The Acting Secretary of State to Diplomatic Representatives in the American Republics


Sirs: As the date for the Ninth International Conference of American States at Bogotá approaches, the Department wishes to provide you with general information and instructions concerning the Conference in order to facilitate any discussions on the subject which you may have occasion to undertake with the Foreign Office of the government to which you are accredited.

There are enclosed for your information a restricted memorandum on the Conference, referring particularly to preparatory work that is being done in Washington, and a copy of the Program and Regulations of the Conference prepared by the Governing Board of the Pan American Union.1 The contents of the memorandum may in your discretion be used orally in any conversations you may have with the Foreign Office. Additional documents of interest will be forwarded to you in the near future.

The Department favors your exchanging views on appropriate occasions with the Foreign Office regarding the Bogotá Conference, and wishes you, in your discretion, to take advantage of any opportunity that may be offered to that end. Such conversations should prove useful particularly as a means of obtaining information concerning the main interests of the Foreign Office, any initiatives or proposals the Foreign Office has in mind, the composition of the delegation and other similar subjects that will facilitate the Department’s own preparations. The following considerations should, however, be borne in mind:

The Department considers it important to protect the genuinely multilateral character of inter-American conferences. To this end, the Department would not wish to enter into consultations in regard to the Conference with any one country to the exclusion of others. Moreover, of even greater importance, is the Department’s desire to avoid, in so far as possible, having to make any bilateral commitments with [Page 3] any other government with respect to the Conference. It would likewise regret to see any Latin American government enter into such commitments and would wish to know of any indications that any Foreign Office may be engaging in discussion with other governments for the purpose of arranging political commitments of any kind in advance of the Conference.
A large part of the responsibility for preparing for the Conference, with respect both to the regulations and the substance of the agreements to be reached there, has been placed upon the Governing Board of the Pan American Union and the Inter-American Economic and Social Council by action of previous inter-American conferences. As indicated in the attached memorandum, work on important basic documents of the Conference is being carried forward in these two bodies which, in as much as they consist of representatives of all the American republics, provide an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas amongst the various governments.
The reaching of an understanding among the participating countries concerning the election of officers of the various committees of the Conference is normally arranged on the initiative of the host government when the delegates arrive at the site of the Conference. Such a procedure is, in the opinion of the Department, far more desirable than a procedure whereby individual countries may seek commitments of support for such posts from other countries in advance. The Department, therefore, proposes to make no commitments on any such matters, but to review the question when the American delegation reaches Bogotá, with a view to deciding upon the most desirable slate of officers in the light of the wishes of the various countries and of the personal qualifications of the Chiefs of Delegation who would take the respective offices.

In any discussion which you may have with the Foreign Minister you should express the view that the Department looks forward to the Conference at Bogotá with every confidence that its many problems will be satisfactorily met in the same spirit of cooperation and solidarity as was evidenced at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security at Rio de Janeiro,2 and in your discretion assure him that the American delegation at the Conference will seek to reestablish with the representatives of his government the cordial and cooperative relationship which our delegation to Rio de Janeiro enjoyed. You should say that in the opinion of the Department the preparatory work which is being carried forward in the Pan American Union and in other inter-American bodies, such as the Inter-American Juridical Committee, has been of great value in exploring the problems which the Conference will have to face and in bringing about a considerable measure of agreement on basic issues. This work should, in our opinion, give to the Conference an opportunity [Page 4] to complete its work expeditiously and in a highly favorable atmosphere of general agreement. You may add that, at the present stage of preparations, the United States finds itself in general agreement with the broad outlines of the reorganization of the inter-American system as reflected in the major drafts prepared by the Governing Board, although the position of this Government in regard to all details has not been finally determined. You should, of course, also express the Department’s interest in knowing of any views or comments regarding the Conference which the Foreign Office may wish to make.

For your information, the Department has received numerous reports of rumors from various sources to the effect that the Conference might be postponed for a period of sixty days, i.e. until the middle of March, 1948. One reason given for this suggestion is the possibility of conflict with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment now meeting in Habana, Cuba3—a reason which appears to have some validity. The Department does not intend to take any initiative either favoring or opposing a postponement of the Conference. While not wishing to see the Conference postponed for any long time, the Department would, however, be sympathetic to any adjustment of the date which the Colombian Government might propose and which would avoid conflict with other important international meetings. So far the Colombian Government has given no indication that it will move for postponement unless some other government takes the initiative in proposing it.4

No final decision has yet been reached on the size or detailed composition of the American delegation. However, the limited facilities for housing and office space in Bogotá make it necessary to hold the delegation down to the minimum. It is expected that a delegation of about 70, including delegates, advisers, and clerical personnel, will have to suffice despite the broad scope of the agenda which will require a variety of technical specialists.

From time to time the Department will send you further information concerning the Bogotá Conference and the Department’s plans therefor, and will be glad to provide specific comment in regard to any questions which the Foreign Office may raise with you and which is not covered by the information contained in this instruction or its attachments.

Very truly yours,

For the Acting Secretary of State:
Paul C. Daniels
  1. Memorandum not printed. For the full agenda of the Conference, prepared and unanimously approved by the Governing Board on July 23, 1947, see USDel Report, p. 291. For the regulations of the Conference, revised by the Board on October 20, 1947, see ibid., p. 292.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 1 ff.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see volume i .
  4. In circular telegram, December 5, 1947, not printed, the Acting Secretary of State informed diplomatic representatives in the American Republics that the Governing Board in agreement with duly authorized Colombian representative had postponed opening of Bogotá Conference to March 30, 1948 (710.J/12–547).