414.11 Denby, Alfred/6–2945

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Guatemala (Kyle)

No. 41

Sir: Reference is made to the Department’s telegram no. 366 of June 29, 4 p.m.,10 with regard to the failure of the Guatemalan Government to authorize the issuance of a visa to Mr. Walter M. Barnett, attorney for Mr. Alfred Denby, in time to permit him to make his trip to Guatemala as planned, in spite of a statement made to the Embassy by the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, and reported in the Embassy’s telegram no. 260 of April 10, 1945,10 to the effect that the issuance of a visa to Mr. Denby’s representative had been approved. The Department notes that this is the second time that delay on the part of the Guatemalan Government has prevented Mr. Denby from sending an attorney to Guatemala to protect his interests. You are requested [Page 1086] to discuss this situation with the Foreign Office, pointing out Mr. Denby’s repeated allegations of obstructionist tactics on the part of the Guatemalan Government, and the weight which is lent to such charges when that Government twice fails to permit his attorney to proceed to Guatemala to investigate the situation affecting his interests. The Department notes that in the first instance, the delay was so prolonged that by the time the issuance of the visa was authorized, the man whom Mr. Denby had selected to represent him was no longer available; and that in the second instance, while the Government later expressed willingness to permit Mr. Barnett’s travel, as reported in your telegram no. 434 of July 2, 5 p.m.,11 the failure to grant the visa upon six days’ notice necessitated the cancellation of Mr. Barnett’s airplane reservations. You should make it clear to the Foreign Minister that should the consequent delay have a detrimental effect upon Mr. Denby’s interests, the responsibility therefor lies wholly upon the Government of Guatemala.

Adverting to the second failure of the Guatemalan Government promptly to grant permission for Mr. Denby’s attorney to go to Guatemala to investigate the situation affecting his interests, it is noted that the Guatemalan Government has recently brought suit against Mr. Denby (your despatch no. 187 of June 14, 194512); and that refusal to permit his attorney’s travel effectively prevents him from answering these charges and from arranging for local legal representation, thereby lending further strength to Mr. Denby’s charges of obstruction, of refusal of the right of an impartial hearing in court, and therefore of denial of justice by the Government of Guatemala.

The Department believes that the issues which have been raised by the Embassy in its conversations with the Guatemalan Government with regard to Mr. Denby’s case have been clouded by a misconception existing in the mind of that Government, and that this misconception should be clarified and removed. The Guatemalan Government apparently considers that Mr. Denby engaged in improper political activities, and appears to operate under the assumption that this issue has been raised with the Government of the United States, the proofs presented and the Guatemalan contention accepted. Such is not the case.

The Department has intervened in Mr. Denby’s behalf as it would intervene for any bona fide American citizen. While it has been apparent that Mr. Denby might be charged with improper political activity in Guatemala, the salient point at the moment is that the [Page 1087] Guatemalan Government has not yet made any official accusations in this sense. Unless and until it does so, the Department cannot concede their validity, and must and will continue to accept Mr. Denby’s denial of such actions at its face value, especially since the Embassy has been able to find so little proof to substantiate such charges.

Should the Guatemalan Government allege improper political activities by Mr. Denby, it should present proof thereof to support its charges, so that the Department may weigh the evidence and decide whether Denby did in fact engage in political activity of such a nature and extent as to warrant it in refusing to extend him further, protection. Unless and until this point is reached, the Department can give no weight to the personalized animosity against Mr. Denby existing in Guatemala; it cannot operate in its relations with Guatemala on the basis of personalities and vague insinuations; and it must and will continue to extend to Mr. Denby the assistance which it would render to any American citizen in similar circumstances.

It is hoped that you will be able to clarify the foregoing distinctions to the Guatemalan Government so that it will either handle Mr. Denby’s case on a dispassionate legal basis; or else will bring forth any charges it may have against him and present proof to sustain its allegations.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Nelson Rockefeller
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed; the suit was brought for alleged embezzlement of Aerovías funds (414.11 Denby, Alfred/6–1445).