The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru (Poindexter)
72. Early in July the Ambassadors of Chile and Peru indicated their willingness and desire to go on with negotiations for settlement of the Tacna-Arica dispute. Ambassador Velarde and his counsel have several times expressed their desire to settle matter and both Chile and Peru have stated that they would consider any proposition which the Secretary of State of the United States would make. On August 27 Ambassador Velarde called on the Secretary and informed him that the Government of Peru would, he felt certain, gladly consider any proposal made by the Secretary looking toward a settlement of the question. The Secretary requested the Ambassador to confirm this as coming directly from the Government of Peru. On September 2 the Ambassador did so, and stated that his Government [Page 491] would be willing to consider any proposal made by the Secretary and would accept any proposition for a settlement of the question which did not injure feelings of population of cities of Tacna and Arica.
Since then the Secretary has held informal conversations with Ambassador Cruchaga and Ambassador Velarde and their advisers with aim of developing a formula which both would accept. The Chilean representatives have stated that no settlement would be acceptable to Chile which removed city of Arica from her sovereignty, and the Peruvian representatives have stated that no settlement would be acceptable to Peru which left Arica in hands of Chile. Compromises have been suggested to both about a corridor to Bolivia which should include Arica-La Paz railroad and port rights and I have reason to believe that suggestions I have made have been telegraphed to President Leguía. I set forth one of these suggestions in detail to Mr. Ellis, the Peruvian counsel, over a month ago but have not yet been able to get any authoritative response or suggestion from the Peruvian representatives in Washington.
The Peruvian Ambassador appears unwilling to accept any responsibility of any kind and will act only as intermediary for transmission of communications to and from his Government. The legal adviser, Dr. Salomón, has not been to Department except on few occasions; and, although he has stated that he desires to see a settlement reached, he has offered no practical suggestions and has not contributed vigorously toward bringing one about. Mr. Ellis, who attended some of the conferences between the Plenipotentiaries, has conferred with me on numerous occasions and appears to believe in a settlement but seems to be unable to obtain any authority for discussion of a basis for arrangement except upon the indefinite terms which Peru has expressed.
I think that President Leguía is taking position that Peru has not only won moral victory but that the president of the Plebiscitary Commission has held that Chile has frustrated the plebiscite and that Peru, therefore, has legal grounds for laying claim to entire territory. On October 5 I informed Ambassador Velarde, Dr. Salomón, and Mr. Ellis that such an assumption was, in my opinion, wholly erroneous, and that even if General Lassiter’s findings were eventually approved by the Arbitrator, the parties would be left simply where they were before the plebiscite and would be subject to negotiations for a settlement. Whether or not the Arbitrator will hand down a decision is not yet known, and, should he hand down a decision what it would be is not known. Arbitrator is at liberty on his own motion to take into consideration all matters which are connected with the Tacna-Arica award and to discuss frankly and freely whatever is connected with the plebiscite. He may modify [Page 492] decision, change it entirely and order an election, or take such action as he deems equitable.
Although Peru has frequently expressed willingness and desire to settle question, she has shown every indication of desire to delay the negotiations indefinitely. Question of settlement of Tacna-Arica dispute is one which interests not Chile and Peru alone, but every one of countries of Western Hemisphere; if it is left unsettled, the peace of South America can never really be assured; and, as world attention has been focused on question for number of years, it may be considered a test question whether two great American nations, such as Chile and Peru, do or do not really desire to reconcile their differences in a practical and lasting manner for the best interests of the peace of the Western Hemisphere. The Chilean Government or the Peruvian Government would unquestionably place itself in a most disadvantageous and untenable position before world should either the one or the other decline to accept a proposal for settlement which is to best interests of continental peace, which impartial judges deem a fair and equitable solution of the matter, and which would appeal most decidedly to the unprejudiced judgment of the entire Western Hemisphere.
If no practical suggestions are put forward for an equitable and lasting solution in which cool counsel prevails and wherein idea for promotion of peace of the American continent takes place of purely selfish and sentimental desire, it would then without doubt become the Secretary’s distinct duty, as he has been advised officially by the Governments of both Chile and Peru that they would consider any proposal he would make, to formulate and to present to both Governments a final and conclusive proposal.
You will please take earliest opportunity available to see President Leguía in purely personal manner and, in light of what I have stated above, endeavor to obtain from him statement on whether or not he wishes speedy and practical termination of Tacna-Arica question. I have informed both Ambassador Velarde and Dr. Salomón and Mr. Ellis as well that I do not feel I am at liberty to delay this question much longer.
You are instructed to confer orally with President Leguía and to leave no memorandum or aide-mémoire of substance of your remarks. What you say I must leave largely to your discretion. What I have done is to outline general situation. This is an occasion, however, in which a very emphatic statement must be made in order to reveal clearly consequences entailed by policy of delay or unwillingness to reach settlement of this matter along equitable and practical lines.