Memorandum of the Chilean Government49

The Government of Chile has read with keen interest the Memorandum in which His Excellency, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, submits to its consideration the general lines of a plan intended to procure a definitive solution of the controversy regarding Tacna and Arica. The reflections which the Secretary makes in setting forth the antecedents which have induced him to favor that formula, move the Chilean Government to recall, although briefly, the principal historical and diplomatic phases of the question.

The Secretary of State is aware that we can point with dignity to our tradition of a century of foreign policy, always characterized by a spirit of cordial friendship for all of the peoples of America. Never have we failed to make any sacrifice, however great it might have been, when a principle of Pan-American solidarity required it for the purpose of safeguarding the political independence of a nation of this continent.

We do not wish to recall the historic causes which resulted in the break, which in our opinion the Treaties with Peru, of 1883 and with Bolivia, of 1904, brought to an end, and which loyally reestablished the cordiality and peace in which, for more than fifty years, we have been living with these nations.

Only one question remained unsettled at the termination of the War of the Pacific: the definitive nationality of the territory of Tacna and Arica, which was to be decided by its inhabitants ten years after the date of the Treaty.

During forty years, in spite of our repeated initiatives to bring about an agreement fixing the bases to which this popular vote should be subjected, it was not possible for us to reach a satisfactory result.

In tranquil possession of the territory and sure that time would be our best ally to consolidate the position we reached in those provinces, to whose moral and material progress we have devoted our best energy, we spontaneously renounced that privileged position and went to Washington to seek a definitive solution for this longstanding question, animated by our high conception of international confraternity.

The Washington Protocol, entrusted to His Excellency, The President of the United States, the fixing of the bases of that solution and his Award entirely upheld the Chilean thesis which defended the principle of the determination of the sovereignty of the territories through the free will of its inhabitants.

The Plebiscitary proceedings evidenced the enormous electoral majority [Page 513] that existed there in favor of Chile, consecrating our rights to the definite annexation of Tacna-Arica to Chilean territory.

If that verdict had been unfavorable to Chile, our Government and people would have hastened to respect and fulfill it honorably.

In spite of this legitimate expectation, the Government of Chile has not hesitated to entertain the suggestions of the Department of State looking forward to the division of the territory, a sacrifice accepted only as a generous effort in furtherance of peace.

The Secretary of State, who justly appeals to national sentiment of fundamental importance in this problem, will understand the full extent of this sacrifice if he considers the work of culture carried out in those territories by men who there devoted the best years of their lives to permit them to enjoy all benefits of civilization. Teachers, soldiers, missionaries, manufacturers, were the tireless workers of this crusade.

The Republic of Bolivia which, twenty years after the termination of the war spontaneously renounced having a seacoast, demanding as more suitable for its interests, compensation of a financial nature and means of communication, has expressed its desire to be considered in the negotiations which are taking place to determine the nationality of these territories. Neither in justice nor in equity can justification be found for this demand which it formulates today as a right.

Nevertheless, the Government of Chile has not failed to take into consideration this new interest of the Government of Bolivia and has subordinated its discussion, as was logical, to the outcome of the pending controversy with the Government of Peru. Furthermore, in the course of the negotiations conducted during the present year before the State Department and within the formula of territorial division, the Government of Chile has not rejected the idea of granting a strip of territory and a port to the Bolivian nation.

The lofty and inspired proposals which the Government of Chile has accepted in this particular matter, did not encounter on the part of the Government of Peru the reception which they deserved, and the question has remained pending until the present moment.

Our Government remains within the stipulations of the Treaty of Ancon, thus following its long and uninterrupted tradition of respect for the pledged word and the faithful and exact fulfillment of international obligations. With the same thought it has respected the Award of President Coolidge and believes that the best solution of the problem is the application of the method indicated in Article 3 of the Treaty of Ancon and confirmed by the decision of the Arbitrator. The definitive possession of the territory as between Chile and Peru, once determined in conformity with these provisions, the Chilean Government would honor its declarations in regard to the consideration of Bolivian aspirations.

