The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the Dominican Republic 1



  • Dominican Harassment of American Business

A–65. The Embassy’s despatch No. 602 of December 312 refers to increased harassment of American business interests in the Dominican Republic, as reported in previous correspondence and summarized in the Embassy’s despatch No. 601 of the same date.3 The Embassy expresses the opinion that these measures represent a well-planned campaign to terrorize the companies or to ruin them financially. It suggests that some action should be taken by the Department or the Embassy to protect American capital and that this might best be done through exploratory conversations with high Dominican officials, followed, if appropriate, by formal representations.

The Department shares the concern of the Embassy at these developments. The measures referred to may merely represent temporary harassments to gain specific and immediate ends, such as the extention of the colono system by the sugar companies. On the other hand, they may represent a calculated campaign to force the companies out of business. Whatever the motive, the situation in the Department’s opinion has become sufficiently acute to justify serious consideration of the desirability of making representations to the Dominican Government.

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As the Embassy is aware, this general question was brought to the attention of the Dominican Government in December 1952 when, as at the present time, the harassment of American business had become acute. At that time, representations were made in Washington to the Dominican Ambassador rather than in Ciudad Trujillo because Generalissimo Trujillo was then in Washington, along with his chief economic adviser, Dr. Manuel Pena Batlle.

The Embassy has suggested the desirability of an informal approach, at least in the first instance, by the Ambassador to Generalissimo Trujillo or one of his close advisers. The Department authorizes the Ambassador to make such an approach if, after reviewing the developments which have taken place during his recent absence, he concludes the time is propitious and such informal representations would provide the best assurance of success. The Department recognizes that important considerations in the Embassy’s suggested approach are that the Ambassador could exploit in informal, friendly conversations the very good relations which he has with the Dominican Government and with Generalissimo Trujillo personally, and that there would be less risk in such an approach of giving offense to those whose cooperation is important.

In any conversations he might have with Dominican officials, the Ambassador might find it useful to refer to the Aide-Mémoire delivered to the Dominican Ambassador in Washington on December 22, 19524 in which the Department expressed its concern at the treatment being accorded American firms by the Dominican Government and its hope that the Government of the Dominican Republic might see fit to create a climate more favorable to private investment. He might wish to mention a) that the Department had been encouraged by the oral assurances given at the time by Ambassadors Thomen and Pena Batlle that American investments were not being mistreated, and had hoped that subsequent events would confirm this; b) that the pronouncements of the Dominican Government, such as those appearing in recent supplements of the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times, have welcomed foreign investment and have pointed with pride to the favorable treatment accorded it in the Dominican Republic; and c) that recent public measures and attacks in the controlled press against American companies seem inconsistent with these protestations of good will towards foreign business interests.

It might also be appropriate for the Ambassador to suggest, in a friendly way, that the present policy of the Dominican Government vis-à-vis American business, seems short-sighted; that, if continued, it [Page 945] might be expected to result in unfortunate publicity in the international press; and, more important, that it might discourage the foreign investments which the Dominican Government itself acknowledges as desirable in furthering the country’s economic development.

Before making any approach to Dominican officials the Ambassador may wish to consult further with the representatives of some of the American firms concerned. However, the Department does not believe that the reluctance of some of them to have the Embassy take the question up, in a general way, with the Dominican Government should necessarily deter the Ambassador from doing so. The Executive Branch of this Government has a congressional mandate to take measures to encourage private investment abroad and it has an obligation to protect not only existing but also prospective American investors.

The Department will appreciate being informed of the Ambassador’s views and of any informal conversations which the Ambassador may have with Dominican officials with respect to this matter, as well as receiving any further recommendations the Embassy may have.

  1. Drafted by Mr. Wellman and Mr. Connett; cleared by Deputy Assistant Secretary Woodward and in substance with the Department of Commerce.
  2. In despatch 602, Chargé Johnson stated that the Embassy strongly believed that some action should be taken to protect American capital against the intensification of discriminatory measures and press attacks occurring in the Dominican Republic, but not before an informal exploratory conversation was held with Generalissimo Trujillo. He further stated the following: “In the meantime, it is our considered opinion that our attitude toward the Dominicans should be characterized by uneffusive politeness, and that we should continue to avoid any action or statements which might give American investors the impression that we are showing too much friendliness to Trujillo at a time when he is attacking their interests.” (811.05139/12–3153)
  3. Not printed (811.05139/12–3153).
  4. The referenced aide-mémoire, dated Dec. 22, 1952, is not printed (811.05139/12–2252).