346. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting between President Johnson and President Lopez Mateos


  • President Johnson
  • President Lopez Mateos

Mexican-American Relations

President Johnson said that relations between the United States and Mexico had never been better.2 He said that this situation was due largely to the work of President Lopez Mateos. He said that he would like to meet with President Lopez Mateos at Chamizal some time before the latter leaves office and that the meeting should be the occasion for a tribute to President Lopez Mateos. The Mexican President replied that he too would like a meeting at Chamizal. He added that the Chamizal solution should not be credited to him personally but rather to the rule of law and the goodwill evidenced by the two countries. He said that Mexico planned to erect a monument to President Kennedy at Chamizal.3

President Johnson said that he had heard from American businessmen in Mexico that they were very pleased with the treatment they had received from the present Mexican Administration. He asked whether [Page 736] equally good treatment would be received from the next Administration. President Lopez Mateos replied that the new Administration would extend even better treatment to American businessmen in Mexico.

President Lopez Mateos said that a number of recent events had led his country to adopt certain international policies which had been interpreted by some people as anti-American. President Johnson noted that Mexico had every right to exercise an independent foreign policy and he was sure that when the chips were down Mexico would be on the side of the United States. President Lopez Mateos affirmed that this was the case. He added that the U.S. Presidents he had dealt with invariably had shown great understanding of Mexican problems and that he had attempted to show an equal understanding of American problems. This approach had created the unprecedented goodwill that exists between the two countries.

Alliance for Progress

When President Johnson requested President Lopez Mateos’ opinion of the Alliance for Progress, the latter replied that Mexico, unlike some countries in South America, believed that the program was sound. All projects which had been carried out in Mexico had been fruitful and effective, and his only criticism was that the Alliance often moved too slowly. Mexico had always understood that the Alliance was a cooperative effort, which was not the case with some South American countries that had been unwilling to effect the necessary internal reforms.

General de Gaulle

Asked for his opinion of General de Gaulle and French recognition of Red China, President Lopez Mateos replied that he believed de Gaulle had a Napoleonic complex and was moved by the idea that France, for historical reasons, had to make an effort to achieve standing as a major world power. He believed the retirement of Chancellor Adenauer who had formed such close ties with General de Gaulle had led the latter to feel that France would now be isolated within Europe. His reaction was to create a new center of attention in the Far East by recognizing Red China and in Latin America by visiting Mexico.

President Johnson asked whether Mexico would be influenced by France’s recognition of Red China. President Lopez Mateos replied emphatically that it would not. He added that his country would always make its own foreign policy decisions.


In reply to President Johnson’s request for his opinion on Panama, President Lopez Mateos replied that he felt the two countries had been boxed in by words. He believed the United States realized that the 61year old treaty had to be brought up to date, while at the same time Panama did not want to administer the Canal. He believed that [Page 737] Panama was incapable of running the Canal by itself. The positions of the two countries were not as far apart as they seemed and a solution could be found if they could break out of the vicious circle of words. President Lopez Mateos said that except for the loss of life the incidents that had taken place in Panama were unimportant in themselves. As long as the basic Panamanian grievances remained Castroites and Communists throughout Latin America would take advantage of the situation to add fuel to the flames. He said that most thinking Latin Americans believed that the time had come for the United States to revise the treaty.

President Johnson said that the United States was always ready to sit down and discuss the treaty with Panama, but that under no circumstances could this country agree in advance on the revisions.

Cuban Subversion

President Johnson said that he was very concerned over Cuban efforts to export its revolution, as evidenced by the arms cache that had been found in Venezuela. President Lopez Mateos replied that it was impossible to export revolutions. He said that if fertile soil for a revolution existed in a given country, that country would have a revolution of its own without the need of importing one. If fertile soil did not exist, no one could successfully create a revolution in that country. He gave Mexico as an example, saying he was sure that Mexico with almost forty million inhabitants had more Castro sympathizers than Venezuela, but that these people had had no success in spreading their ideas. As far as propaganda was concerned, Venezuela was spreading more anti-Castro propaganda than Cuba was spreading anti-Venezuela propaganda.


