723.2515/1817: Telegram

The Consul at Arica (Von Tresckow) to the Secretary of State


From Pershing: On January 6 the Peruvians began to repatriate voters who had been expelled from Tacna, and some thirty were sent up in the morning train from Arica. Several of my staff were eyewitnesses of events attending arrival of Peruvians at Tacna; following is summary of their account:

Peruvians arrived 10:25 a.m., and crowd estimated at about two hundred fifty had gathered about platform and station, rough elements predominating. Crowd greeted arrival of train with threatening outcries, such as: “Kill them.” When train had stopped the Peruvians began to descend, carrying hand baggage. Despite no provocative action on their part toward Chileans, the crowd immediately assaulted them. Twelve policemen who at outset made some effort to restrain mob became ineffective almost immediately; thereafter, their action appeared half-hearted. Peruvians, assailants, and police surged through the station and out into the street where the mob increased to four or five hundred and the police to about twenty-five, but no real attempt was made to check mob. As crowd moved up street Peruvians were brutally attacked for a distance of about four blocks, being knocked down, stoned, kicked, and beaten with clubs and fists. The principal attackers seemed to be organized into some half dozen groups consisting of 6 to 10 men each. Several soldiers and two men wearing uniforms of commissioned officers in the Chilean Army were observed among the onlookers, the spectacle affording them an occasion for much laughter. No arrests were made during the attacks, nor were efforts to make arrests apparent in cases which flagrantly demanded such action. The exact number of Peruvians [Page 267] injured and extent of injuries has not yet been reported. Actions of Peruvians at the railway station and in the street were confined to instinctive and ineffectual efforts at defense. The majority of the Peruvians finally reached shelter in the house of General Pizarro, of the Peruvian delegation.

The Chilean press has alleged that General Pizarro fired a shot into the mob from the balcony of his house. He positively denies the allegation and I do not give it credence.

On the evening of the same day, Dr. Valverde, the legal adviser of the Peruvian delegation, another member of the delegation, and Captain Rotaldi, Peruvian naval officer, who were proceeding to Tacna from Arica by motor car found the way barred by rocks near Tacna. When they started to walk to the station they were attacked by a group apparently lying in wait for them, and Valverde and Rotaldi were brutally beaten and cut. The same night there was demonstration against the house into which Valverde and Rothaldi had been taken to be cared for.

On the morning of January 7, several Peruvians who arrived from Tacna by regular train were met at station by threatening crowd which attempted to close in on Peruvians but latter were protected by police and troops.

The situation at Tacna is unsettled and threatening.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The importance of the incidents described and the incendiary activities of local press can not be overestimated. Action, prompt and vigorous, must be taken.

Unless Edwards, on his arrival, shall promptly and publicly admit responsibility, punish the guilty, make proper public apologies, and give adequate and public guarantees for long period, it is my firm opinion that it will be wrong to take responsibility of encouraging Peruvians to persevere in their endeavors to return to their homes and to take part in plebiscite. Only by an immediate and public declaration of changed policy, accompanied by the prompt, severe, and public punishment of the guilty element and by public and adequate guarantees of good government, can the situation be saved.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I feel compelled to place this matter before Edwards immediately upon his return to Arica which is expected on January 10. Pershing.

Von Tresckow
  1. Telegram in three sections.