723.2515/541: Telegram

The Consul at Tacna (Cameron) to the Secretary of State

In reply to Department’s telegram December 23, 4 p.m. First, regarding recruiting. I have the honor to report that conscripts on duty here who should have been released last August were retained [Page 325] for six months additional, the official explanation being on account of strikes but I have been told by the private soldiers for the purpose of making roads from here to Peru boundary passable for artillery and for wagon to Uruguay [transport?]. Regular yearly conscripted contingent reported last November but apart from operation of the law of military service, I have been unable to learn of recruiting. As regards construction of roads to the Peruvian boundary, there is no doubt as to accuracy of the report. Army officers and men have told without hesitation that the Tacna garrison has been and is actively engaged in such construction work. Divisional commanding officer here told me three principal highways leading to Peruvian boundary from the city, namely to the towns called Tarata and Sama and to the boundary line where it reaches seacoast as well as other roads, have been repaired. Also said he had requested four American motor trucks. Commerce across the Peruvian boundary does not justify such measures. Notwithstanding all preparations it is difficult to believe, in view of the transportation difficulties, that Chilean Army intends major military operations across Tacna frontier. Preparedness would rather seem to be against a possible Peruvian invasion, or possibly for feinting while the Chilean Navy transports army of invasion to the north. …

With regard to precedent that Peruvian[s] born in Tacna Arica during the period of occupation are incorporated in the Chilean Army, it is to be observed that Chile’s Constitution declares that every one born in Chilean territory is a Chilean citizen. I am informed also by the authorities here that Chilean courts have decided all persons born as stated in your telegram are liable to serve under the provisions of Chile’s military service act. Such interpretation of the law is accepted as a matter of course by the Chilean Government local authorities and is also borne out by the terms of the notices posted in Tacna referring to conscripts which are in general terms and make no exception in favor of any one. It is a fact that natives of Tacna are called for conscript duty but the divisional commander who is responsible for enforcement of the law stated to me that acting under instructions from the Chilean Government he excuses from military service sons born to Peruvians in Tacna Arica whenever exemption is requested on the ground that conscript is a Peruvian, and as regards present conditions I believe his statement to be substantially correct though moral suasion and the desire to be on good terms with Chile[an] authorities doubtless induce some to serve who would prefer Peruvian affiliations. I have requested copy of the above mentioned court decision which will be forwarded as soon as received.