723.2515/1971: Telegram

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


From Lassiter.

On being notified of the Department’s offer of its good offices to Governments of Chile and Peru, I assumed that Department saw reasonable chance of escape by that route from this impossible situation. I at once asked what attitude to take here to further your negotiations, as you desired me to press ahead with the preparations for registration. I have done so, but the days go by; I hear nothing further from you, and in meantime we are becoming more and more committed to a dangerous situation. Conditions are no more favorable here to a fair plebiscite than they have been … Edwards told me frankly that between frustrated plebiscite and plebiscite in which Chile would be declared loser, she preferred the former alternative.
My definite opinion was that we should stop proceedings before becoming further committed; but the Department has insisted on our going ahead, and we have drifted into a position where we are about to commit ourselves definitely by proclaiming commencement of registrations on March 15. What, exactly, will happen cannot be foreseen fully; … If break has to come, Chileans will retain their grip on affairs, and may be in position to assert that, as precedent conditions had been accepted and plebiscite had been commenced, there was no adequate proof that conditions had materially changed.
My recent cables have been for purpose of informing Department of local situation, as I thought information might affect your negotiations. I see no evidence that either Peruvian or Chilean Commissioner is aware of those negotiations. Purpose of present cable is to furnish Arbitrator and Department with my estimate of general situation confronting me.
My recommendations are as follows:
If Peru has accepted Department’s good offices, cable me at once to suspend further proceedings here and to withdraw American personnel as quickly as conditions permit.
If Peru has not replied to Department’s offer, or has replied in negative, ask her reasons for declining. If her reason is simply that she prefers plebiscite, we are then warranted in going ahead. If her reply is that she prefers plebiscite but insists that conditions be made such as to give reasonable promise of fair one, then cable me to suspend operations and have a vote of the Plebiscitary Commission. [Page 316] I would then introduce resolution stating that conditions were not such as to warrant expectation of fair plebiscite, and that there were no indications that the necessary conditions would be established, and asking instructions from Arbitrator.
May I have an immediate preliminary reply on the above recommendations? I have assumed that avoidance of delay and strong stand on pressing forward with work here would favor your negotiations, but if that is not so, then I should like to know as soon as possible for what policy to prepare myself. Lassiter.
Von Tresckow