Holland files, lot 57 D 295, “Mexico, 1954”

Memorandum for the Files, by the Ambassador in Mexico (White)



  • Report of Interview with President Ruiz Cortines

I called on President Ruiz Cortines by appointment at 7:30 last evening. He received me most graciously, as always, and the conference lasted just an hour.

After a few opening pleasantries, the President produced the aide-mémoire1 I had given to Señor Padilla Nervo the day before setting forth the views of our Government regarding the consultative meeting under the Rio Treaty and the four points which we suggested the resolution might contain, as well as the four points supporting our position.

The President said he had the aide-mémoire and smiled and said I could see that he was getting a diplomatic education. He asked if I had come to him in connection with that matter or had I something else to take up. I told him no, I had come in connection with the possibility of a consultative meeting under the Rio Treaty. The aide-mémoire was in Spanish and the President read it out loud. He asked if I would like the [Page 1362] matter taken up point by point or consider it as a whole and I told him I would be guided by his preference.

The President then read paragraph one and looked to me for comment and I told him that that set forth what we thought the facts of the case so far developed indicate and constituted findings that such a meeting could justifiably make. I referred in that connection to the information I had given him at our last meeting regarding Communist penetration into Guatemala. The President said that he had read that information with great care and that the long list of Guatemalans who had gone behind the Iron Curtain which I had sent to him had reached him while he was at Veracruz last week. He asked whether I wanted an acknowledgement of my letter or whether his very sincere thanks to me now for sending it would be sufficient. I told him that his statement that he had read the material and was happy to have it was what I wanted and not to think of bothering to send me an answer.

Then I referred to the recent secret shipment of arms to Guatemala. I read to the President and left with him a Spanish translation of the four points set forth in the Department’s circular telegram No. 443 of May 29th.2 The President seemed very much impressed at the furtive way the shipment had been made and observed that if Guatemala could not get arms from the United States or Mexico or other countries and needed arms for its own defense, it could have bought the armament in a perfectly normal and above-board way but doing it as they had had naturally caused one to feel that the transaction was not just a normal, proper one.

In this connection the President stated again that Mexico has sold no arms to Guatemala and added that since he has been in office Mexico has sold arms to nobody. The President was apparently impressed by the suggestion that for the Soviets to permit an arms supply from their satellites to Guatemala they must have confidence that the Government of Guatemala is following their objectives. He was also impressed by the fact that the minimum cost of the recent shipment was $10,000,000, and that Guatemala’s military budget is less than $7,000,000. He inquired whether that meant their total budget including salaries and I told him that that was my understanding. He then commented that that would leave them only about half a million dollars for purchase of equipment and therefore such a large shipment is all the more subject to suspicion.

The President then read paragraphs two, three and four. After doing so, he asked me if I had discussed the matter with the Foreign Office. I told him that I had discussed it the day before with Señor Padilla Nervo. The President remarked that Señor Padilla Nervo was ill so he [Page 1363] had not been able to discuss the matter with him. I told him that I would be glad to tell him of my conversation with Señor Padilla Nervo and the President said he would welcome it.3

I said that when I had handed the aide-mémoire to Señor Padilla he had read it over twice and I had then asked him for his personal views. Señor Padilla had emphasized that of course he had not seen the matter before and so had no chance to discuss it with the President or anybody else and had emphasized that while he was not speaking for the Mexican Government, he would give me his own personal views which were that he was in favor of a consultative meeting. The President interjected here to say that he had given orders to the Foreign Office last week after our conversation of May 24th4 that Mexico’s policy must be complete and full cooperation and friendship with the United States. That is to be the policy and it is up to the Foreign Office to find ways of implementing it. I expressed great gratification at this and added that we had been disappointed that this cooperation had not been achieved at Caracas.5 The President said our objectives there had been the same and that the only obstacle to fuller cooperation was their Constitution; they must operate within its provisions. He did not elaborate on what constitutional provisions were involved and I did not press the point merely observing that in the present case I felt Mexico would not run into constitutional problems as every country has the right of self preservation and protection. The President assented and added that he is in full accord with President Eisenhower’s policy set forth in his Memorial Day address at Columbia University6 and mentioned specifically the President’s statement about thought control. The experts in the Foreign Office had expressed their preference for a meeting of the representatives of all the American nations and not just consultation with Mexico and the Central American countries. The President said that he personally was gratified that this is what we are suggesting and that of course it is acceptable.

