The Ambassador in the Dominican Republic (Butler) to the Secretary of State

No. 148

Sir: Referring to my telegram no. 353 of October 30, 1946,2 I have the honor to report in more detail regarding my conversation with President Trujillo on the evening of October 29. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs,3 who had arranged the meeting at my request, was the only other one present during the interview.

I opened the conversation by thanking the President for giving me an opportunity to see him and I said that I had no request to make, other than that we have a frank exchange of views which I could report to the Department. I told him that I especially wanted to avoid any misunderstanding about our respective positions, since that was more serious than inevitable differences of opinion. The President nodded and suggested that I go ahead so that he would be able to comment on whatever I wished to say.

I then told him that when I had seen President Truman just prior to leaving Washington, the latter had stated that if the Dominican Government sought the objectives outlined in President Truman’s Pan-American Day speech,4 I was to cooperate to the full extent toward that end. I observed that President Truman was aware of the material progress which has been made in the Dominican Republic during recent years. I then recalled to President Trujillo and to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Department’s public statement that the Government and people of the United States have a more friendly feeling toward and a greater desire to cooperate with governments which rest upon the freely expressed concern of the governed.

[Page 806]

When I had finished, President Trujillo, showing strong feeling, sat forward on the edge of his chair and stated that he and his Government are deeply hurt by the treatment they have been receiving from the United States. He spoke highly of President Roosevelt and Mr. Cordell Hull.5 He referred to his own 100% cooperation with the United States during the war. He claimed that now he is treated like a Hitler or a Mussolini. He said that Mr. Sumner Welles,6 who had been close to President Vásquez,7 had treated him very harshly. He then cited the memorandum of last December8 as an evidence of the unfair criticism of him and his administration by the Department since Mr. Braden assumed office as Assistant Secretary.

After the President had finished, I observed that his criticism seemed strong and not entirely justified. I stated that Mr. Braden is a personal friend whose views I respect and share. I said that there is no discriminatory policy toward the Dominican Republic by the United States but only the application of general policy. I said that I was sure Mr. Braden was acting upon conviction and not prejudice and that he was convinced that there must be deeds in order to make the Inter-American system work on democratic principles approved by all twenty-one republics. I cited the recent case of relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic as an example of the fact that our attitude toward the Dominican Government is based upon the merits of each case. I reminded the President that the Department, in reply9 to the inquiry I made at the request of the Dominican Minister for Foreign Affairs, had stated that it viewed with sympathy President Trujillo’s initiative to improve relations between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and that the Department was prepared to consider any specific suggestions regarding U.S.-Dominican cooperation to strengthen Haitian economy in accord with the Inter-American principles.

There was a slight pause at this point and the conversation was resumed in a calmer manner. I next reiterated to the President my determination to have the Embassy follow very strictly the United States policy of non-intervention in the internal political affairs of the other American republics. I told him that the coming Dominican elections were the concern of the Dominican Government and people and that the Embassy would take absolutely no sides either for or against him. President Trujillo made no comment and did not [Page 807] seem enthusiastic about my statement. He probably realizes that if the nonintervention policy is applied both ways and applied strictly he has more to lose than to gain. This assumption seems justified in view of the constant effort made by the Trujillo government to give the impression that it has the support of the United States.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs handed President Trujillo a copy of the Pan-American Union bulletin which contains the Spanish text of President Truman’s Pan-American Day address, and also gave him a copy of the Dominican Constitution. President Trujillo then proceeded to compare the points made by President Truman with similar provisions in the Dominican Constitution. His conclusion was that his government is working toward the type of democracy which President Truman outlined as the basis for the inter-American system. Both the President and the Foreign Minister then proceeded to comment on the improved standard of living in the Dominican Republic, on freedom of meeting (citing the government permission for the recent Communist meeting), freedom of worship, and the great progress made in education. The President claimed that there were no political prisoners and that the police had not pursued or persecuted the Saturday evening demonstrators as a Habana news despatch quoted a State Department spokesman as having charged. I told the President that I had not seen the Habana news despatch, that I had made no mention of the police in any of my reports, but that I had telegraphed en clair a denial of the exaggerated reports in the Miami Herald. I said that so far as I had been able to determine there had been no violence or forced entry to my Embassy, that there had been no attacks on United States citizens or their property.

