Memorandum by Mr. Bainbridge C. Davis of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs8
You will recall that Ambassador Wiley has presented two problems to the Department with respect to the shipment of armaments to Colombia. He has referred, in the first place, to the Colombian claim that Peru has received larger amounts of Lend Lease equipment from the United States, and to Colombian fear of Peruvian aggression; and in the second place, to President López’ desire to receive equipment for the national police for the maintenance of internal order. The two subjects can best be considered separately.
1. Lend Lease for the Colombian Army.
In telegram no. 26 of January 9 to Bogotá we pointed out that Lend Lease equipment was supplied for the defense of the hemisphere and not to strengthen the position of one American Republic against another. In telegram no. 88 of January 17 Ambassador Wiley asks whether it would not be a good idea to try to get Admiral Standley and Major General Smith to make a discreet survey of Lend Lease shipments to Colombia and Peru. I am not sure that the Army or Navy would consent to having these officers conduct such a survey or that Admiral Standley or General Smith would be willing to attempt it without specific approval. Even if this were feasible I doubt that it would produce worthwhile results. Despite the fact that the Department still has inadequate information regarding Lend Lease allocation and shipments, all available statistics indicate clearly that, in general, Peru has received a greater amount of Lend Lease equipment than has Colombia.
We have already made clear to Ambassador Wiley the basis on which Lend Lease has been allocated and our decision not to use [Page 849] Lend Lease to create military equality between any of the American Republics. Since Ambassador Wiley suggests either decreasing Lend Lease shipments to Peru or some “political solution” as alternatives to increasing Lend Lease to Colombia, I suggest that we point out to him that the considerations set forth with respect to allocation of Lend Lease to Colombia have been applied and will continue to be applied to Peru, and that we ask him to indicate what political solution he has in mind.
2. Equipment for National Police.
In telegram no. 26 of January 9 to Bogotá, we explained to Ambassador Wiley that we would be prepared to make a further effort to obtain from the military authorities such equipment as might be needed by the Colombian national police for the maintenance of domestic order, and which could be spared from our military requirements, provided that Ambassador Wiley should strongly recommend such action. It was made clear that any such shipment would be made in an open and above board manner to the Government of Colombia on a cash or cash reimbursable basis. In telegram no. 88 of January 17 Ambassador Wiley has replied that it would be timely if he could indicate to President López, prior to the forthcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers, our readiness to provide rifles or other equipment. I assume that Ambassador Wiley intends to have us consider this as his strong recommendation that the matter be reopened with the War Department since he has already been informed that no favorable action may be expected unless the Secretary of War receives a letter from the Secretary of State certifying “that this transfer is considered necessary due to the highest political and diplomatic considerations”. Ambassador Wiley does not indicate that he has discussed further with President López the question of an open and above board shipment for the benefit of the police. If you feel that the Ambassador’s recommendation is sufficiently clear, and that we should now reopen the matter with Colonel Edwards,9 we must be prepared to back up our request with the strong letter from the Secretary of State which we know will be required.
In view of the United States Army’s desire to “standardize” the equipment of the other American Republics, Colonel Edwards might be influenced by Bogotá’s telegram no. 89 of January 1710 transmitting a report that a Colombian military mission will be sent to Mexico to investigate the possibility of purchasing rifles, machine guns and ammunition [Page 850] for the Army. However, it is unlikely that the War Department would consider this pertinent to a request for arms for the national police.
Colonel Edwards, after careful re-study of the Colombian request for 5,000 carbines, indicated in a November 13 memorandum11 that upon receipt of the Department’s aforementioned strong support, it probably would be possible to grant 400 riot guns, 300 sub-machine guns, 300 to 400 revolvers, and ammunition, but not even then would it be possible to supply any of the 5,000 carbines actually requested by the Colombian Government. It is conceivable, though quite doubtful, that our determined support (both orally and in a letter from the Secretary) of Ambassador Wiley’s request may somewhat improve the November 13 offer.
If you feel that our strong support of the request is justified, I shall be glad to arrange a meeting with Colonel Edwards and to draft the necessary letter for the Secretary’s signature.