The Ambassador in Argentina ( Messersmith ) to the Secretary of State
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The text of Decree No. 1921 of January 24, 1947, was forwarded with the Embassy’s Despatch No. 1741 of January 28, 1947.35 Subsequently with the Embassy’s Despatch No. 1985 of March 535 above referred to there was transmitted to the Department the text of a Note Verbale received from the Foreign Ministry discussing the decree and setting forth its broad application. It is the opinion of this Embassy that, through the decree in question, the Argentine acquired, as of the date thereof, en bloc, all rights, titles and interests theretofore belonging to enemy nationals; and this view is confirmed by the statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its note referred to above. The down payment of 100 million Argentine pesos effected by the Argentine Government through the medium of the Banco Central was provided to meet the legal difficulties impeding acquisition under the Argentine Constitution and law by the State, without compensatory value. As reported in the Embassy’s Despatch No. 2049 of March 13, 1947,35 also referred to above, public announcement has been made through an official statement of the Argentine Government of the payment of the [Page 182] amount in question, which actual payment and transfer is believed to have actually taken place some days earlier as it is not unusual for statements of the Bank to follow the act by some days.
The Argentine Government has informed this Embassy orally during the discussions of this matter that, should the value of the property taken over, or to be taken over later as the result of further investigation, exceed in value the amount of 100 million pesos, such further sums will be paid by the Argentine Government as the facts indicate.
There is, therefore, no question under Argentine law and procedure and therefore no question which we could raise with reference to the acquisition by the Argentine Government of the right, title and interests of such property belonging to enemy nationals. It is not improbable that certain suits may be entered against the Argentine Government by enemy nationals for the restitution, in whole or in part, of their property, but there is no reason to believe that, in view of the laws and decrees of the Argentine, such property would be restored to such aliens unless it were conclusively proved that there had been a mistake of identity or an improper seizure. So far as this is concerned, the situation is the same as that which prevails and will prevail in any of the United Nations which have taken such equally definite and complete action with respect to enemy property.
In the Department’s Instruction No. 60037 under reference, it is stated that the Department understands that the “Argentine Government … undertakes that the interest purchased will not be returned or sold to the former enemy owners.” As it appears that the Department has some concern in this respect, it will be noted that the preamble to Decree No. 1921 specifically recites the obligations in virtue of Resolutions 18 and 19 of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace and, to whatever extent such Resolutions govern the ultimate disposition of enemy property there would seem to be no reason to assume or to believe that they will not be strictly observed.
It will be further observed that Decree No. 1921 refers specifically to the Decree No. 11599/46 on which it heavily depends, and which latter decree was reported in the Embassy’s despatch No. 2713 of May 8, 1946.38 In said Decree No. 11599/46, specific provision is made in [and] reference is made to the eligibility of prospective purchasers to acquire former enemy property, as follows:
“Article 10. Properties offered for sale may be acquired only:
- “a) By the State, provinces, municipalities, or self-governing subdivisions.
- “b) By native Argentine citizens or citizens naturalized prior to September 3, 1939, who have not belonged to the directorates or high technical or administrative personnel of an enterprise subject to this Decree.
- “c) By legal entities organized in the Republic in which persons falling within sub-section b) predominate. In the case of corporations, they must be organized in the Republic and a majority of their capital stock must be locally subscribed and must belong to persons falling within sub-section b).”
To the extent indicated above, provision has been made to prevent the reacquisition by former enemy owners. The Embassy is not, however, aware of any “undertaking”, either unilateral or on the international level, on this point, nor is the Embassy so far informed of the Department’s views of the matter as to understand that the April 8 Statement of Policy has been extended to envisage or to require such undertaking. It is not believed that the Department has any such specific undertaking in mind, for it would be something required by us from another country and not covered by international or Inter-American Agreements and, therefore, a procedure which would be obnoxious if applied to any specific country other than an enemy country.
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