710 Conference W and PW/2–745

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

Dear Nelson: Dudley Bonsal called me on the telephone the other day and said that the Department was sending us some preliminary information with regard to our thoughts on economic matters for consideration at the forthcoming Mexico City meeting and that in a day or two he hoped to send us some information on the thoughts of our people in the political field. This was very encouraging to us here as we feel the need of this orientation.

We received yesterday the secret telegram No. 217 of February 5, 7 p.m., intended for Bohan, giving a résumé of the Department’s policy with respect to economic phases of the agenda of the Mexico City meeting. We have been giving this very careful study, and I was able late last evening to give it very careful consideration. Bohan, Sanders and Machold are having a meeting with me later this morning in order to talk over this telegram.

My preliminary reaction is that I think we have made a good deal of progress in approaching the economic phases of the agenda in a realistic and practical and understanding way, but I think I should frankly tell you that, in my opinion, we have to go a little further. We are still thinking too much in terms of getting our Latin friends to commit themselves to certain general principles, with which we are all in accord in reality, and not thinking concretely enough of how we can make it possible for them in practice to implement and really stand by such principles. There is no doubt that the American States are in favor of these principles set forth under Section A of the telegram to Bohan. The one thing that concerns them is the degree to which, in the world in which we are, and into which we are moving, they will be able to hold to these principles.

They will want to hold to them just as much as we do, but they see two great powers proceeding in a very selfish and in a very opposite direction. They realize that unless there is the closest collaboration among them and among us all in this hemisphere that the mere endeavor to stand by certain principles, and the mere declaration to stand by them, will mean very little. For this reason, as I have indicated in my letters with regard to the economic phases of this meeting in Mexico City, it is essential from the political, economic and defense point of view that we give these countries the definite impression that we are viewing this situation in a realistic way and that while we will proclaim to the world our intention to stand by certain principles and in fact our determination to stand by them, that we will at [Page 89] the same time take some specific measures with regard to this hemisphere which will indicate to Governments and peoples in this hemisphere that we are viewing the world situation and the American problem with complete reality and that there are some specific commodity and other problems in this hemisphere that must be given primary and immediate attention. My first impression is that Section B of the telegram to Bohan, while it conveys much that is good in the way of a realistic approacn, is yet inadequate. We will, I think, have to be able to talk a little more specifically with regard to commodity problems for, after all, commodities lie at the basis of the whole problem of each of these countries.

[Here follows a discussion of personnel matters.]

I also want to refer to the last paragraph of this telegram to Bohan, which says that the telegram contains a general outline of our Government’s approaches to economic phases of the agenda, but that this is for the information of the Ambassador and Bohan only and should not be communicated to the Mexican authorities, although it may be used in my discretion as a guide to my thinking in my conversations with the Mexican Government.

In this connection, I would like to add that it is in my opinion absolutely essential that we talk as freely as we can with the Mexicans on economic phases of the meeting. They are expecting us to do so. I think the discretion of Bohan, Machold and Sanders can be depended upon completely. We see each other once or twice a day. We have so far been getting far more from the Mexicans than we have been giving, for we have been able to say really nothing. Whatever we have said has been reported. The Mexicans have been working on the economic phases but have not been able to talk very concretely because Serrano, the Minister of Economy, who heads this up, has been away and just returns today, but undoubtedly the Mexican economic people will get together today with Serrano and they have indicated that then they can talk to us more freely.

They do want to talk with us, as Padilla indicated to me and which I reported in a letter a day or two ago. Padilla feels that the Mexicans want to keep their thinking so far as possible in line with our own, and he has even implied that they want to be guided by it as much as possible, as they know that ours is the most responsible position and that nothing can really be done without us. They therefore do not wish to get out on a limb in anything they say or do. The Chiefs of Mission of these other American countries here will begin to besiege the Mexicans very shortly on the political and economic views of the Mexican Government which they can send to their Governments. The Mexicans will feel themselves hampered in their [Page 90] talking if they do not know what we are thinking about, for they do not wish to cross currents with us. Padilla himself is tremendously interested, because he has to talk with these Chiefs of Mission and he will have to talk with these Delegates from these other countries as they arrive, as will the President of Mexico, and he wants to orient the President, and he himself wants to be oriented, so that he will know what line to take. I do not mean to say that Padilla and the Mexican Government will slavishly and servilely follow our line, but they are realistic about this meeting and want it to be a success and they know, if it is to be a success, it will be dependent very largely on us, and they want to work with us as far as they possibly can.

I think therefore that you all will have to agree to give Bohan, Sanders, Machold and me a little more leeway in talking with the Mexicans so that the Mexicans will know what we are thinking about. I can see no danger in this at all, but I can see a great deal of advantage—in fact I can see only advantage and no danger. I really believe it indispensable and I think you will agree. As long as we stick, in what we may say to the Mexicans, to the lines of thought which the Department gives us, I am sure there can be no danger. Time is getting short and we can do a lot towards orienting the Mexican thinking as well as stopping some cross currents elsewhere if you will give us the greater freedom in talking with the Mexicans.

As I said before, this is a very hurried and somewhat disjointed letter, but I have wanted to get these thoughts to you by this airmail, and as the telephone is now so thoroughly censored, I have wanted to do it by letter.

With all good wishes [etc.]

Messersmith