Mr. Strobel to Mr. Olney.
Santiago, May 9, 1896. (Received June 12.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose copy and translation of a protocol signed here on April 17 last by the Argentine minister and the Chilean minister of foreign relations, and published in the official journal (Diario Oficial) of the 7th instant.
It is hoped that this agreement will prove a final settlement of the boundary controversy. This controversy which, during the past year, has caused much uneasiness and excitement in both countries, involves the following three points:
- First. The boundary line along the Andes between parallels 23° and 26° 52ʹ 45ʺ south latitude, in the region known as the Puna de Atacama. This is the boundary between the Argentine Republic and the territory which was formerly Bolivian. The Argentines declared that the territory in question along this line had been originally under discussion with Bolivia and their rights admitted by that Government; that it was wrongfully occupied by the Chilean troops during the war with Peru and Bolivia, and that, as this territory is not therefore involved in the controversy in the same manner as the territory in question along the remaining frontier line, they refused to submit the question of the possession of this territory to arbitration.
- Second. The proper position of the landmark of San Francisco. The Argentines alleged that this landmark, which was placed between parallels 26° and 27° south latitude, had been placed there by mistake on the part of the boundary commissioners. The error they claimed to be self-evident, and they demanded a revision.
- Third. The boundary line running through the long extent of territory between parallels 26° 52ʹ 45ʺ south latitude to the Straits of Magellan. Here the two Governments have differed on the principle on which the demarcation should be made. The conventions on which the diverse opinions rested were the treaty of July 23, 1881, negotiated by the United States ministers at Buenos Ayres and Santiago, and the Errazuriz-Quirno Costa protocol of May 1, 1893. Without going into the details of these instruments, it will suffice to say that, according to the Chilean view of their proper construction, the boundary line should be determined by the watershed (divortium aquarum); while, according to the Argentine view, the line should pass through the highest peaks of the Andes. These conventions are to a certain extent ambiguous, and afford reasonable arguments for either contention. They clearly provide, however, that Chile can not have a port on the Atlantic, or the Argentine Republic on the Pacific. On approaching parallel 52° south, the range of the Andes runs close to the sea; but it is provided that, in any case, the coast of the Pacific is to be left to Chile.
On applying the terms of the new protocol to the above three points, it will be found that in reference to the first—the Puna de Atacama—article 1 provides that the boundary line is to be traced by the two Governments with the cooperation of the Government of Bolivia.
In reference to the second point, the proper position of the landmark of San Francisco—the Chilean Government yields in article 5 of the protocol, which declares that the present position of the landmark shall [Page 33] not be taken into consideration either as a basis or precedent for the determination of the boundary line. This concession seems entirely appropriate in view of the general belief that the present position of the landmark is the result of an error of the boundary commissions.
On the third point, the dividing line, which is to run through the country lying between parallel 26° 52ʹ 45ʺ south latitude and the Straits of Magellan, differences of opinion which can not be settled by friendly negotiation on the part of the two Governments are to be submitted to the decision of her Britannic Majesty’s Government, which is to apply the provisions of the above-mentioned treaty and protocol, after the ground has been examined by a commission to be appointed by the arbitrator.
By article 3 the experts are to proceed to the study of the region in the vicinity of the parallel 26° 52ʹ 45ʺ, where, as already stated, the chain of the Andes runs close to the sea, and where, by the existing agreements, the Pacific coast is to belong to Chile. Any difference regarding this part of the boundary line is also to be submitted to the arbitrator.
By article 6, the protocol of September of last year, copy and translation of which was sent to the Department with my No. 41 of September 19, 1895, is confirmed, and the work of demarcation, in spite of disagreements, is to continue without interruption.
By article 8, the request to act as arbitrator is to be addressed to the British Government within sixty days after the signature of the present agreement.
I have, etc.,