The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State

No. 27,767

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s circular telegram of November 24 with respect to the Uruguayan initiative, and to despatches Nos. 27,405 of November 28, 27,428 of December 4, 27,653 of December 12, 27,656 of December 13, and 27,662 of December 14,64 all bearing on the Uruguayan initiative.

With my despatch No. 27,653 of December 12, 1945, I transmitted a copy of an aide-mémoire left with the Minister of Foreign Relations, [Page 214] based on the Department’s telegram of December 8, 8 a.m., as well as a translation of the reply of the Foreign Office to the Uruguayan note, and addressed to the Uruguayan Government. The department will have noted from despatch No. 27,656 of December 13, that the editorial comment in all of the Mexico City newspapers was uniformly in support of the Mexican reply to the Uruguayan initiative.

On the evening of December 17, I had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the Foreign Minister66 and with particular reference to the Department’s circular telegram of December 8, 8 a.m. I expressed to the Minister some disappointment that the reply of the Mexican Government did not support fully the Uruguayan initiative, which was felt by my Government to be of primary importance and of deep significance in the development of inter-American relationships. The Minister said that he thought a careful reading of his note did not imply that the attitude of the Mexican Government was fundamentally opposed to the basic idea underlying the Uruguayan initiative. He said that the basic attitude of the Mexican Government was that the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries had been one of the most precious achievements of inter-American relationships and that it was a principle which had, at all costs, to be safeguarded and consolidated. On the other hand, he said that he recognized, and the Mexican Government recognized, that the sovereignty of States, in the old conception, had to be changed and that he had supported this idea from time to time in public addresses. He referred to an address which he had made in the United States some years ago, in which he had said that, just as the small communities and muncipalities had had to give up some of their liberty of action to the States in the United States, and as the States had had to give up some of their prerogatives to the Federal Government, so the Federal Government of the United States would have to be prepared to limit its field of sovereignty. The same idea, the Minister said, applied to other countries. He was therefore definitely a partisan of the idea that the concept of sovereignty had to be changed in certain respects and somewhat narrowed, and he was sure that this was the concept of thoughtful people in Mexico and also in others of the American Republics.

He recalled to me that in the Mexico City meeting in February of this year, the Mexican Delegation had presented in the appropriate committee a resolution on the rights of man,67 which resolution had [Page 215] been very carefully considered by the Mexican Government before presenting it and on which it placed considerable weight. He said that the resolution did not meet a favorable reception in the committee and was therefore not adopted by the Mexico City meeting.

He said that at the conference in San Francisco of the United Nations, the Mexican Delegation had again presented a resolution on the rights of man, somewhat along the lines of the one presented at the Mexico City meeting. He said that again the resolution had little favorable reception in the committee and, if he recalled correctly, the United States member of the comimttee had not been favorably disposed towards the resolution.

The Minister then went on to say that it was the opinion of the Mexican Government, which it had endeavored to make clear in the note to Uruguay, that the rights of man would have to be defined before the Uruguayan initiative could be safely carried through. Without a clear definition of such rights of man, there was no established norm by which violation thereof could be established. This left too much room for difficulties arising under attempts to intervene under the Uruguayan initiative. It was only when there had been agreement among the United Nations, or among the American States, as to the “rights of man” that violations of civil liberty could be established and that any collective action in consequence thereof could be taken safely and without violating the principle of non-intervention.

The Minister said that he had read with a great deal of interest and care the observations which we had made with regard to the Uruguayan initiative. He said that in his opinion and that of the Mexican Government, there was not yet the possibility of initiating consultation with regard to violations of the rights of man in any American country, as the consultative procedure as established in various inter-American conferences had not foreseen this particular type of consultation. He spoke in some detail of the three points set forth in the Department’s telegram of December 8 and said that he thought that some such procedure as that which we had outlined therein as feasible might be feasible once the consultative procedure among the American States had been adequately enlarged by them to include this type of consultation.

The Minister expressed the opinion that it was not possible to reach agreement among the American States on the Uruguayan initiative through correspondence between Foreign Ministries. He felt that the matter was of primary importance and could only be treated in an inter-American meeting. Any other form of treating the matter would be ineffective in his opinion. He expressed the opinion that the Uruguayan initiative, and the subject of enlarging and broadening the concept and scope of consultation could well be placed as one [Page 216] of the items on the agenda of the meeting to be held in Rio de Janeiro of the American States, in the latter half of February, 1946.68

I have only given a very brief summary of the conversation with the Minister. The observations which he made and which I set forth in this despatch somewhat amplify and clarify the note which the Mexican Government sent to the Uruguayan Government and are somewhat more encouraging as to what the ultimate attitude of the Mexican Government may be with respect to the Uruguayan initiative.

So far as the idea of sanctions is concerned, the Minister said that the Mexican Government had, by its previous attitudes in recent years, shown that it was not averse to the idea of sanctions. It had shown its willingness to go along with sanctions when the Abyssinian question was before the League.69 It was his opinion that once the inter-American system of consultation permits collective action with regard to violations of the rights of man in any country, that the necessary ends could be met by the application of sanctions of various kinds other than the use of armed force.

I shall not fail to discuss the matter of the Uruguayan initiative further with the Foreign Minister when any favorable opportunity may present itself, and I shall keep the Department informed of such conversations.

I have the impression that the Mexican Foreign Minister, Dr. Castillo Nájera, would not wish the thoughts which he has conveyed to me, as reported in this despatch, to go further than our own Government at this time. He did not give any indication to this effect, but I have this very definite impression. I would therefore strongly recommend that this expression of views of the Foreign Minister not be conveyed to our other Chiefs of Mission in the American Republics through any background circulars or bulletins which we may issue. I think the Foreign Minister intended that we should have this information concerning his views and those of the Mexican Government, and this indication of the views which Mexico might eventually take, but I think it would be prejudicial to a receptive attitude by the Mexican Government for these expressions of the Foreign Minister to get into the hands of other Governments in the American Republics, except through him.

Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmtth
  1. None printed.
  2. Francisco Castillo Nájera.
  3. See Report of the Delegation of the United States of America to the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, Mexico City, Mexico, February 21–March 8, 1945 (Washington, 1946), p. 156.
  4. Assembled in August–September, 1947. For documentation on the postponement of this Conference, see pp. 172 ff.
  5. See listing of Mexico in memorandum giving status of League sanction proposals as reported from Geneva, to December 9, 1935, Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. i, p. 695.