regarding our arming South American countries under lend-lease for the following reasons:
- The increase in military strength of South American nations will not only be used against other countries but against the institutions of the country itself. He illustrated his point by saying that the growth in strength of the military element in Argentina has resulted not in war but in the destruction of the democratic structure of Argentina.
- The people in South American countries (and he cited Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile) are so poor that the increase in expenditures for military purposes cannot be justified economically.
It would be helpful to us in obtaining a more accurate comprehension of the situation if Department would send for Embassy’s confidential information the data requested in Embassy’s despatch 3806, May 20th.