219. Memorandum for the Files, by the Ambassador in Mexico (White)1


  • Call on President Ruiz Cortines, March 21, 1956

I called on President Ruiz Cortines at six o’clock yesterday evening and was with him for about an hour and a quarter. After a few preliminary pleasantries, I took up with him the matter of the air navigation agreement.

The President at once said that he understood from Mr. Buchanan that we had practically arrived at an agreement and Buchanan seemed to be very happy over the outcome. I told the President that at my last talk with Mr. Buchanan on March 13 the latter had practically terminated the negotiations. He had told me that he saw no basis for an agreement and that there was nothing further to discuss. I asked if that meant the end of the negotiations and Mr. Buchanan [Page 705] said it did so far as he was concerned, but, of course, the President had the last word and the matter was, therefore, in his hands. I told the President that that is the way I preferred it because Mr. Buchanan has been obstructing the matter for a number of years. As he knows we have gotten nowhere; it was going on to eleven years now and that every time we make a concession, and we have made many, Buchanan accepts it and then brings up three or four other points. I said that most of these obstructive tactics consist of putting up straw men to be knocked down later.

I told the President that in trying to meet the problem that he had told me he was most interested in, namely, seeing to it that any aviation agreement does not close the door on Mexico being able to operate on a complete basis of reciprocity with us at a later date should Mexican airlines not be able to avail themselves of certain of the routes granted to them, and although the Department of State and the CAB, as well as myself, felt that Articles 3, 8 and 9 of the agreement we were proposing covered this matter most amply, I had none-the-less requested Washington to authorize the insertion of language which would make this clear beyond peradventure of doubt.

I said that I had received this authorization and I handed him the Spanish text of the standard form of U.S. air transport agreements and then handed him a memorandum covering the insertion after the word, “inaugurado” in the first line of Article 3 and also of the new final sentence to be added to Article 2.

The President read both of these and the provisions of Articles 3, 8 and 9 and seemed pleased at the new wording. I told him that Mr. Buchanan had agreed with me on March 13 that the old wording of Article 3 covered the President’s point. I had not shown him the new wording as it had come in after my last talk with Mr. Buchanan.

The President asked if this draft which I had given him met all Buchanan’s points. I replied that Buchanan was still insisting that all flights south from Mexico City of American air carriers land in Guatemala and that they could not make direct flights overflying Guatemala to other points in Central America. Also, he is insisting on a limitation on a number of flights on all routes from the United States to Mexico City. I said that we felt that this was quite unreasonable and that it was like asking Mexico if it didn’t produce motor cars to go back to horse-drawn vehicles.

I then told the President quite frankly that Buchanan had been a stumbling block for a long time. I said that Buchanan had stated, among other things, that all the concessions that have been made have been on the Mexican side. That this is just not borne out by the facts. The facts are that we have made countless concessions [Page 706] over the years, each one of which has been accepted by the Mexicans and then they have gone on to make further demands and to raise fictitious issues. I said I would not go into the history of the matter over the last ten years, except to mention again that when we permitted CMA in 1947 unlimited flights between Mexico City and Los Angeles it was on the understanding that that would lead to a bilateral agreement and so far it hasn’t and, similarly, in 1951 when we permitted Aerovias Guest to fly from Mexico City to Miami we were given the same assurance, but we still have no bilateral agreement.

I said that Buchanan had tried these tactics again several times to discuss only reciprocal routes to New York putting off the bilateral agreement again and he had even done so in my last talk with him on March 13 when I had to tell him again very positively that in view of the experience we have had with them on two previous occasions that CAB would not permit any further flights into the United States outside of a bilateral agreement.

I said I would simply review a few instances since I have been handling the matter.

Mexico first stood out for an exclusive route to Los Angeles despite previous promises that they would share this and other routes with us. When they had abandoned this request for an exclusive route they had then wanted a limitation of traffic. This would not help the progress of Mexico—it would be trying to turn the wheels of progress back.

