The Consul at Arica (Von Tresckow) to the Secretary of State
[Received February 2—12:01 a.m.]
From Lassiter. At the meeting on January 30 of the Plebiscitary Commission, Mr. Edwards made five motions for reconsideration and amendment of six articles of registration code and election regulations. Peruvian member moved reconsideration and amendment of one article. All motions were defeated. I am not certain whether appeals will be made within five days, but if they are, it is very important that their consideration be expedited and resulting delay in carrying out schedule adopted by Commission be reduced to minimum.
The new Chilean Foreign Minister, Mr. Mathieu, was here yesterday and presumably is now fully informed on situation. I had a long conversation with him and explained, as I have to Edwards, that all my efforts are being directed toward expediting carrying out of plebiscite, but that at same time I am keeping careful watch on situation to determine whether conditions exist to make possible reasonably fair plebiscite. I told Mathieu that much information is coming to me indicative of constant threat of intimidation hanging over Peruvians, and that many alleged overt acts of interference and intimidation are being brought to my attention. I told him that some of my own American representatives, moreover, are being subjected to a constant surveillance and are meeting interference while endeavoring to obtain information for me of what is going on in the plebiscitary area. For example, Peruvians are prevented from talking freely to them, sometimes from speaking at all; that there is evidence of an organized campaign by civilian societies to browbeat Peruvians; and that in my opinion if plebiscite is to be brought to successful conclusion, it is indispensable that authorities of province be impressed with necessity for drastic measures to prevent intimidation or unjust interference, and also to suppress unlawful activities of civil societies.[Page 284]
Mr. Mathieu did not dissent from my point of view; indeed, he gave me to understand that he agreed with it. Situation is most unstable; and even if we are able to keep both sides in the contest, task of carrying through registration and election would involve long and elaborate series of challenges and appeals, acrimonious discussions, brawls, and possibly serious disorders.
I feel that I must know in advance how to act if further prosecution of task appears impossible, either on account of one party’s dropping out, or because I myself reach conclusion that reasonably fair plebiscite is impossible; I should be glad to have advice coming from Department’s broader outlook on procedure to be followed should either eventuality arise.
My relations with both parties seem to be very cordial, and I hope to keep them that way. Lassiter.