Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Spain (Armour)12
I called on the Foreign Minister by appointment this morning. Although I had seen him on various occasions at social functions, it was the first time that I had had an opportunity for a formal talk with him since the presentation of my letters.
The Minister opened the conversation by referring to the decision to break relations with Japan. He said that there had been absolute unanimity regarding this decision at the Cabinet meeting which is still in progress (these meetings, he said, occur only once a month and last several days. One must not be misled by the length of the meetings into thinking that only important things are discussed, as Franco insists in entering into great detail with all the Ministers on relatively small matters).
I then asked the Minister how the “evolution” was progressing. He said that several important decisions are about to be reached.
- Franco is planning the establishment of a “Monarchical form of government”. The idea apparently is to have a Council of the Kingdom (Consejo del Reino) created to determine the succession. Franco will continue as head of the State (under the Monarchical form of government) and it will be the function of the Council of the Kingdom to designate the King, who would, however, not assume the power until Franco either dies or abandons office. I asked Lequerica how there could be a Monarchy without a King and whether this meant that Franco would act as Regent. He said that the situation would be somewhat similar to that which had existed in Hungary but that [Page 674]Franco would not assume the title of Regent but would merely be known as the Head of the State. Apparently the Council of the Kingdom would look into the qualifications of those eligible and decide which of them possessed the best qualifications. The Council would also establish the general condition for the succession, that is, revise the old Monarchical rules of succession regarding the age at which the King could assume power, etc. I asked Lequeriea how soon this would be finally decided and what form the announcement would take but he was vague on this point except to say that he thought it would be shortly.
- The Bill of Eights which has been under study for some time by Franco’s legal advisers is now in definite form and is to be presented to the Consejo Nacional. This, he hopes, will be acted upon shortly and will have the effect of stabilizing conditions through definition of individual rights and privileges. Municipal elections are also contemplated.
- It has been decided to grant complete freedom from censorship to the foreign press correspondents. Lequeriea asked me to consider this as confidential, as he wishes to call in the correspondents and himself give them this notification. It is also planned to remove the control of the Spanish press from the present Falange Vice Secretariat of Education and put it under the ordinary Ministry of Education.
- The death penalty for offenses committed during the civil war is to be abolished and I understood him to say this will apply to all those at present under sentence. Furthermore, all sentences for civil war crimes for terms of twenty years or under have been annulled. This already holds to those in the country and will now be applied to those abroad who will be invited to return to Spain. In fact, all Spaniards now abroad will be invited to return and public notification will be made that those who are in any doubt as to whether they can safely return have only to apply to the Consuls who will receive instructions to telegraph to the Government for specific confirmation in individual cases. Incidentally, he said that the latest figures given him by the Minister of Justice show that only 17,000 political prisoners are now held in the prisons of the country.
- The present special courts for judging political offenses arising out of the civil war are to be abolished. In other words, in the future only the regular tribunals will have jurisdiction. I understood him to say that announcement on these last points would be made on the termination of the present meeting of the Cabinet, probably within the next two or three days.
I told the Minister that I had been very much interested in what he had to tell me. I asked him how the Falange would be affected by [Page 675]this evolution. He was somewhat vague in his reply, falling back on his previous arguments that the real functions of the Falange had been misunderstood abroad, that it was not a party but a movement, etc. He said that Franco was very much interested in the social welfare work which the Falange had been conducting and wished this to go on in one form or another, but Lequeriea felt that with the evolution that he had described in the internal field, as well as the very marked evolution in the international field, many of the bad features of the Falange would automatically be disposed of. I said that I had told him in our first talk and as I knew he himself realized, the existence of the Falange was perhaps the greatest obstacle to an improvement in our relations and that, while implementation of certain of the measures he had described would undoubtedly be well received abroad, so long as the totalitarian aspect of the regime continued and the Falange had its place in the structure of the Spanish State, it was more than unlikely that public opinion in my country, and I felt sure in the other democracies, would be satisfied. I said that I had been somewhat concerned that the Spanish press was conveying the impression that our relations with Spain were on an entirely satisfactory basis and I had also seen a tendency to draw a distinction between our attitude and that of the British towards the present Spanish regime. Lequeriea said that this was, of course, absurd, that the Government entirely understood our position and if the press were assuming this attitude it was certainly not with any encouragement from the Government. So far as a distinction between our policy and that of the British, he realized that there were certain elements, largely in the Monarchist group here, who had tried to give this impression, adding that the Duke of Alba14 had come to see him shortly before I presented my letters to say that he had heard that demonstrations, flags, etc. were being planned as a mark of special consideration for the American Ambassador, with the implication of drawing a distinction between the United States and Britain. He had told Alba that any such reports were without foundation. I said that I felt it would be most unfortunate if this situation were to develop to a point where my Government or even the President, might find it necessary to make a public statement defining the exact situation. I said that, while I felt I had already stated clearly to him and to General Franco our Government’s position, perhaps the best way to sum it up would be to read him a letter which the President had written me on the eve of my departure. I then read him the President’s letter,15 stressing particularly the last four paragraphs. [Page 676]Lequerica listened with keenest interest but vouchsafed no comment except to say that he hoped very much that the evolution which he had described to me would contribute towards an eventual solution of the situation and enable us to establish our relations on the basis which we all desired. I told the Minister that we would await with interest the announcement of the various measures he had outlined and perhaps when this had taken place we would be in a position to pursue these matters further.
- Copy transmitted to the Department in despatch 78, April 12, 1945, from Madrid; received April 26.↩
- Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, Spanish Ambassador in the United Kingdom. He had offered his resignation in March 1945 but it was refused by Franco and it did not take effect until October.↩
- Letter of March 10, p. 667.↩