723.2515/1936a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru (Poindexter)


12. I have come to conclusion that time has arrived to present directly to Governments of Chile and Peru the opportunity to adjust Tacna-Arica controversy outside terms of the award. I feel I should not be doing my full duty if I did not exhaust every reasonable expedient for reaching an amicable adjustment of this long-standing dispute. I have followed every detail of plebiscite not only with greatest care but with much anxiety. I am convinced that even if holding of plebiscite be possible, it is highly doubtful whether by it controversy would ever really be settled and bitterness between these two countries allayed.

It is unnecessary for me to say to you that General Pershing did everything within his legal rights to make plebiscite succeed or to emphasize now the difficulties, for you are familiar with them. As you know, I have hitherto taken position that the Arbitrator was holding plebiscite under terms of Treaty of Ancon and of the agreement of submission, and that it was not his purpose to give either party opportunity to say that he was going outside award to reach a settlement, thereby abandoning his duty, but it seems to me that in interests of both Chile and Peru and in interest of harmony and of a settlement of this question, time has come when I should ask both Governments if they are willing to accept the good offices of the Government of the United States.

If you are met with a receptive attitude I should be pleased to receive any intimations about basis of adjustment which Government of Peru would be willing to discuss. It has occurred to me that perhaps the neutralization of the entire territory might prove acceptable as basis for discussion, as this solution would not result in turning territory in dispute over to either country. As far as I am concerned, [Page 303] I am willing to suggest to Chile and Peru either the division of the territory, or neutralization, or any other basis which gives promise of any possibility of success.

I think that you should make it clear to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and to President Leguía that this step is not a move by Arbitrator to abandon plebiscite or to shirk any duty resting upon him within his proper legal powers under both agreement of submission and award.

In view of the above I desire you at earliest possible moment to seek interview with Minister for Foreign Affairs and President of Peru, discuss matter with them and leave with them following memorandum:2

“I am instructed by the Secretary of State to inquire whether the Government of Peru 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 Chile 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.”

Similar instructions are being forwarded to Ambassador Collier who will leave with Chilean Minister for Foreign Affairs identic memorandum, mutatis mutandis.

It is of great importance that I should have an answer as promptly as possible, as I do not wish in any way to delay or prejudice the proceedings of the plebiscite.

  1. Quoted memorandum not paraphrased.