I then said that Señor Padilla had told me that he was very optimistic that such a conference calling on Guatemala under point four of our proposal would carry the necessary moral suasion to settle the matter. I said that he had also said that he was in accordance with the [Page 1364] two points stipulated under No. 2, namely, measures to prevent further arms shipments to Guatemala and to stop the movement of Communist agents into and out of Guatemala but that he had told me that he was fearful that if sanctions were applied it might result in armed intervention and that he was opposed to armed intervention because it leaves wounds that take a long time to heal.

I told the President that I had replied to Señor Padilla that I of course hoped that moral suasion would be successful and that a united stand in that sense by all the American nations would give the anti-Communist element in Guatemala the added strength and courage to handle the matter themselves and get rid of the Communist domination but that I had told Señor Padilla very frankly that I did not share his optimism in this matter. I said that Communists have not shown themselves susceptible to any moral suasion. They have the definite purpose of controlling the world and doing it by any means possible and they will not be deterred by moral suasion. I added that they want to disrupt the Organization of American States and, being recalcitrant to any moral suasion would help that objective of theirs and they were perfectly willing to sacrifice Guatemala or Guatemalans in this attempt. I said that we have hopes, however, that if point two of our program should be carried out punctiliously and with publicity that might have more effect. I said it was not foreseeable at this time that there should have to be armed intervention in Guatemala as Señor Padilla Nervo fears but should the situation so develop, we would have to be able to meet again and consider it and I felt personally that it is most important that we should not be irresolute now but should think the thing through thoroughly and be prepared to do whatever is required to finish up the job. I called the President’s attention again to the final paragraph of my aide-mémoire where it is stated that we have no feelings against the Guatemalan people and desire to take only the minimum measures required to stop and eradicate Communist penetration in Guatemala. I said I thought it would be fatal to the Organization of American States if the Soviets should get the idea that there are limitations in our inter-American agreements that would prevent us from doing what is necessary to get and keep them out of this Hemisphere. I said that after all the United States and fifteen other nations had fought the Communists in Korea on the other side of the world to try to defend freedom and it would be the utmost folly, in my opinion, to let them get the idea that we would not fight them on our own continent and that the American nations are not resolute in meeting this situation and standing together prepared to take whatever measures may eventually be necessary, starting out with those proposed in our program for the meeting but resolute to go as much further as may be required to do the job.

[Page 1365]

The President immediately and without hesitation said that he agreed completely. He said we have to do the job and stand together.

I had opened the conversation by telling the President that in this matter I had been instructed to discuss the situation with him personally as both my Government and I personally have the highest regard for his opinion and views and that we want to cooperate most fully with him and his Government. He thanked me for this confidence in him and said that this confidence is fully reciprocated in their feeling toward me and that he and his Government want to work with us and cooperate with us and have, as he had stated before, closer relations than we have with any other country. After he made the above statement on the action which we must be resolved to take, I thanked him most sincerely, personally and on behalf of my Government.

The President then proceeded with the reading of the memorandum covering the points to be stressed to the Mexican Government. After reading the sentence that Guatemala constitutes at the present time one of the various points of conflict between Soviet Communism and the free countries of the world, he stopped and said Guatemala is the only such link in the Western Hemisphere. I assented that fortunately Guatemala is the only Government the Soviets have so far been able to penetrate. He gave his assent to all the other points brought out in point one.

On point two he referred again to what I had told him of the subterfuges of the steamer Alfhem and when he got to the final clause saying that Guatemala was trying to cloud the issue by dragging in the matter of the United Fruit Company, he remarked that I had fully explained that point to him during our previous meeting.

He then read the third point about our position in the United Fruit Company matter and when he read the statement that before making any claim on behalf of the Fruit Company, the United States had formally and publicly proposed arbitration or adjudication by an international tribunal and that while this proposal still stood, Guatemala had ignored it, the President ejaculated “caramba!”. He then read it over a second time and shook his head in apparent disapproval of Guatemala’s action.

On point four, stating that the Communist penetration in Guatemala has been along similar lines in other places under the direction of the Kremlin, the President again interjected that these other places under the direction of the Kremlin are outside of this Hemisphere. I assented thereto.

