The Minister in Bolivia ( Maginnis ) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 26—12:10 p.m.]
33. Legation’s March 22, midnight.86 Had a long conference with the President and Foreign Minister yesterday afternoon. Both stated that Bolivia is very anxious to avoid trouble with Peru and has not [mobilized,] nor is it planning mobilizing, any troops; that the only movement of troops has been the one reported in the Legation’s March 20, 6 p.m.,86 for the protection of Peruvians. I called their attention to the fact that a great many Peruvians were leaving Bolivia claiming by order of the police. The President stated positively that the Government had not authorized the police to order the Peruvians to leave and further that to-morrow it will publish officially a notice to the effect and in addition announce publicly that all Peruvians and their property shall have the protection of the Government and that no official has any right either publicly or secretly to order any Peruvians out of the country.
It has been reported here in despatches that Peru has asked the United States to intervene in the settlement of the problem and the President authorized me to say to the Department that if Peru has made such a request Bolivia gladly joins with Peru. They are very anxious that the situation be thoroughly understood by the Department and went into matters thoroughly, explaining difficult position of the Government due to the strong public feeling here; that the question of the port and an outlet to sea is absolutely vital to the life and growth of Bolivia; that the Government is most anxious to maintain friendly relations with Peru, but by reason of the impression having become [fixed] recently since Porras’ note in which he stated that Peru would never arbitrate or consider any proposition except the return to Peru of Tacna and Arica that Peru is opposed to Bolivia[’s] securing Arica as population [port], there has developed a strong anti-Peruvian feeling; that the Bolivian Government realizes fully that she has no legal claim to Arica and only a moral claim to Arica as a natural outlet and would be very willing to buy from both Chile and Peru their rights in the port and the railroad; that there are about 5,000 Peruvians in La Paz, a great many of whom are very active in political affairs and are very difficult to control; that when the Bolivian people heard of the attack made in the dark by more than two Peruvians on Major Oenaker [Donato Olmos?], seriously injuring him, the smoldering anti-Peruvian sentiment was immediately fanned into a flame which took some time [to control]. Also that before the incident the [Page 335] Peruvian Government had been prohibiting the importation of necessities such as butter, etc., from Peru into Bolivia and that it has refused to allow Bolivians to go into Peru and by these acts [added] to the growing ill feeling between the two countries.
I stated to the President that I have been informed by a high Chilean military official that Chile would be willing to sell to Bolivia her rights to Tacna and Arica upon the following terms: Bolivia to pay Peru the $10,000,000 to pay Chile for her interests [in railroad and] to pay to Peru the $2,000,000 which Chile agreed to pay in connection with occupation of Lima; and that he thought this proposition had been put up to the Bolivian Minister for Foreign Affairs [sic], Santiago. The President stated that the only proposition that he [knew] made by Chile was by Mr. Bello87 here in La Paz when Chile refused to give Arica but offered Bolivia the strip of land reported in Legation’s October 28, noon;88 that Bolivia thanked Chile for her offer as a recognition of Bolivia’s right to an outlet but stated to Chile that Bolivia desires a port and not a strip of sea coast and that Bolivia in the interest of peace could not and would not agree to any [proposition] without first having the matter [taken] up with Peru and could only consider an agreement in which the three countries would be parties.
The President informed me that the Bolivian Legation in Lima and the Bolivian Consulate at Mollendo had been wrecked, also that a censorship has been placed on despatches from Peru and that the Bolivian Government is practically impeded from getting any statements to the outside world.
My observation has been and all my [information] makes me believe that the Bolivian Government officials and General Montes have attempted in every way to maintain friendly relations with Peru and have endeavored to enter into some sort of negotiations with Peru looking to a solution. A careful analysis of Bolivia’s situation will reveal the difficulties facing the Government as long as the matter is allowed to stand in its present condition. The Bolivian Government realizes that the proper manner of handling would be for Peru and Chile to make a settlement first, but public opinion cannot understand why the question cannot be brought to an issue and becomes irritable and difficult to control. With Peru asking for the intervention of the United States and Bolivia glad to join in, and a strong sentiment in Chile toward giving up Arica to Bolivia on the terms as outlined, it would appear to be an opportune moment in which to find a solution for the gravest problem in South America.