File No. 944/98–101.

The American Minister to Peru to the Secretary of State.

No. 285.]

Sir: I have the honor to state that on Saturday when calling on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Porras, I was shown by him an interesting despatch from Mr. García, the Peruvian Chargé in Chile, reporting a recent long interview with Mr. Edwards, the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which Mr. Edwards stated that, in reply to the good offices of the Argentine to reestablish full diplomatic representation between Peru and Chile, his Government had decided that it would not be desirable or in the interests of good relations between the two countries, nor would Chile again send a Minister to Peru until a practical settlement of the Tacna and Arica question had been reached. That to send one before that time would invite the friction of useless discussion and another withdrawal which would be much worse than the present situation. He stated frankly that the negotiation must be on a basis that would secure these provinces to Chile; that their ownership was only a sentiment with Peru while it was a necessity to Chile. This was the substance of the despatch. Mr. Porras showed me also a memorandum of Chile’s terms furnished him by Mr. Pérez-Canto, the Chilean Chargé here:

A plebiscite to be taken in Tacna and Arica when the Chilean obligations with Bolivia for the construction of railroads through the provinces had been completed, i. e., some five or six years hence.
All otherwise qualified voters of whatever nationality who had been residents for six consecutive months to participate in the election.
The elections to be held under judges, one selected by Peru, one selected by Chile, and the third either by the consular representatives in these districts or a friendly power.

Mr. Porras said he was having daily consultations with the leaders of Congress over these proposals, but it was impossible to accept these terms. I ventured to suggest that Chile, to secure all the proposition contained, had only to continue a few years more the [Page 1174] policy she has heretofore successfully pursued, and that if Peru did not clearly see an alternative she could doubtless now obtain in other directions some valuable considerations that might be lost by drifting. Mr. Porras hinted obscurely at a conflict if Chile persisted in her position, but I do not think such an eventuality need be taken into account by the Department.

I think the renewal of the discussion is a mistake. I do not think the Peruvian authorities at this time have the courage, perhaps they have not the power, to execute such a settlement as could be effected with Chile.

Since writing the above Mr. Porras kindly sent me a copy of the Chilean proposals and of the Peruvian counter propositions, which I enclose. As accurate information concerning these negotiations is confined for the present to the leaders of Congress, I beg to particularly point out its confidential character. I also enclose copies of the correspondence between Mr. Porras and Mr. Edwards over the President’s allusion to the Tacna and Arica question in his message to the Peruvian Congress.1

I have [etc.]

Leslie Combs.

chilean proposal.

First. The plebiscite shall take place on a date which will permit the Chilean Government to carry out its obligations towards the Republic of Bolivia regarding the construction of a railway from Arica to La Paz.

Second. Those entitled to take part in the voting (which shall be secret) are the following: All Peruvians, Chileans and foreigners who possess:

The qualifications necessary to a citizen-voter.
Six months residence (at least).

Third. The nomination of the president of the supervising committee shall belong to Chile, as well as those of the committees on inscription and registration. These shall be composed of three members, i. e., one Chilean, one Peruvian, and one neutral chosen by the Consular Corps of Arica, or a friendly nation.

Fourth. Should any objections be found to the above articles, Chile would accept, if it would be preferable to Peru, the stipulations of the Billinghurst-La Torre protocol.

peruvian proposal.

The following modifications would be necessary to the four principal articles submitted by the [Chilean] Chargé:

First. The supervising committee charged with organizing the plebiscite shall enter upon its functions within a period of three months counting from the date of signing the protocol governing the plebiscite.

Second. The persons taking part in the voting (which shall be public) shall be: All Peruvians and Chileans possessing the following qualifications:

Those twenty-one years of age.
Those who were residing in the territories previously to July 1, 1907.

Those native born citizens of the territories of Tacna and Arica who shall be present during the voting who shall have registered themselves for that purpose.

All persons in the public service or in the Army or Police employed in the provinces shall be disqualified from voting.

[Page 1175]

Third. The supervising committee shall be composed of three members, i. e., a Peruvian, a Chilean, and a neutral designated by a friendly nation. The latter shall be the presiding officer. The committees of registration and inscription shall also be composed of a Peruvian, a Chilean and a neutral, and the latter shall be their presiding officer.

Fourth. The supervising committee shall designate the places which shall be opened for inscribing and registering voters. In all questions of detail, other than the above, the articles of the Billinghurst-La Torre protocol shall govern.


Peru is disposed to accept arbitration in case any irreconcilable difference of opinion shall arise.

Second. While Peru will accept the votes of Chilean citizens as proof of her desire to reach an understanding, she in no way recedes from the position she has always maintained as to the exclusive right of the native citizens of Tacna and Africa. In case no agreement is reached this concession must not be taken as a definite recognition [of other rights].

Third. The fact should be taken into account in judging the Peruvian proposals, that more than sixteen years have elapsed since the terms of the occupation were forced upon her.

Fourth. As there is certain contradiction between the spirit which animates the Chilean proposals and the measures taken or proposed concerning Peruvian residents [of the provinces in question] which measures have been the source of protests both verbal and written on the part of the Peruvian Government, this Government believes that these measures should be suspended, revoked or remain unenforced.

  1. Not printed.