to Mr. Evarts.
La Paz, November 12, 1880. (Received December 27.)
Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith a brief report of the political situation in Bolivia, since my last dispatch upon that subject, No. 27, dated September 3 last.
During the absence of the ministers and myself at Arica, everything was very quiet, especially as it was generally believed that our mediation would certainly bring about peace, if not directly at least by arbitration.
In that sense the National Assembly of Bolivia after a session of five months adjourned sine die on October 24, without passing any direct laws looking towards an active prosecution of the war. It gave, however, full powers to the President as to the enrollment of troops, the raising of a foreign loan, in compliance with which a financial agent has already been sent to Europe, the purchase of arms and employment of other means for defense; it approved the Bravo concessions, in spite of Peru’s protest, for the colonization of its eastern territories and building of highways, railroads, and canals from the east via the La Plata and Amazon Rivers, and it referred the acceptance of the Peru-Bolivia confederation to popular vote in the future; so that for the present that brilliant idea of Dictator Périola of Peru may be considered a failure; it passed an excellent mining law, and in general, being very conservative, may be considered to have worked for the interest of the country as best it could.
The Government of Bolivia having declined to declare commercial interdiction with Tacna and Arica at the request of Peru, the prefect of the narrow strip of country still nominally occupied by Peruvians between the above places, and the borders of Bolivia, had imposed upon all goods passing through his jurisdiction a transit duty in itself forbidding all trade, and had actually seized goods then en route for non-payment, which action excited the public feeling here very much, and came near leading to a rupture, but the Peruvian minister at La Paz ordered the goods released and a compromise was effected, whereby an additional 5 per cent. duty is to be paid to Peru, so that with the duties to Chili, Peru, and Bolivia, about 65 per cent. ad valorem, and the enormous costs of transportation prices of even the necessaries of life and especially clothing have risen to extreme figures, while money retains its full value, exchange being almost at par.
When the failure of the conferences became known here, the President made a spirited address to the troops in public; but the people are very dejected, an invasion is feared, and especially the inhabitants of this city already see their property burned and destroyed, and themselves fleeing from the cruelty and brutality of the enemy, their only hope being still that in some way or other the United States will intervene in what is now considered by all the most cruel and barbarous war of devastation, vandalism, and conquest on the part of the enemy, and that no mercy need be expected.
Minister Carrillo informed me yesterday that he, with his colleagues [Page 77] of the cabinet, had resigned, being forced thereto on account of the failure of the mediation; that they having held out the hope of peace to the country, and being unsuccessful, must now leave the work to others, who propose a different policy, and that the change in the cabinet would take place as soon as their report of the matters connected with the mediation with the protocols of conferences at Arica is published and submitted to the country.
What the future will bring, it is impossible to say; a hope still remains that the Argentine Republic may take part in the war against Chili; but I have not much confidence in this, and the present allies, I believe, will have to fight to the bitter and scarcely doubtful end.
I have, &c.,