The President then made a remark that indicated that the training of leaders was only in Guatemala. I replied that unfortunately that was not the case. I said that the same thing happened with Mexicans. He looked very much surprised and said that the Communist Party in Mexico, dating from 1918, is of no importance whatsoever. He mentioned [Page 1366] Encina and one or two others and said Encina was half crazy and didn’t amount to anything. I told him I had a memorandum with me that showed the recent travel of Mexicans to Soviet satellite nations and handed him a translation of a memorandum … listing the travel of Mexicans behind the Iron Curtain and pointed out to him that Mr. Encina was No. 1 on the list. He smiled at this and looked it over. It listed over twenty who have recently been behind the Iron Curtain, a number of whom are still there. The President remarked that there were one or two he didn’t know of but he said there are one or two Communists also that I had not listed. I told him that this was not a list of Communists in Mexico but those who had recently travelled behind the Iron Curtain, some of whom are still there.

The President at once said that these people are not important and he said should it be necessary or should we so desire, he could have them all arrested in five minutes and would do so but he thought they were not important enough to warrant doing so. I told him I was not making any such request of him but merely wanted to show that Communists are as active here as they are in the United States, I said that I realized that the Communist Party here is not strong and important but it is the beginning and that I understand that recently there has been one significant change in the Communist Party in Mexico in that up to three or four years ago the members were rather ignorant and unimportant people who had no knowledge of conditions outside of Mexico but recently the Party has included people of some education who have been given trips at Communist expense to Communist China and to the European countries behind the Iron Curtain.

The President said that he was not blind to this fact but still felt that they are now unimportant but of course bear watching and he then made the categoric statement that there are no Communists in the Mexican Government. He referred to the recent newspaper articles listing high officials as Communists and said that that was ridiculous. I did not feel it was the time to go into any greater discussion of the matter with the President. I merely wanted to prepare the way for doing so at a later date should the Department feel it advisable for me to do so. I left the list with him.

I also told the President that in the last issue I had received here of U.S. News & World Report of May 28th, there was a very revealing and discouraging article of tortures recently carried out on Guatemalans which I found so shocking that I thought he would like to see it. I gave him the magazine with a Spanish translation of the article in question. The President had never seen the magazine before and said that he only had seen Time. I told him that I thought that this is one of our most serious magazines and mentioned that it was owned and edited by David Lawrence. He said that he knew Mr. Lawrence by reputation [Page 1367] and he was one of the outstanding journalists of great prestige and immediately showed great interest in having the magazine and the article.

I then asked the President whether I might consider what he had told me about our suggestion for a resolution to be adopted at a consultative meeting as the reply to the Department’s inquiry.

The President at once said that I might of course advise my Government of what he had said as setting forth the policy of his Government and their moral support of us but that as he does not know all the technicalities, he would prefer a formal answer to come to me through the Foreign Office and that he would give them instructions today. He added that due to Señor Padilla Nervo’s illness it might be a few days before I got their formal reply.

  1. Not found in Department of State files.
  2. Circular telegram 443, not printed, was sent to all posts in Central and South America and repeated for information to Guatemala City. It emphasized the U.S. Government’s grave concern over the arrival in Guatemala of massive arms shipments from the Soviet bloc. (414.608/5–2954) For additional documentation, see pp. 1111 ff.
  3. The memorandum of this conversation of June 1, 1954, is located in the Holland files, lot 57 D 295, “Mexico, 1954.”
  4. No memorandum of this conversation was found in Department of State files.
  5. At the Tenth Inter-American Conference the United States introduced a resolution, entitled “A Declaration of Solidarity for the Preservation of the Political Integrity of the American States Against International Communist Intervention.” After several sessions of debate in which minor revisions were made, 17 of the American Republics voted in favor of the resolution, Argentina and Mexico abstained, and Guatemala voted against it. Further information is contained in Tenth Inter-American Conference, Caracas, Venezuela, Mar. 1–Mar. 28, 1954, Report of the Delegation of the United States of America with Related Documents (Department of State Publication 5692, Washington, May 1955). For documentation on the conference, see pp. 264 ff.
  6. For text of the President’s address of May 31, 1954, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954, pp. 517–525.