The Chargé in Paraguay ( Southworth ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1422

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the Department’s instruction No. 247 of July 25, 1924 concerning the Paraguay-Bolivia boundary [Page 284] dispute; in which I am informed that the government of the United States would not be willing to intervene in this dispute until it is requested to do so by both of the countries in question.

Referring also to Ambassador Riddle’s despatch in this regard from Asuncion, of August 20, 1924, enclosing a draft of an agreement between Paraguay and Bolivia requesting the acceptance by the United States of the role of judge, I would now inform the Department that it seems the above draft is a copy of a counter-proposal made to Bolivia by President Ayala in answer to one essentially similar, submitted just after the inauguration by the Bolivian Special Ambassador, Señor Diez de Medina, who has since returned to his regular post at Buenos Aires.

This information was offered me today by the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Manuel Peña; he continued by relating frankly the present status of negotiations with Bolivia in the boundary dispute.

The protest recently made by the Bolivian Chargé against the grants of land in the Chaco to Canadian Mennonites, and referred to in my telegram No. 14 of June 12th, 5 P.M. [6 p.m.],61 has now been fully answered, I was informed, by the observation that the Paraguayan government had no part in the concession to the Mennonites beyond passing a law requested by them exempting them from compulsory military service and granting other similar favors; and moreover that Señor Casado, of the Company which sold them their lands, had personally demonstrated on the map that these lands were not only not in Bolivian territory, but were between Parallels 59 and 60 of West Longitude.

Dr. Peña touched on historical aspects of this case, declaring—as Dr. Manuel Gondra, ex-President and Foreign Minister has also recently assured me—that since about 1911 it has been the Paraguayan desire to have this question arbitrated by the United States. The language of the Ayala-Mujía protocol of April 5, 1913, providing for the present status-quo, bears this out to some extent in its use of precisely the same verbiage, “arbitraje de derecho”, employed in the present draft agreement. The President of Argentina had at that time declined to serve as arbiter.

Dr. Peña then referred to the representations telegraphed by the Department in December, 191462 at the time that a Paraguayan military incursion into the Chaco was reported; and stated that proofs of its non-existence were immediately furnished to President Wilson. Paraguay could not but desire American intervention in this problem, he continued, in view of the happy settlement by [Page 285] President Hayes of the territorial dispute with Argentina also involving a portion of the Chaco.63

Negotiations with Bolivia will continue for the present in La Paz the Minister stated; adding that what his government contemplates after signing such an agreement as that drafted, is, first, direct conversations between representatives of Bolivia and Paraguay in Washington, “with the friendly aid of President Coolidge”; and later, in case no decision is reached in this way, the consummation of the proposed “arbitration of right”, with the President as umpire. I am informed that since Manuel Gondra has declined the appointment as Minister to the United States on account of his health, this will probably go to ex-President Eusebio Ayala; who will accordingly be the Paraguayan negotiator if the proposed agreement with Bolivia is reached.

In this regard I note from the President of Bolivia’s reply to Minister Guggiari’s recent speech on presenting his credentials, furnished me by Minister Cottrell, that Señor Saavedra declared his government was “disposed to open immediate negotiations” on the boundary question; and referred also to the possibility of arbitration.

Public interest in Paraguay in this question has steadily grown, especially since it has become known that the United States may be asked to arbitrate. The Colorado (opposition) party has attempted to capitalize the situation by some extravagant nationalistic propaganda; a sample of which is transmitted herewith in the form of a handbill64 urging attendance at a demonstration of “Colorado Youth” in favor of radical action against Bolivia, held in a public square of this city on August 24th. This demonstration, however, passed off without disorder; and President Ayala considered it politic to appear on a balcony of the Palace on the approach of the demonstrants, and address them with the assurance that measures would be taken to preserve the Fatherland intact. On the whole the calm and considered attitude that the government has taken in this regard toward the rabid element has been admirable.

I have [etc.]

William B. Southworth
  1. Not printed.
  2. See note of Nov. 30, 1914, to the Bolivian Minister, Foreign Relations, 1914 p. 29.
  3. Ibid., 1878, p. 711.
  4. Not printed.