President Johnson asked President Lopez Mateos for his opinion of the bracero question now that the U.S. Congress was going to let the agreement expire.4 He said that he realized that the braceros represented a sizeable source of foreign exchange for Mexico.

President Lopez Mateos replied that he had always felt that the use of Mexican braceros in the United States was a matter of mutual convenience rather than an obligation on the part of the United States. As Mexican Secretary of Labor many years ago he had told representatives of American unions that as soon as Mexican braceros received wages equal to American workers, he knew that U.S. farmers would prefer to use American labor. He still recognized that fact. His main [Page 738] concern was that illegal border crossings be prevented. He said it was logical to expect more illegal crossing attempts both because many Mexicans would continue to want to work in the United States and many American farmers would seek continued cheap labor. The only ones to be hurt by these illegal crossings would be American workers whose wages would be depressed. The Mexican Government would have to undertake a public works program to provide employment for the braceros. This would undoubtedly be a priority matter for the next Administration. It might perhaps be possible to start a large settlement program in the southeastern part of Mexico, although the necessary financial resources were not available.


President Johnson acknowledged that the problem of the salinity of Colorado River water was a source of concern to Mexico. He said that a solution to this problem should be legislative rather than judicial but that the United States would have to await the outcome of experiments conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation. He noted that authorizing legislation and appropriations would have to be obtained from Congress and that he did not believe he could present such a request before January 1965. He said that he was aware of Mexico’s concern, since Texas farmers were also concerned over salinity of the lower Rio Grande.

President Lopez Mateos said he was aware of the problems that President Johnson faced with the Congress and that he did not want to give the impression that he was pressuring the United States, although he recalled that President Kennedy had told him that the Bureau of Reclamation experiments would be concluded in October of 1963.5 He said that he was confident that a solution would be worked out, and asked whether the two governments might not set a date by which the salinity problems of both rivers might be settled. President Johnson replied that since Congressional action was involved it would be difficult to set a date.6

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 MEX. Secret. Drafted by Donald F. Barnes (LS) and Hawthorne Q. Mills (S/S–S). Approved by Bromley Smith on February 27. The meeting was held at the President’s residence. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Johnson stayed at the private home of Louis Taubman, a Texas oil and real estate developer, throughout his visit to Palm Springs. (Johnson Library) After the private meeting the two Presidents were joined by their respective advisers for further discussion. A memorandum of conversation is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 MEX. Presidents Johnson and López Mateos were in Los Angeles to receive honorary degrees, Doctor of Laws, from the University of California.
  2. Johnson briefly discussed the state of U.S.–Mexican relations with Mann, February 19; see Document 2.
  3. The Convention Between the United States of America and United Mexican States for the Solution of the Problem of Chamizal transferred 630 acres of land along the Rio Grande to Mexico, thereby confirming the arbitration award of 1911. The convention was signed on August 29, 1963, ratified by the Senate on December 17, and entered into force on January 14, 1964. (Department of State Bulletin, February 3, 1964, p. 186) For documentation on the negotiation of the convention, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, Microfiche Supplement, Mexico. Johnson and López Mateos met at Chamizal on September 25, 1964, for a ceremony marking settlement of the dispute. For text of Johnson’s remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book II, pp. 1117–1122.
  4. The “Bracero program” was passed in July 1951 as an amendment (PL 82–78) to the Agricultural Act of 1949. (65 Stat. 119) The program authorized the recruitment of migrant farm labor from Mexico for work in the United States. Although voting to extend the program in 1961 and 1963, Congress allowed the law to lapse at the end of 1964.
  5. Kennedy was in Mexico, June 29–July 1, 1962, for a state visit with López Mateos. For a memorandum of conversation on the salinity problem, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, Microfiche Supplement, Mexico. A joint statement also addressed the salinity of the water supply along the border. (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 529–531)
  6. For text of the joint statement issued following the meeting in Palm Springs, see ibid.: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book II, pp. 305–308.