I said that Mr. Lazo on January 25, 1955, had sent me a written suggestion giving us an exclusive route to Chicago and within a fortnight or so, Ambassador Tello had made formal application to the Department of State and the CAB for a route Mexico City to Chicago of the Aerovias Guest. When I asked Mr. Lazo if they were scrapping their January 25 proposal and what other changes there were, he advised me that he knew nothing of Tello’s action; that he had not asked him to make the application and if the application was not withdrawn he could assure me it would not be pressed. Nevertheless, the Mexican authorities have continued to press for that route for a Mexican carrier and we have conceded it to them. This is another major concession made by us which Buchanan overlooks. After we had conceded it to the Mexicans, Buchanan then asked that the Mexican carrier fly direct between Mexico City and Chicago, but that the American carrier be obliged to stop in Dallas. This would clearly indicate the obstructive tactics that he was putting in.

I said the Pan American Airlines had pioneered and developed the routes to Central America and now Buchanan wants to exclude [Page 707] them from flying direct from Mexico City anywhere in Central America except to Guatemala.

I said that Buchanan had told us that a route from Mexico City to New Orleans was of no interest to Mexico because of the low volume of traffic and that that route could be developed only by an aggressive American company. Nevertheless, he had asked and insisted on a route to New Orleans for a Mexican carrier and we had granted it.

I stated that on October 17 last Lazo and Buchanan both agreed in principle with everything in our proposal except not limiting flights and forcing a stop in Guatemala and on October 18 we received a memorandum to that effect. Despite this, on January 17 of this year, Buchanan had submitted a memorandum again asking for exclusive routes for Mexican carriers.

I said that also Pan American had pioneered the route from Miami to Havana to Merida and Buchanan had made an agreement with the Cubans reserving Havana–Merida traffic to Cuban and Mexican carriers. I said I felt sure the President would agree with me that making an arrangement with a third country to interfere with a route that we had was not straight-forward tactics and we could have lodged a very serious protest, but again we had accepted to delete the Havana–Merida traffic in the route from Miami to Merida, to show our desire to be helpful to the Mexicans and this was another very great concession which otherwise could have developed into a very unpleasant situation for Mr. Buchanan but which he has now completely forgotten.

I referred the President to Buchanan’s memorandum to him dated February 15 which stated that we had given up on the Los Angeles–Mexico City direct route for an American carrier any “and beyond” rights. This is true and is another concession we have made, but Buchanan in the next paragraph of his memorandum stated again that Mexico wants to limit our Houston–Mexico City and beyond to traffic to Guatemala alone. The memorandum also talks about limiting flights from Mexico to South America, but he had told me on March 13 that he had no interest in South America, only Central America. On this I have merely his verbal statement.

I said I could go on and amplify this even further, but I did not wish to abuse his time and patience and I thought I had given him enough information to show why we have not been able to have a bilateral air navigation agreement with Mexico on the tactics he is following. I emphasized to him that the beyond rights which we have offered Mexico from either New York or Miami are vastly more important from the point of view of traffic generation than are beyond rights from Mexico City to Central and South America. This is the only beyond rights that we are granted from Mexico City. I [Page 708] said we have two from Merida but that Buchanan had agreed with me that, of course, there is no traffic in Merida, that that is worthless from money making point of view. On the other hand, we have opened all Europe to them. We have given them equal rights to the four largest traffic generating centers in the United States and while we could perfectly well have limited their Mexico City to Chicago to that city alone, we had, nevertheless, agreed to let them continue on to Canada so that we have given them far more than they gave us. There is no reason for him to stick out on his insistence that all flights out from Mexico City must land first in Guatemala and his insistence on limiting traffic is contrary to the best interests of Mexico in bringing in more tourists and stimulating the industry and is just like going back to the horse and buggy days.

The President said that I had very well documented the matter and that he would discuss the problem with Buchanan this morning and see whether between today and tomorrow we cannot come to some agreement in principle.

I told him that that was my great desire and I hoped that we could do so.

  1. Source: Department of State, Holland Files: Lot 57 D 295, Mexican Aviation Agreement. Secret.