The Ambassador in Argentina ( Messersmith ) to the Secretary of State
134. For the Secretary, Under Secretaries Acheson and Clayton and Assistant Secretary Braden. On return to Buenos Aires I discussed with appropriate officers Embassy all aspects Argentine compliance and progress during my absence. Subsequently on Feb 4, I discussed the matter with FonMin and on Feb 6 with the President, FonMin and Miranda of the Central Bank.26 As a result of these talks I desire to offer following observations:
1. With respect to schools and institutions and propaganda, there is no question that the Argentine Govt has fully compiled with its obligations under the acts of Mexico City in this field. The Embassy has already in despatches expressed this opinion and the Dept has indicated that it considers there has been satisfactory compliance in this respect. I find that the Argentine Govt continues its vigilance actively with respect to schools and institutions and propaganda and there are to our knowledge no known persons in Argentine schools propagating Nazi or Fascist doctrine.
2. With regard to enemy property, the recent decree of the Argentine Govt through which it takes possession of all enemy interests in any firms in the Argentine definitely cleans up this point of compliance which I understand is also the attitude of the Dept. We are forwarding a despatch listing 109 firms in which such enemy interest thus far has been definitely established. The Junta is investigating some further firms to determine whether enemy interests exist, but the action of the Govt has been so thoroughgoing that in our opinion only in rare instances will enemy interests be discovered by the Govt in firms not included in the list. The list transmitted covers all firms of any importance in which the British and we found any reason to believe there was any enemy interest.[Page 174]
In this connection Miranda informed me that the Central Bank has deposited to the credit of the Junta an initial payment of 100,000,000 pesos as required by the decree in order finally and definitely to place ownership in the Govt. Miranda told the President in my presence that he expected to have the whole matter cleaned up in a relatively short time but that it would involve restitution by the Govt to the Junta of certain assets of the companies dissipated by interventors. In this respect that this has happened here is by no means an exclusive Argentine phenomenon because similar situations undoubtedly exist in connection with the action taken by other American govts in regard to enemy property. All this is now a matter for internal action by the Argentine Govt which has assumed in connection with enemy property complete responsibility and so far as we are concerned, the Argentine has complied with its Chapultepec obligations respecting such property. Undoubtedly there will be many suits instituted against the Govt but this is to be expected for we have the same kind of suits growing out of our procedure with respect to enemy property at home. It is my considered opinion that the action taken by the Argentine Govt is as definitive and complete action as that of any American country.
3. Regarding enemy aliens which is the only item of compliance on which action has not been altogether completed, this Embassy is of the opinion that with the action taken prior to the decree which has already been reported in detail to the Dept in despatches, and with the action which it has already taken and is taking under this decree with respect to deportation of 52 additional persons, the Argentine Govt will have adequately met its commitments under the acts of Mexico City in this respect.
Thirteen of these 52 have already been deported to Germany; three others are reliably reported to be outside the Argentine, two in Spain and one in Chile. A number of others are already under detention ready for deportation but no statement is presently being made by the govt with respect thereto to avoid writs of habeas corpus being secured for them. During the Feb 6 conversations with the President and the FonMin, I was informed of the extraordinary steps which the Govt is taking to apprehend the remainder. At the appropriate moment those whom it has been possible to locate and detain will be deported to Germany on an Argentine vessel which it is expected will leave within a maximum of several weeks, by which time it is hoped the principal persons now being sought will have been detained. There is no doubt whatsoever as to the extraordinary efforts the Govt is making in this respect or its complete good faith in endeavoring to find and deport these individuals.[Page 175]
It is my opinion that with the deportation to Germany of this further group, even though it may not have been possible by that time to localize and deport all, our Govt must recognize the good faith of the Argentine Govt in continuing its efforts in this regard, and the moment will have arrived for US to recognize that the Argentine has substantially and reasonably complied with its obligations respecting enemy aliens as we already have with respect to schools and institutions and property; and we should, referring to the Byrnes’ statement of April 8, 194627 state that we recognize that the Argentine Govt has met its obligations under the acts of Mexico City and that the way is open to the holding of the Rio meeting.
As I stated in the Dept during my recent visit the question of performance in my opinion must rest upon the good faith of the Argentine Govt in this matter and not upon whether every single one of those persons under deportation orders may have been apprehended. There is now sufficient evidence that the Argentine Govt is proceeding in this matter with all good faith and that it is determined to continue its efforts until the last one of these persons is found if in Argentine territory. We could not therefore delay the liquidation of the situation pending the deportation of the last of these persons as to do this would be unreasonable and completely out of accord with the attitude which we have taken respecting the other American Republics.
It is recognized that with the program already carried through, the Argentine Govt has shown as definite performance and good faith as most of the other American Republics.
British Ambassador Leeper called on me on Feb 4 and stated that under instructions of the British Govt the British Ambassador in Washington had informed the Dept that in the opinion of his Govt the Argentine Govt has taken appropriate action with respect to aliens, property and schools and institutions in which matters the British Govt has been collaborating with US.
The FonMin also told me that Leeper had called on him and advised him of the foregoing attitude of the British Govt.
The FonMin also stated that it was his understanding that the Colombian Govt and several other of the American Republics have informed our Govt that they consider the Argentine has with the steps taken met its obligations under the acts of Mexico City. Of this I have no further knowledge than the statement of the FonMin.
In a memo which I left with the Secretary prior to my return to the Argentine, I set forth fully the reasons why, in my opinion, it is desirable to liquidate this situation and to make a formal statement [Page 176] through the Dept by the end of this month to the effect that we are now prepared to attend the Rio meeting with Argentine participating. I have emphasized the importance of this in view of the fact that the other American countries are increasingly more restive under the continuance of the present status feeling that the Argentine has and is meeting its obligations under the acts of Mexico City. In that memo, I brought out some of the consequences which might result from further delay.
The continued statements in the press at home to the effect that the Argentine Govt is taking these compliance measures only in order to be able to secure arms from the US are not only seriously misinforming public opinion in the US but are disturbing factors in others of the American Republics where it is known that if this were the Argentine incentive, it could secure now arms from several sources.28 It is, I believe, time that we recognize that there is a friendly Govt in the Argentine which is definitely desirous of putting its relations with US in order and in collaborating with US fully and sincerely in the American and international picture; and that its interest in the Rio meeting is not in the securing of arms but because it is convinced of the desirability and necessity of the defense pact and uniformity of training, equipment, and organization in the interest of all of the American Republics.