811.504 Mexico/3–1846

The Ambassador in Mexico (Messersmith) to the Secretary of State

No. 28,798

Sir: I have the honor to refer to recent correspondence … with respect to the recruiting program of Mexican agricultural workers under the agreement of April 26, 1943.

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I now have to inform the Department that on March 15 I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with the President of Mexico in his home at Los Pinos. …

… I emphasized particularly the food situation throughout the world and the tremendous burden falling on the United States and the sacrifices which we were making to make grains and fats available as well as other foodstuffs. … I emphasized the importance of the collaboration of Mexico in this program and brought out the fact that Mexico was still a deficit country in wheat and corn and fats which deficits we were selling and intended to continue to sell to Mexico in spite of the shipments to other areas as we knew that Mexico was not importing a single bushel of grain or a single pound of fat beyond her minimum needs.

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The President said that he had heard what I had to say with the greatest interest, particularly with regard to the world food situation. He was fairly familiar with this situation. He realized the importance of this situation. He said that I knew that when we had approached Mexico at the outset for workers during the war that he had immediately given the necessary instructions for the carrying through of such a program. He said that irrespective of criticism from many [Page 1026] sources in Mexico he had taken the energetic action which, he had as a matter of principle and as a matter of collaboration and governed by no other considerations.

He said that when the war ended he thought it would be desirable to have the Mexican workers return on the expiration of their contracts in an orderly manner and that my Government had been in agreement and that my Government had been very helpful in bringing about that orderly return. He said that later when he got word from us that we needed more agricultural workers during 1946, he did not need any more than this word from us and he took it for granted that we needed them. He felt that it was necessary for Mexico to continue to collaborate in this program during 1946 as a matter of principle and as a matter of collaboration between the two countries, just as during the war.

He then went on to say that he had given the necessary instructions that the program was to be continued so far as Mexico is concerned during 1946. After he had given these instructions the Minister of Labor had indicated to him that he thought with the renewal of the agreement it would be desirable to make certain changes therein in order to correct certain deficiencies. The President said that he had given instructions that the Minister of Labor might seek and should, of course, seek proper improvements in the contracts, et cetera, but that the principal thing was for the program to continue.

The President then went on to say that he had noted what I had said concerning possible criticism of Mexico in the United States if this movement did not go on and particularly if Mexico would not send workers to the eight states mentioned in a note of the Foreign Office. He said that he had also noted that this vociferous comment in the United States would make it more difficult for our Government to see that Mexico got her deficits in wheat and corn and fats. The President then said that he knew that I knew that he had seen to it that this program went forward during the war and that he would see that it went forward during 1946, but that he was doing it as a matter of principle and of collaboration. He then made the significant remark that no matter what politicians and newspapers and others might say in Mexico, he would not pay any attention to it any more in the future than he had in the past. He said that he had the conviction that in the United States no matter what politicians and newspapers and interested persons might say we would act on principle and understanding and collaboration as we had in the past. He said no matter whether Mexico got any wheat or corn this program was going forward because he was permitting these workers to go as a matter of principle and collaboration. He said that he was sure that the Government of the United States in matters affecting wheat and corn for [Page 1027] Mexico and general problems in connection with the relations of Mexico would be governed by principle and by the spirit of collaboration rather than by talk of politicians on either side of the border.

… In his statements to me during the conversation under reference in this despatch, the President showed a really statesmanlike and most understanding attitude.

When I asked the President whether the statements had reference to workers going to the eight states excluded in the note of the Ministry of Foreign Relations as well as to the other states for which we are now negotiating, the President said emphatically that he had in mind those states as well. He said there had been adequate ground for Mexico to exclude these eight states mentioned in the note from the conversations in progress but that he wished the collaboration to be complete and he was confident that our Government would see that the workers going to these eight states received proper treatment and in every way equitable treatment. I said he could depend on this.

[Here follow indications of the intention of the President and the Ambassador to collaborate in expediting the program and in keeping down statements and comments in the press by Government officials in Mexico and the United States.]

I said to the President that the conversations now going on were proceeding satisfactorily but there remained the point of difference as to the minimum wage. I said that the present minimum wage in the contracts was 30 cents per hour. I said that we could not put more than 37 cents in the contract as the minimum hourly wage and explained to him the reasons therefor. I explained to him that it made small difference what sum was put into the contracts as the minimum wage for even when the amount in the contracts was 30 cents his own Ministry of Labor would be able to say to him that the overwhelming number of the Mexican workers had received 40 to 50 and 60 cents an hour. I said that the minimum wage that we put into the contract which we were now prepared to make at 37 cents was largely theoretical as the agricultural workers which would proceed to the United States would in almost every instance receive very considerably in excess of that minimum wage.

It is our hope that we may be able to conclude the conversations and arrangements for the movement of workers during 1946 within the next ten days so that recruiting can begin.

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I cannot emphasize too strongly that in a very large measure it will now depend upon us whether we will get these agricultural workers during 1946. If there are unwise statements in the press at home [Page 1028] or here and particularly if there is reference to the eight states there is still the possibility and strong probability that the whole program will be lost.

At the close of our conversation the President indicated that he would on the conclusion of the conversations here make a statement, or have a statement made, to the effect that Mexico was continuing her collaboration with us through the sending of these agricultural workers in view of the food deficits in Europe and the imperative need for mass production and in view of the fact that the great burden for supplying these deficits would fall on the United States and it was, therefore, Mexico’s duty to collaborate with the United States in meeting this burden by sending these workers. I told the President that if he made such a statement I was confident that the Mexican press and public would have a greater understanding than ever before of the program and that much of the criticism of the program would disappear.

The President remarked that it was in his opinion very important that there be as few complaints as possible coming back to Mexico with regard to discriminatory treatment, et cetera, of Mexican workers who would go to the United States. He said that he knew to what extent we were taking measures to see that only equitable treatment was given. He said, however, that every single case of discrimination or unequal treatment which was reported created grave difficulties here for the Government and that he was, therefore, very hopeful that our Government could take every possible measure, particularly in the eight states, to see that the most equal treatment was given to the workers in every way.

Respectfully yours,

George S. Messersmith