The Ambassador in Ecuador (Scotten) to the Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs (Braden)

personal and restricted

Dear Spruille: I have just returned from a long conversation with Trujillo which confirms the hunch I have had recently that he would place the Galápagos negotiations in Illescas’55 hands to see what he can get out of them economically. Boiling down this long conversation is difficult, but the essentials are as follows:

Illescas has been instructed to take up in Washington a whole series of matters relating to economic cooperation with Ecuador. Trujillo did not specify what the different subjects are. He stated that these would be, not on the basis of compensation for the Galápagos, but as “parallel” negotiations. Trujillo is far from satisfied with the way Galo Plaza reported the progress of his negotiations and does not know whether those reports were exact or not.

Among other things he stated that Ecuador had never asked for a straight compensation but only for an Exim Bank reimbursable loan. [Page 862] I told Dr. Trujillo that at a meeting in Ellis Briggs’ office I had asked Galo Plaza the direct question whether Ecuador considered that the Exim Bank loan of twenty million dollars would be compensation for the Galápagos lease. Plaza replied flatly, no—that in speaking of compensation he was speaking of a direct payment of twenty million dollars for a lease of thirty years. General Hertford56 was present at that conversation and after a rapid calculation he stated this meant a rental of $750,000 per year. Galo Plaza answered in the affirmative. Trujillo seemed completely taken aback by this information which he claimed, truthfully or not, he had not had previously. I informed Trujillo that while I wished Illescas every success in his negotiations I felt sure that if he tried to link those negotiations with the question of our maintaining the Galápagos base they would be doomed to failure. I added that whether he could achieve success in his negotiations regarding a general program of economic cooperation, I could not say, because I did not know what questions he was going to take up. I added, however, that such negotiations in my opinion would be successful or would fail on their own merits and without relation to the Galápagos matter.

Trujillo indicated that he wishes Illescas to make a rapid report of the entire global picture of the possibility of Ecuador’s obtaining aid from the United States, and that he had placed the negotiations in Illescas’ hands as he felt this picture could only be obtained in Washington. He told me with considerable emphasis that in placing the negotiations in Washington this did not indicate in the slightest any lack of confidence either on the part of the President or himself in me. He indicated that the method which we had proposed in the form of a simple exchange of notes of settling the Galápagos matter was politically impossible. He stated it was true that a small group of Ecuadoran military, including the Minister of Defense, had wished the matter to be settled this way, but that their views did not represent the views of the various Ecuadoran political parties. He added that if he had put to the Assembly yesterday the proposition of our remaining in the Galápagos as simply as we had expressed it in our memorandum, he would have been thrown out of the Foreign Office in five minutes. Without mentioning his name directly, he indicated that it was Camilo Ponce and a few others in the Assembly who had attacked him bitterly on this very point. He stated rather paradoxically that the views of these few individuals did not represent the views of the majority of the Assembly. He implied, nevertheless, that this small group was too powerful for him to oppose successfully. [Page 863] He added that he expects that as a result of the report of Illescas after his conversations in Washington, the Galápagos matter will be settled “within a month” either one way or the other.

He asked me whether I did not think some aid could be secured from the United States for establishing a naval school in the Galápagos and assist Ecuador to control the fishing industry. I replied that while a naval school in the Galápagos, in the opinion of our Naval Mission, was utterly impractical, of course, this matter could be discussed as well as assistance in controlling the fishing. I stated that I thought that something along this line could be agreed upon, but I pointed out that this was far different from the monetary compensation which Ecuador had been asking.

As indicated, I have not been apprised of any specific things which Illescas will ask for. My opinion is that he will ask for the moon and see if he cannot obtain a slice of it.

Very sincerely yours,

R. L. Scotten
  1. Francisco Illescas Barreiro, Ecuadoran Ambassador in the United States.
  2. Brig. Gen. Kenner F. Hertford, Chief of the Pan American Group, Operations Division, War Department.