The Ambassador in Venezuela (Corrigan) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 26.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s despatch No. 8622 of April 12, 1946, entitled “The Revolutionary Junta Attempts to Lay the Blame for Food Shortages Upon the United States”80 and to comment further concerning the Government sponsored article and editorial which appeared in El Pais of April 12, 1946.
In addition to the views expressed in the despatch under reference, I wish to point out that the statements of the Acting Minister of Agriculture81 and the supporting editorial entitled “Hunger in Venezuela and the Good Neighbor Policy”, were issued despite the fact that on a number of occasions previous to April 12 the Counselor of Embassy and the Commercial Attaché82 had discussed the supply situation with high officials of the Government. Two days previous to the date of publication of El Pais, the Counselor of Embassy had personally gone over the situation with Señor Rómulo Betancourt83 and had explained that by exceptional efforts undertaken through the good offices of the Embassy, the authorities in Washington had relieved the wheat flour shortage in Venezuela with ample shipments; that export relief in the matter of tires was evident with the arrival in La Guaira of some 8,000 tires from the United States; that Venezuela had been successful in securing purchase contracts for ample quantities of corn in Argentina and sugar in Cuba; that, in accordance with the statement issued by the Venezuelan Consul General in New York, exports to Venezuela during February reached the all time record high value of $13,000,000; and that a calculation of tonnage arrivals for April indicated that approximately 80,000 tons of cargo [Page 1358]would reach Venezuelan ports. On April 9 at a dinner in the Embassy residence, the Commercial Attaché personally and at length pointed out to the Acting Minister of Fomento all of the above facts and observed that Venezuelan economy was being sustained in a relatively satisfactory manner by imports from the United States with the exception of two items, tinplate and vegetable oils, and that the Embassy and the authorities in Washington were doing everything possible to afford temporary relief as regards these items.
Notwithstanding the above given explanations to high and responsible officials of the Government on the dates indicated, the provocative press statement and editorial were issued later, undoubtedly with the full approval of Mr. Betancourt, a tactic which indicates a lack of cooperation on the part of the Venezuelan Government rather than on the part of the United States.
Following the issuance of the editorial on April 12th, the Commercial Attaché took occasion to expound in positive terms to the President of the National Supply Commission that the Venezuelan economic situation was not primarily suffering from lack of supplies from the United States and that the authorities in the United States were offering a high degree of cooperation which was apparent in the statistics of arrivals of merchandise at Venezuelan ports. Although the Commercial Attaché made no specific reference to the newspaper article and editorial, the President of the National Supply Commission in reply was so profuse in his expression of appreciation of the assistance given that it was apparent he realized that the Commercial Attaché’s remarks were stimulated by the unfair newspaper article.
Venezuela lacks at this time, in company with practically every other nation in Latin America, agricultural machinery, tools and implements. The situation is difficult but no worse than during the past three years. As mentioned in the despatch under reference, the current shortage of nationally produced foodstuffs in Venezuela is owing to the chronic and serious disequilibrium in the Venezuelan economic picture, aggravated by the bungling policies that the present regime has followed during the last six months. Any attempt to rectify this situation must be the result of a long term program and could not possibly be solved overnight even if the United States could ship all of the agricultural machinery that Venezuela desires.
I wish to mention in passing a development which will be the subject of a separate despatch now being prepared by the Commercial Attaché. This concerns the arrival in Caracas on April 11 of two officials of the office of the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner of Panama, bringing knowledge of the existence in Trinidad of very ample stocks of surplus materials which are available to Venezuela if the present régime [Page 1359]bestirs itself to purchase them. The Embassy extended an invitation to the Venezuelan Government to send four officials to Trinidad on the special plane provided by the Commissioner’s office in order that the officials might examine the surplus stocks. The officials arrived back in Caracas on April 16 and verbally informed the Embassy that the Venezuelan Government was enormously interested in a large amount of material which they saw there, including agricultural hand tools, electric light plants for rural use, vehicles, construction machinery, etc. Thus, if the Venezuelan Government is really interested in relieving some sore spots in their economy occasioned by material shortages, they have the opportunity of offering purchase bids on surplus materials and equipment located in Trinidad.