President Trujillo then asked if I had personally seen any examples of the abuses attributed to him and his administration. (I had discussed this with Mr. Scherer10 before my interview with the President and we had decided that it would be unwise for me to mention any names since that probably would only mean more trouble for the individuals concerned. Neither did I wish to compromise the position of the Mexican Ambassador in any way by mentioning the situation reported in my telegram no. 352 of October 29, 5 p.m.11) I told the President that I had been here such a short time that I did not feel qualified as yet to comment on the situation. He then said that if at any time abuses did come to my attention I should come directly to him. He said: “I am a responsible man and I accept responsibility.”

There was further discussion of the inter-American system, during which I expressed the opinion that while the many resolutions, declarations [Page 808] and conventions embodied sound principles, the important thing now is to make those principles effective through deeds. President Trujillo observed that it would be better to stop signing agreements and concentrate on action. He then cited the case of the Department’s refusal to approve of the sale of a landing barge to the Dominican Republic as another example of the Department’s stated lack of interest in cooperating with his government. I replied that the question of furnishing arms to the other American republics is a very serious one for my government. I stated that an undue strengthening of armed forces might well have the result of retarding progress toward popular, civilian and democratic government. I told the President that very substantial elements of public opinion in the United States are concerned about this problem. I expressed the opinion that what the government of the United States and the governments of all of the American republics need most is genuine popular support rather than excessive armed forces. The President observed that all countries needed armed forces to preserve order and for national defense. However, he stated that there should be an inter-American agreement regarding armed forces and regarding limitation of armaments so that more national revenue could be devoted to the economic development of countries. During the conversation about armed forces, President Trujillo made the remark that governments do represent their people. This perhaps is an unconscious association in his mind that the armed forces mean government. In concluding this part of the conversation I said that while governments change, the people always remain and that in my opinion the government of the United States felt that it must win the support of peoples everywhere so that they would have confidence in the good faith and in the democracy of the United States.

Toward the end of the conversation, President Trujillo and the Foreign Minister pointed out that the former had done much to create a pro-United States feeling among the Dominican people. They said that due to the occupation Dominican public opinion had been traditionally anti-United States.

Finally, I told the President that one of the things that interested me personally was what progress could be made to avoid a reversion to the disorder and confusion which unfortunately had marked Dominican political history. I expressed the personal opinion that it is necessary in many of the American republics to build up a substantial group of public-spirited people who would be independent enough politically and economically to provide the nucleus for democratic and orderly government. I said that I had put the same question to Mr. Homer Cummings in New York, and asked President Trujillo point-blank what would happen when he withdrew from the [Page 809] political scene. The President replied that he thought there were several men in the Dominican Republic who would be able to take his place. He claimed that he refused re-election in 1938 but that he had been recalled to occupy the presidency again during the war period. The Foreign Minister observed that education, improved living conditions, and material progress under President Trujillo eventually will make possible orderly and democratic government, although he admitted that the problem is a very difficult one.

In concluding the interview President Trujillo claimed to be in complete accord with President Truman’s views and said, with a faint smile, “We still are your friends, even though your ‘mistreated friends’ “. I told the President that I hoped to take advantage of his offer to discuss specific problems as they arise.

Respectfully yours,

George H. Butler
  1. Not printed.
  2. Manuel Arturo Peña Batlle.
  3. Department of State Bulletin, April 28, 1946, p. 720.
  4. Former Secretary of State.
  5. Former Under Secretary of State.
  6. Horacio Vásquez; for documentation on the overthrow of the Vasquez government in 1930, see Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. ii, pp. 699 ff.
  7. For the Department’s aide-mémoire, December 28, 1945, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. ix, p. 994.
  8. Telegram 257, October 5, 3 p.m. to Ciudad Trujillo, not printed.
  9. George F. Scherer, Chargé in the Dominican Republic prior to the arrival of Ambassador Butler.
  10. Not printed.