723.2515/1936b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile ( Collier )


10. I have come to the conclusion that time has arrived to present directly to Governments of Chile and Peru the opportunity to adjust Tacna-Arica controversy outside terms of award. The former president of the Plebiscitary Commission, General Pershing, the present president, General Lassiter, and their advisers have stated definitely that in their opinion actual conditions are such that celebration of a fair plebiscite is impossible. They place blame squarely upon Chile, and I am convinced that in absence of some agreement for a settlement along different lines it may become necessary for Plebiscitary Commission eventually to make finding that fair plebiscite is impossible or else that plebiscite has failed through fault of Chile; result would be that this dispute of long standing will remain still unsettled for indefinite period. General Pershing has reported a very [Page 299] significant conversation he had with Edwards before leaving Arica. He says that Edwards stated specifically that Chile was ready to make adjustment on general basis of neutralization of entire territory. As for Peru I am led to believe that now for first time that Government may also be ready to discuss a settlement on this or some other reasonable basis. It becomes my duty, under these circumstances, to place situation fully before both Chile and Peru and to ascertain, if that be possible, what, if anything, they are disposed to do. To that end you will immediately seek a personal and confidential interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs, explain to him fully seriousness of situation, and invite expression of his views. Naturally, Chile and Peru must decide for themselves whether they shall insist on going ahead under present conditions, with immediate risk to Chile of having plebiscite abandoned or held void by Plebiscitary Commission on a finding which will fix responsibility upon her for failure. Should Minister for Foreign Affairs prove receptive to this suggestion, you will endeavor to elicit some indication in regard to extent of distance Chilean Government would be disposed to go in direction of settling at earliest possible moment some matters in principle. For example, should Chilean Government express informally willingness to proceed on basis of neutralization, that expression would mark definite progress and would be point of departure for future discussion. Details, of course, could be left for later consideration. You should make it quite plain to him that this Government has no interest beyond affording to both Chile and Peru every opportunity to clear up dispute with least possible embarrassment to either.

In order that there may be record made of proposal, you will read to Minister for Foreign Affairs and will leave with him following memorandum:98

“I am instructed by the Secretary of State to inquire whether the Government of Chile would be disposed to avail itself of the good offices of the United States in an endeavor to arrive at a friendly adjustment of the existing differences with Peru concerning the provinces of Tacna and Arica, it being understood that pending the consideration of any adjustment other than by the celebration of a plebiscite the authority of the Plebiscitary Commission and the general arrangement made by it for the holding of a plebiscite under the terms of the award shall be maintained unimpaired.”

The above, except for the text of the memorandum quoted, is for your information, and I leave to your discretion how much of the foregoing you will impart to Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as manner of its presentation. I think that you should be careful not [Page 300] to give impression that Chile is going to be given opportunity to shift blame for failure of plebiscite to this Government, by abandonment of plebiscite in advance of the note.

I am telegraphing today text of memorandum mutatis mutandis, identic with one quoted above to you, to Ambassador Poindexter. He will have personal interview with Peruvian Minister for Foreign Affairs and with President Leguía if possible and will leave text of memorandum with them.

  1. Text of memorandum not paraphrased.