471. Telegram 6304 From the Embassy in Mexico to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]


  • Salinity

For Hurwitch from Feldman

1. Last night Gallastegui gave us the final word from the Foreign Secretary that in the present circumstances the best thing to do for all concerned would be to extend Minute 218 for one more year. The reasons he gave were (a) the high priority that Mexico attaches to its excellent relations with the United States and desire to avoid the appearance of anything inconsistent with those fine relations. (b) the decision to step back from the legal talks and to pursue a practical solution. He indicated that Mexico’s press line would be simply that the two governments were discussing the matter in friendly fashion and had extended the agreement another year to permit further talks. Gallastegui said that he had been able to talk with the Foreign Secretary only very briefly. He gave the impression that in this hectic week, with two heads of state and a foreign minister visiting Mexico, that the Foreign Secretary simply had not been able to give this problem the time that it required.

2. I had discussed possible parameters of a new agreement with Gallastegui in a phone conversation [Page 2] just before he saw Foreign Secretary. In response to his questions, I indicated (a) our interest in deleting the paragraph on legal talks, (b) my belief that Washington would accept a four year agreement, and (c) my impression that Washington would prefer an extension or Minute 218 to a new minute of only one or two years duration. When he mentioned the possibility of a four year agreement with legal talks, I played dumb and indicated I had no instructions on that point. I also stressed that Washington was prepared to operate after Nov 15 for a few days informally under Minute 218 if we were making progress towards a new minute.

3. Late last night Ambassador Friedkin and I had long conversation with Gallastegui over a drink which reinforced our impression that the GOM had abruptly changed its position in these last days without the kind of careful deliberation one would expect in this situation. Our best reading at the moment is that notwithstanding the GOM’s earlier acceptance of our proposed schedule of substitution waters, Commissioner Herrera and Luis Cabrera were never satisfied. Once they realized that they were not going to obtain further concessions in the near future they managed to persuade the Foreign Secretary that the package would not be adequate to solve the political problem in the Mexicali Valley. At the same time the Foreign Secretary apparently changed his mind about moving ahead through legal talks to adjudication. (We can only speculate why.) As a result GOM did not know which way to move.

4. Gallastegui repeated that the Echeverria administration simply could not appear to be saying to the people of Mexicali that these substitutions would be the sole achievement of the Echeverria administration on this matter during its term. He spoke vaguely of finding some new formula, perhaps involving technical assistance to Mexicali, but he is brand new to this problem and we do not attach [Page 3] much importance to that suggestion at this time. GOM thinking is clearly confused at the moment. On the one hand they talk about doing missionary work in the Mexicali Valley. On the other hand they are still hopeful of obtaining further concessions from us. Our judgment as of this moment is that the one year extension will not make it easier to find a solution. We missed by a hair a satisfactory six-year agreement and can take comfort now only in the apparent decision of the GOM not to follow up the legal talks. I would not count on that, however, if we fail to make further progress during the year.

5. In view of the foregoing, we believe there is some possibility that when things settle down in Mexico and the Foreign Secretary has a chance to consider this problem he may regret this decision. Accordingly we believe it important that the new extension of Minute 218 contain the same provision that the old one did permitting termination of the minute if a new agreement is concluded in less than a year. This specific issue did not come up last night, but I told Gallastegui we would present a note more or less the same as last year’s and I do not expect the GOM will have any difficulty with this.

6. I plan to leave for Washington this afternoon and will send eta septel.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 33–1 MEX–US. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. On ARA and L recommendation, Rogers approved a one-year extension on the salinity agreement. (Memorandum from Crimmins and Stevenson to Rogers, November 15; Ibid.) In telegram 6492 from Mexico City, November 24, the Embassy reported that Rabasa “saw no real possibility of agreement on this point in the absence of mediation or interpretation by some third party.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 787, Country Files, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. II, January 1, 1970–December 31, 1971)
  2. The Mexican Government indicated that it wished to extend the standing salinity agreement, Minute 218, for only another year.