The Peruvian Embassy to the Department of State



Since the initiation of the good offices for the settlement of the Tacna-Arica question, the Government of Peru has endeavored to cooperate towards the realization of the friendly purposes of the Government of the United States, expressing its willingness to make all sacrifices compatible with the interests in dispute, including that of the legal advantage created by the conduct of Chile in frustrating the plebiscite as admitted in the opinion of the American advisers to the Plebiscitary Commission.

The present aspirations of Peru, reduced to a minimum in deference to the American Government, are not less than the recovery of the two principal cities in the plebiscitary territory, this being the only way of freeing Peruvians from the oppression of which they are victims under Chilean authorities, and of permitting those Peruvians who have been expelled to return to their abandoned homes, and to recover their property confiscated for no reason except that they were Peruvians. The aspiration of Peru thus restricted gives evidence of a willingness to effectively support the desire of the American Government to reach without delay a satisfactory agreement, and to facilitate in a definite way the solution of the question.

That the city of Tacna and the port of Arica are the principal centers of Peruvian population is a fact already recognized in the information gathered by the American delegation, and the argument that at the present time there are in the port of Arica a greater number of Chilean inhabitants cannot avail, for the reason that most of the Peruvians have been expelled and are now scattered in different provinces of Peru in greater number than the population imported by Chile. If Arica is not returned to Peru the country to which it may be transferred on receiving a city whose greatest majority is Peruvian, with patriotic sentiments deeply rooted, would find itself confronted from the beginning with the problem of irredentism in its new sovereignty and a situation similar to the one now existing.

This moderation on the part of Peru concerning the revindication of her territorial rights, in view of the responsibility of Chile for [Page 501] the failure of the plebiscite, is a circumstance that the American Government should not disregard, particularly since the sacrifices to which Peru consents permit the aspirations of the two other countries, which now appear to be involved, to be satisfied. In reality, even if Peru recovers the city, port and “morro” of Arica, Bolivia and Chile could enjoy the same situation and advantages they would have if either of them should acquire Arica, for the question would be simply one of locating the port on a very good bay existing but six miles south of Arica, which answers all requirements for a commercial port, and establishing there the terminal of the Arica-La Paz railway. Under such conditions Bolivia would have her independent outlet to the sea, and Chile would continue to enjoy the advantages foreseen in the construction of the Arica-La Paz railway, as well as the mineral wealth contained in the portion of the province of Arica retained, which wealth in itself alone is worth much more than all the rest of the plebiscitary territory.

It would appear that the realization of all aspirations being facilitated in this way by Peru, no serious objection can be found to the restitution of Arica, especially when the fact is considered that all this adjustment rests upon a distribution of Peruvian territory.

It must also be kept in mind that the mere return of the province of Tacna to Peru has been on many occasions, and even recently, a voluntary offer of Chile, and this when the moral result of Chile’s responsibility for the non-fulfillment of the award of President Coolidge was not yet a factor in the situation. The Government of the United States, being well acquainted with all the facts, and knowing the full magnitude of Chile’s culpability in the present status, cannot, in right or justice, now propose to Peru as her only reparation and vindication, the same settlement which Chile has already offered with her own interest and aggrandizement in view, and at a time when Chile had not yet been confronted with the overwhelming accusations which General Pershing and General Lassiter, as presidents of the Plebiscitary Commission, were forced to present against her.

The city, port and “morro” of Arica together with the province of Tacna, constitute an inseparable entity, geographically, politically and commercially. Between Tacna and Arica there is no natural barrier which could serve as a boundary; the frontier line would be completely open, giving rise to dangerous complications and making impossible the pursuit and capture of malefactors and the repression of smuggling. Furthermore, the province of Tacna, deprived of its only natural and long-existing access to the sea, would become a land-locked province, and not only would Tacna suffer such irreparable damage but also Tarata, whose complete return to Peru was ordered by President Coolidge in his award, which up to the present time has been only [Page 502] in part carried out. Thus, in order to rescue Bolivia from the isolation in which she was placed by Chile, there would be presented the spectacle of righting the wrong at the expense of a victim which also suffered the abuse of mutilation; and decreeing furthermore that the territories recovered by Peru should remain forever cut off from the world, their commerce blocked and the inhabitants of Arica (expelled because their patriotic sentiments could not be suppressed) forced to suffer indefinitely, if they returned to their homes under the control of authorities who would make them feel the oppression of conquest.

The solution which should be given to this problem, although inspired by reasons of equity, must not fail to be founded in justice, for only thus can the solution have a respectable and permanent character. Anything else will only inflame, rather than extinguish, the animosities which Chile’s conduct has provoked. It would be a grave mistake to assume that the mere division in more or less equal portions of territory could be a satisfactory settlement. This can only be reached by bearing always in mind certain considerations which no statesman can safely overlook, because nothing brings more serious consequences than the sacrifice of inhabitants to the principle of mere compensation in territory, and the disregard of the feelings of a population, as here, clearly expressed against Chilean domination.

The Government of Peru make this final statement: she desires, in all sincerity, to settle this controversy, and will cooperate in every way possible to that end. There is only one reservation upon which she must unalterably insist: she cannot accept, or consider, any proposal which would give to another power the city, port and “morro” of Arica. Any other solution Peru is ready to consider.