312.115/354: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico ( Fletcher )99

1745. Department informed that proposed Agrarian Law1 has been introduced Sonora Legislature and published November 20. Concerning proposed law address Foreign Office substantially as follows:

Consideration by Government of United States of proposed Agrarian Law introduced Sonora Legislature appears to show that no provision is made for payment of compensation to owner by State of Sonora for lands to be taken by State and assigned to private interests and that therefore proposed law is confiscatory in character. Confiscatory character is not obviated by provision that persons to whom lands are transferred by State shall make annual payments to owners beginning two years after transfer, no penalty being provided for non payment and the credit of the State being in no way pledged to assure payment. In view of this condition proposed law appears clearly violative of following provisions Article 27 Mexican Constitution:2 “Private property shall not be expropriated except for cause of public utility and by means of indemnification.”

Moreover, proposed law provides for taking of property by purely arbitrary administrative action without due process of law or judicial determination and hence violates following provisions of Article 14 of Mexican Constitution:3 “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, property, possessions or rights without due process of law instituted before a duly created court, in which the essential elements of procedure are observed.”

Such safeguards as are provided for property owners by said provisions of Article 14 correspond to provisions under which property is taken for public use in United States where owner has right to demand that an impartial tribunal shall pass upon question of compensation and that he be given an opportunity for a hearing. It is believed that such safeguards prevail generally throughout the world as in accordance with the general idea of justice and equity.

Apparent conflict between said provisions Article 14 and provisions Article 27 for administrative expropriation of private property does not alter fact that wise safeguards of former article are [Page 615] just and equitable and generally observed in modern times. However, even Article 27 provides for judicial determination of value of improvements on lands expropriated, whereas no such provision appears to be contained in proposed law.

In view of foregoing and on behalf of American citizens owning lands in Sonora the Government of the United States, while reserving all rights in the matter, is constrained to protest against the proposed enactment into legislation of the proposed law, on the grounds that it is confiscatory in character and that it makes no provision for due process of law and judicial determination.

Polk
  1. Repeated on the same date to the Consul at Nogales, with instructions to advise the authorities of Sonora of the substance.
  2. For the text as passed, see p. 616.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 955.
  4. Ibid. p. 952.