The Ambassador in Colombia (Lane) to the Secretary of State
[Received September 7—2:55 a.m.]
1537. ReDeptel 1049, August 29, 8 p.m.33 I took up with Minister of Gobierno34 today the matter of 5,000 rifles for the national police. I mentioned my previous conversations with President López and with Minister on this matter and said that in order to be helpful I should like fuller information regarding Colombian Government request. I pointed out that request had been in general and not in specific terms and that according to memorandum left with Department by Ambassador Turbay35 rifles are intended for Colombian Army and not for national police as stated by President and Lleras.
Lleras Camargo said that Government had deliberately made request in general and not specific terms in belief that if request were restricted to a specific type of rifle it would be more difficult for us to grant request. He said the following is Colombian Government’s preferred request:
5,000 semi-automatic carbines model M–31 General Motors 5–43 (Inland Manufacturing Division) with ammunition. Caliber M–l weight 5 pounds, 2 clips with capacity for 15 cartridges each.
Lleras Camargo said that as carbines cannot be used by the army the army would turn them over to the police in the event that delivery were made to the army. The idea of the President and Lleras, however, he said was to request the rifles and ammunition directly for the police to avoid the added complication of dealing through the army.
As to the general situation in the army Lleras said that the verbal courts martial36 are almost finished and that with the exception of the four colonels results of which will be announced today or tomorrow and the most important trial of all, that involving General Pizarro, all of the remaining trials involved “small fry”.
The Government’s expressed desire is to obtain the arms and munitions solely for the purpose of maintaining local order and I believe that the Government is now desirous of avoiding friction between the army and police. Obviously failure on the part of the Government to maintain order would react adversely to our interests.