356. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Conversation between Presidents Johnson and Diaz Ordaz, Los Pinos, Mexico City

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson, United States
  • President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, Mexico
[Page 753]

Cotton

President Diaz Ordaz said that Mexico had suffered considerable losses because of a drop in cotton prices. He complained that the Soviet Union was depressing the international cotton market by buying and then reselling cotton for export at low prices. He said that the United States, and Mexico, plus the other cotton-producing Latin American countries, supplied over half of the world market, and were therefore in a good position to affect world prices. He expressed his appreciation for the position adopted by the U.S., which could easily dump cotton, thereby getting rid of its surpluses and in the process ruining the economies of many countries, including Mexico. This, he said, would be like winning all of the chips in a poker game: the game would be over. He was encouraged by the establishment of the International Cotton Institute, headed by former Mexican Agriculture Secretary Rodriguez Adame, but believed that a world agreement would be useful to help in the stabilization of prices.

President Johnson replied that he was aware of the importance of cotton to so many countries, and that the U.S. would continue to study possible means of stabilizing prices. He said that an overly high price for cotton might lead to a loss of markets, because of competition by synthetic fibers.

Sulphur

President Diaz Ordaz said that the Pan American Sulphur Company and the Mexican Government differed over the amount of sulphur reserves in Mexico, and that the company estimated the reserves as being higher than did the Mexicans. This was an important difference of opinion, since the reserve estimates had a direct bearing on the amount of sulphur that Mexico would allow the company to export. President Johnson suggested a compromise between the two figures, and requested Mexico to do everything it could to permit increased exports to the U.S., to alleviate the strong pressures for an increase in sulphur prices in the U.S., which in turn contributed to inflationary trends. President Diaz Ordaz said that he would look into the matter, and that Mexico would do anything it could in this direction. He wanted to point out that the above-mentioned company had maligned Mexico in many other countries, saying that Mexico was not living up to its agreements, while the truth was that the company had not been able to export its allocated quota the previous year.

Cultural Exchange

President Johnson recalled that when he was a Senator, he had visited the then President-elect of Mexico, López Mateos, in Acapulco, and that at that time there were a number of issues pending between the two countries: The Chamizal, Colorado River salinity, for example. [Page 754]Now, all of those problems had been settled, and he thought that this was a propitious time to launch a joint and positive effort, taking advantage of the absence of major differences. He suggested that the two Presidents each appoint a panel of imaginative men, to come up with suggestions for an exchange of persons; not of students or teachers, but in different fields. He proposed, for example, that the U.S. might send Secretary Freeman to advise Mexico on agricultural problems, much in the same line as the Secretary’s trip to Vietnam. He also mentioned the possibility of Under Secretary Mann going to Mexico to consult with the Government on economic problems, including the cotton matter. He suggested that Mexico might send representative artists to tour the U.S., particularly in areas with a heavy concentration of Mexican-Americans. As an example, he mentioned Cantinflas.2 He also said that thought might be given to having Mexico send persons to provide leadership to Mexican-American citizens in the U.S.

President Diaz Ordaz said that he thought that this proposal was a good one. Mexico had a number of artists it could send to the U.S. He would exclude painters, since in Mexico, because of a certain snobbish approach, many painters were Communists, and he would not want to send them to the U.S.

Future Visits

President Johnson suggested that the two Presidents and their families might meet at Big Bend National Park, and in the adjoining Mexican forest area, to emphasize recreation and conservation. President Diaz Ordaz said that he was all in favor of this, and suggested that the two Presidents also visit the Amistad Dam nearby. His only concern, a minor one, was that he would have to obtain permission from the Mexican Congress to cross the border, and he did not want to have to go to his legislature too often for this purpose. President Johnson said that this problem could be obviated by having the two Presidents meet on the Mexican side of the border.

Mexican Economy

Both Presidents agreed that the Mexican economy was doing very well; President Diaz Ordaz said that his country had reached the “takeoff” point. They both also agreed that Mexico should increase its efforts to assist less developed countries, particularly in Central and South America. President Diaz Ordaz said that he intended to follow this course. It had been amusing, he said, during his recent visit to Central America, to see how Mexico is considered there, and especially in Guatemala, as the “Colossus of the North.” He said that the best Ambassadors [Page 755]Mexico had in these countries were Central Americans who had studied in Mexico, many of whom had married Mexican girls. There were large numbers of Central Americans studying in Mexican institutions at the present time.

In-bond Warehouses

President Diaz Ordaz said that he was interested in settling the problem of in-bond warehouses on the border, since sales from these warehouses produced no revenue to either government. President Johnson said that he agreed that the matter should be studied.

Ex-Im Loan to PEMEX

President Diaz Ordaz effusively expressed his delight that we have broken a long taboo against Exim Bank loans to nationalized oil companies. He stated that Mexico probably could have obtained the loan elsewhere but was happy that our policy has changed. He also referred to the unhappiness that arose in the United States over the credit Mexico obtained about two years ago for the purchase of Soviet drilling equipment. He said that Mexico was extremely unhappy about the Soviet equipment which is far inferior to the latest U.S. equipment and even to some equipment that Mexico has.

President Diaz Ordaz’ Central American Trip

At the luncheon at Los Pinos, President Johnson asked Diaz Ordaz to tell Mrs. Johnson about his trip to Central America. President Johnson indicated that he might wish to send Mrs. Johnson on a similar trip.

Cuba, Dominican Republic and OAS

The two Presidents, in their conversation, did not mention Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or the OAS.

President Johnson mentioned the Dominican Republic briefly to Foreign Secretary Carrillo Flores stating that he had to do something when Ambassador Bennett called while the Embassy was being fired upon. He also told the Foreign Secretary that Castro had told the British Ambassador in Havana that the Soviets had let Cuba down badly on two occasions, once over missiles and once over the Dominican Republic. The Foreign Secretary made no comment.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Mexico, Vol. II, 1/66–2/67. Confidential. Drafted by Barnes on April 27 and approved by Walt Rostow on June 2. The meeting was held at Los Pinos on the “evening of April 14 and morning of April 15.” According to the President’s Daily Diary, Johnson met Díaz Ordaz in a private session on April 14 (9:30–10:15 p.m.); the two men met again the next morning (9:20–10:37 a.m.) with their key advisers. (Johnson Library) President Johnson was in Mexico City for an informal visit, including a ceremony to dedicate a statue of Abraham Lincoln. For his remarks at the dedication and other occasions during the visit, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book I, pp. 416–422.
  2. “Cantinflas” was the stage name of the Mexican comedian Mario Moreno.
  3. For text of the joint statement issued following discussions with Díaz Ordaz, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966, Book I, pp. 422–424.