Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President 1



  • Meeting with President Ruiz Cortines of Mexico.

Attached is background information on the President of Mexico and on United States-Mexican relations which you may find helpful in your conversations with President Ruiz Cortines on October 19. I believe it would be of value if you would emphasize your views as to the serious nature of the Communist menace. You might also stress the determination of the United States, while in the vanguard of the fight against Communism, to respect the rights and integrity of other nations and to maintain its own liberal tradition. If you touch upon any specific problems of Mexican-United States relations you might emphasize United States desire to work harmoniously with Mexico toward solutions compatible with the national interests of both countries and productive of the greatest possible benefits to each.

The most likely specific topic which President Ruiz Cortines will mention is that of Mexican migrant labor (see page 2 of enclosure), which has produced a flood of illegal (“wetback”) entries.

Since the Mexicans have indicated that they are definitely not prepared to enter into a military pact (page 2) at the present time, it would be inadvisable to raise this question.

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Background Information for Meeting with President of Mexico October 19, 1953

1. President Adolfo Ruiz Cortines may be addressed as President Ruiz Cortines (Roo-ées Cor-téen-ace) or President Ruiz; not as President Cortines.

He is 60 years old; usually quiet and reserved; almost sombre in appearance; married with children; not an active church member. He is believed to speak some English and has visited the United States at least once, at Los Angeles in 1948. At the time of your visit to Mexico in August 1946, he was Governor of Veracruz, and you did not meet him.

Ruiz Cortines is a politician by profession, having held political or Governmental positions almost continuously since 1913. His most important posts before becoming President were Governor of the State of Veracruz, 1944–1948, and Secretary of Government (the highest ranking position in the Mexican Cabinet), 1948–1951. Elected President in July, 1952, he assumed office December 1, 1952.

He has a personal record of honesty, integrity, and conservatism. His public record is marked by economy and caution.

2. Mexican-United States relations are stable and friendly. We know what to expect from Mexico and understand her limitations. The same is true of Mexico’s attitude toward the United States, although it is traditionally colored by vague suspicion of our motives. This arises from past incidents, the peculiar course of Mexican history, the fear by the weak of the strong, and the activities of groups interested in fomenting discord. Mexican Foreign Minister Padilla Nervo recently made it abundantly clear that the Mexican attitude toward us is currently affected by doubt as to continuation of our own liberal tradition, and by concern that we may mistake domestic reforms among our neighbors for Communism.

Many problems exist between the two countries, mostly stemming from our geographic juxtaposition. All are probably susceptible of settlement without undue concessions by either side, although lack of auspicious circumstances at any given moment may prolong their final disposition. None of the problems is of sufficient dimension that the national security of either country is seriously menaced now, but prompt solution of some is clearly in our national interest.

3. The Communist danger is not fully appreciated in Mexico because of her tradition of extreme liberalism. A few prominent Mexicans are Communist advocates. Often no sharp distinction is made between these individuals and the more numerous and important proponents of [Page 1351] the typically Mexican revolution which, while definitely leftist and socialistic in tendency, has no Marxian basis and no Soviet connection. The governing and only effective political party in Mexico today is essentially capitalistic and orthodox in outlook, although committed to improving the economic condition of the rural masses through land reform and socialized agriculture.

In spite of an apparent lack of concern with Communism within the country, (where it has not won a significant number of followers) and of a non-committal attitude toward the efforts of the United States in the East–West struggle, there is little doubt that in time of crisis Mexico would be on our side.

Important problems of current interest include:

4. A Military Assistance Pact was suggested to Mexico in 1952, but it soon became apparent that this was not feasible from the Mexican domestic political viewpoint. The United States has now readjusted its assistance pact program to exclude Mexico and has found that many of the objectives of a pact are being met through the secret proceedings of the Joint Mexican-United States Defense Commission. The Mexican Government and public continue to exhibit nervousness that the United States will try to force a pact upon them. We take every opportunity to assure Mexico that, while we would still welcome a pact, we respect her decision and do not intend to raise the issue again.

5. Uranium Exploration in Mexico might uncover deposits which could constitute an important source of supply for the United States. The Mexican Government has assumed complete control of uranium, although exploration is limited and no desposits have been proven. The United States has tried to encourage Mexican exploration activity by offering assistance and purchase contracts. Mexico has not responded, probably due to nationalistic and domestic political considerations, reluctance to export unprocessed raw materials, and unwillingness to become involved in an atomic weapon race. We continue to emphasize that action in this field could benefit Mexico’s own economy and security2

6. Mexican Migrant Laborers have proven essential to important segments of United States agriculture. Higher wages in this country and, currently, a Mexican economic recession, stimulate the northward flow of workers. Agreements between the two Governments to regulate this flow have been largely ineffective due to lack of willingness of many employers and workers to conform to agreement procedures. Efforts are now under way to improve immigration law enforcement and to negotiate a new agreement (the current one expires December 31, [Page 1352] 1953) designed to attract more complete support from workers and employers.

7. Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Mexico is being combatted under a program administered jointly by a Mexican-United States Commission. It has not made satisfactory progress, for the disease, although closely restricted, continues slowly to spread. A firm and consistent administration of the procedures agreed upon is essential. Secretary Benson has assigned Walter Thurston, former Ambassador to Mexico, as his personal representative to administer the United States portion of the program. It is hoped that President Ruiz Cortines will take full advantage of Mr. Thurston’s abilities and experience in solving this problem to the mutual advantage of our two countries.3

8. Shrimp boats from the United States are often seized by Mexico in or near her waters, which she claims extend nine miles from shore, They are accused of illegal fishing, although at least some are innocent. These seizures create serious looses for United States shrimping interests and motivate many public repercussions harmful to United States-Mexican friendship. The United States intends to propose a treaty which, while not recognizing Mexico’s claims on territorial waters, will regulate access, to them by United States shrimpers and eliminate this problem as a source of friction.4

9. Waters of the Rio Grande below Fort Quitman are divided between Mexico and the United States by the Water Treaty of 1944. Falcón Dam now makes additional water available for irrigation, but enforcement of diversion rights remains a problem Recent moves by Texas authorities may provide adequate controls over United States users, some of whom take Mexican waters in times of scarcity. If not, this enforcement could become a Federal obligation.

Mexico is urging fulfillment of a commitment to construct the small Anzalduas Diversion Dam below Falcón. Performance awaits local government action to meet a Congressional stipulation that necessary United States lands must be acquired by donation. One county is now undertaking practically the entire donation, and construction can probably be started soon.

The Water Treaty calls for a dam on the Rio Grande above Laredo. Its location, long a subject of public discussion, must be determined on engineering grounds to provide maximum water utilization. The Mexicans have agreed to proceed with intensified study of sites, and the Boundary and Water Commission is expediting numerous steps antecedent to requesting appropriations for construction.5

  1. Drafted by Officer in Charge of Mexican Affairs Belton.
  2. Documents pertaining to this subject are contained in Department of State file 812.2546.
  3. Documents relating to the foot-and-mouth disease problem are located in Department of State files 812.241 and 411.125.
  4. Documents on the shrimp boat controversy are located in Department of State file 611.126.
  5. Department of State file 611.12311 contains further information on diversion rights and other issues related to the waters of the Rio Grande.