The Ambassador in Guatemala (Kyle) to the Secretary of State

No. 97


Sir: I have the honor to report the visit today of Mr. J. A. Cheek, Chief, Miami Field Office, Department of Army, Corps of Engineers, to confer with the Embassy and the local manager of Pan American Airways with respect to the disposal of ADP airport facilities at Puerto Barrios and Guatemala City which were constructed by Pan American Airways for the account of the United States Government.

The permission of the Guatemalan Government for improvement of the Puerto Barrios airfield under the ADP program was contained in a Foreign Office note dated May 22, 1942, the text of which was transmitted to the Department under cover of Despatch No. 2891 of May 25, 1942.1 This document states that the facilities will be subject to agreements entered into at a later date—i.e., the subsequent secret Lend-Lease agreement of November 16, 1942,2 which provides that all works carried out on Guatemalan territory at the initiative and cost of the United States Government becomes the exclusive property of Guatemala, with the exception of organic armament and certain equipment of the United States forces.

The ADP improvements to the La Aurora (Guatemala City) airport were constructed by Pan American Airways under the authority of their 1930 operating contract which provides that, upon termination of the concession, the disposition of all improvements and facilities constructed at the expense of Pan American Airways shall be the subject of negotiations between the company and the Guatemalan Government. This contract expires in 1950.

In informal discussions with Mr. Cheek, the Embassy took the position that since the U. S. Army Air Base at Puerto Barrios has, in fact, already been turned over to the Guatemalan Government3 (see [Page 229] Embassy’s despatch No. 357 of August 28, 1943, entitled, “Transfer of United States Army Base at Puerto Barrios to Guatemalan Forces”4), the only question which now arises is in regard to the disposal of such movable equipment now in the possession of Pan American Airways which clearly does not revert to Guatemala under the terms of the Secret Lend-Lease agreement signed November 16, 1942. (See Embassy’s despatch No. 3378 of November 17, 1942, Enclosure No. 4, Article No. 4.4) Mr. Cheek indicated that it probably would be feasible to liquidate the Puerto Barrios situation by authorizing Pan American Airways to dispose of these movable items at fair value, which is estimated to be between $5,000 and $10,000. The Guatemalan Government is understood to be interested in purchasing this equipment; and the Embassy believes the matter can best be liquidated on this basis.

With respect to the installations constructed under the ADP program by Pan American Airways at La Aurora airfield at Guatemala City, the Embassy’s chief concern is that nothing be done in this connection which will disturb the status quo of our Air Base Agreement with Guatemala,5 or the operations of the United States Army Air Base at La Aurora, pending final determination in Washington as to the ultimate disposition of this Air Base. (In this connection, reference is made to the Embassy’s despatch No. 45 of January 21, 1948,4 recommending early termination of the Air Base Agreement and evacuation of the remaining United States Armed Forces from Guatemala.) Therefore, it was suggested that in any arrangements effected transferring the ADP inventory at La Aurora, provision be made for the maintenance of present facilities and services by Pan American Airways for the duration of the Air Base Agreement.

Continued operation of the airport lighting system by Pan American Airways for the duration of the occupancy by the United States Army of La Aurora Air Base is considered particularly desirable for obvious reasons. While this naturally involves some expense to Pan American Airways, it is hoped ways and means can be found to compensate the company for this service.

From the standpoint of relations with Guatemala it is felt that liquidation of the ADP program in this country is secondary in importance, and should either be held in abeyance pending termination of the Air Base Agreement or handled in such a manner as not to risk [Page 230] disturbing the status quo with respect to our occupancy of the Guatemala City and San José bases.

The Military Attaché concurs in the foregoing.

Respectfully yours,

Edwin J. Kyle
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. vi, p. 444.
  3. See letter of August 27, 1943 by the President of Guatemala (Ubico) to President Roosevelt, ibid., 1943, vol. vi, p. 345.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.
  6. See memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Republic of Guatemala, November 16, 1942, Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. vi, p. 448.
  7. Not printed.