[Page 514]

The proposal of the Department of State goes much farther than the concessions which the Chilean Government has generously been able to make. It involves the definitive cession, to the Republic of Bolivia, of the territory in dispute and although, as the Secretary of State says, this solution does not wound the dignity of the contending countries and is in harmony with the desire, repeatedly shown by the Chilean Government to help satisfy Bolivian aspirations, it is no less true that it signifies a sacrifice of our rights and the cession of a territory incorporated for forty years in the Republic by virtue of a solemn Treaty, a situation which cannot be juridically altered, except by a plebiscite, whose results are not at all doubtful in the opinion of the Chilean people.

At no time did the Government of Chile abandon this solid juridical position given it by the Treaty of Ancon and the Arbitral Award and will not abandon it now. Nevertheless, in deference to the great cause of American confraternity and being anxious to foster reconciliation among the countries involved in the War of the Pacific, Chile has always been disposed to listen to all propositions for settlement which might contribute toward such lofty aims and at the same time might offer compensation proportionate to the sacrifice of that part of its legitimate rights which such proposals import. She now desires to attest, once more, that in discussing such propositions she does not abandon those rights, but solely has considered the possibility of sacrificing them freely and voluntarily on the altar of a superior national or American interest.

In this sense the Chilean Government agrees to consider, in principle, the proposal, thereby giving a new and eloquent demonstration of its aims of peace and cordiality.

The Secretary of State justly assigns special importance to the commercial ties between the interested countries. We understand and share this high aim, not only in the sense of solving the pending question, but also to reestablish friendship between the countries separated by the conflict of 1879.

Being of this opinion, we attach primary importance to the previous conclusion, among the three countries, of Treaties of Commerce, of Agreement on Customs, Ports and other matters of this character, which may serve as a solid tie in the present, which will insure harmony in the future and which will cement the economic union of Bolivia, Peru and Chile, as a basis for a more ample understanding among all the peoples of Latin-America, facilitating their trade and furthering the progress of the continent to the service of mankind.

Consequently, we deem it advisable that the Treaty of Commerce and Customs Agreements which the Secretary of State suggests be concluded with Peru must also be extended to the Bolivian Governmerit [Page 515] in accordance with our constant desire to draw nearer to that nation. This would be for Chile nothing but the consecration, upon a solid basis, of the intense commercial current which exists today between Chile and Bolivia and which it is to the interests of both countries to intensify.

The Chilean Government attributes capital importance to the thoughts which the Secretary of State set forth in his Memorandum with regard for the character of perpetual neutrality in which these territories must be maintained. We, therefore, agree with him that the term demilitarization of that region must be understood in its widest sense, eliminating absolutely all possibilities that in it or in its territorial waters there may be maintained bases of forces of land, air or sea. We must, in this respect, express to the Secretary of State our opinion with frankness and precision. If we grant a means of communication to the Pacific intended to develop the economic life of Bolivia, we have the right to make sure that the sacrifice we are making in deference to a lofty ideal, will not constitute a future danger to our external security. As a natural corollary to this idea, it would be indispensable to stipulate that the territory whose cession is proposed could not be transferred, in whole or in part, to any of the contracting nations or to any other power. The acceptance of any other view would be tantamount to a distortion of the noble motives which inspired the Secretary of State in formulating his proposal.

In the course of the negotiations to which this proposal may give rise we shall present in definitive form the observations hereinbefore formulated, we shall submit all those which may involve our interests and we shall listen with attention to those which the other interested parties may in their turn suggest.

The proposals of the Secretary of State and the suggestions which the parties may formulate we shall consider as an indivisible whole, which corresponds to the lofty aim of the Government of the United States, fully shared by the Government of Chile, to solve definitively the question and to insure peace and confraternity among all nations of America.

Jorge Matte

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile
  1. Copy in English left at the Department of State by Benjamin Cohen, the Secretary of the Chilean Embassy, Dec. 5, 1926.