Memorandum of the Peruvian Government52

The Peruvian Government has received and carefully examined with due consideration the Memorandum which the Honorable Secretary of State of the United States of America has addressed to it through His Excellency the American Ambassador, relative to the pending questions between Peru and Chile in regard with the nonfulfillment of the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon; a memorandum in which it is proposed as a final solution that the territories of Tacna and Arica be ceded to the Republic of Bolivia in perpetuity upon compensations to be agreed upon among the three countries.

The Peruvian Government appreciates the interest shown by the Honorable Secretary of State in said memorandum in that a final solution be found for the Peruvian-Chilean controversy.

Animated of a sincere spirit of peace and with all due respect and deference, and with no other purpose than that of frankly and loyally expressing his points of view, the undersigned Minister for Foreign Relations of Peru desires to express the following ideas:

When the Arbitration was concluded, to which the Protocol and Complementary Act of July 20th, 192253 refers, submitting the controversy between Peru and Chile to the cognizance and the arbitration of His Excellency, the President of the United States of America, the latter was requested to decide whether, in the present circumstances, the plebiscite referred to in the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon was or was not practicable; that should he deem it advisable to declare that the plebiscite could be held, the Arbitrator was empowered to determine the conditions under which it was to be carried out; and in the event that the Arbitrator should desire that a plebiscite should not be held, both parties, in case that they should not come to an agreement upon the situation created, were to request the good offices of the Government of the United States of America.

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In as much as the proposed arbitration did not include any other parties than Peru and Chile, neither in the Protocol nor in the Complementary Act, was there, even in contemplation, the intervention of a third power. The subsequent acceptance of good offices without abandoning the arbitration could not modify the implied excluding conditions in the act as to the parties.

How can it then be explained that if the agreements concluded between Peru and Chile regarding the arbitration did not contemplate the intervention of a third power in the settlement of the controversy, the latter should come to an end by the intervention of Bolivia which, according to the proposed settlement in the Memorandum, would receive the ownership of the territory of Tacna and Arica.

There is no precedent in International History of any similar case and if there has ever been any country which has profited by the territories which constituted the subject of the controversy between others, it was only as the result of a war or by virtue of the treaties of peace which put an end to the war.

Juridico-political controversies of the nature of that of Tacna and Arica are by obvious reasons of law and of morality limited in their scope to the contending nations. To extend that scope would be to distort the nature of the controversy with detriment to the parties.

Peru and Chile in compliance with the arbitral award proceeded to carry out the plebiscite in Tacna and Arica.

It is not necessary to recount here the plebiscitary process with the incidents attending the same; the fact is that it has not been possible to carry out the plebiscite, and this is not a mere statement by the Foreign Office of Peru, but the irreproachable just decision of the Plebiscitary Commission headed by General Lassiter, supported, besides, by the opinion expressed by General Pershing and the American legal advisers, Dennis and Kreger.

Therefore, as the plebiscite has not been held by reason of Chile’s attitude in the matter, it is clear that the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon, which juridically involved a resolutory condition of the said Treaty, has failed of its purpose, and as the only limitation there was in respect to the nationality of Tacna and Arica was contained in the same clause, these territories have reassumed their status as provinces free from all foreign domination and it has become manifest with all the force of law and fact, that they continue to be Peruvian provinces.

How is it possible that having arrived at this juridical conclusion on the part of Peru and of the United States it should now be claimed that Peru should cede those territories to Bolivia?

The Honorable Secretary of State declares that the numerous efforts made since the Treaty of Ancon was concluded have been ineffective [Page 522] to arrive at a solution within the letter and spirit of the Treaty itself, whether through negotiations between Chile and Peru or whether, as it has been attempted, through arbitration and plebiscite; this declaration conclusively shows that the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon could not have been enforced, and that said treaty has been obliterated for the purpose of bringing about a solution, within its letter and its spirit, regarding the pending controversy. And he further declares that for that reason an attempt has been made to find a solution through arbitration and plebiscite. This last declaration is closely related to that made by the Plebiscitary Commission presided over by General Lassiter in as much as both of them are of a juridical nature and clearly show that the fulfillment of an arbitration and the execution of a plebiscite have met, not on the part of Peru, but on the part of Chile, with the only and positive obstacle presented to its realization.

The Plebiscite having failed, as it has been declared by the aforementioned report of the Plebiscitary Commission headed by General Lassiter, Peru continues to contribute the whole contingent of its good will for the purpose of arriving at a solution of the conflict. Its juridical situation was unquestionable; it had regained its fullest right to the possession, ownership and dominion over the territories of Tacna and Arica. As regards the discussion of good offices Peru was willing however to make sacrifices for the purpose of arriving at an agreement.

In the memorandum of the Honorable Secretary of State it is stated that he has to deal with a question which turns upon a point of national honor. Now, he adds, national honor is a very real thing, and in this particular case, it is perfectly clear that national susceptibilities in this regard are peculiarly sensitive in both countries and must be fully protected.

This statement is of importance and we should congratulate ourselves that it has been inserted in the document on the [under] consideration. Indeed, the controversy regarding Tacna and Arica is intimately and closely related to the honor and dignity of Peru. Tacna and Arica were always since colonial times until the present, an integral part of our territory. These provinces which constitute a part of the national heart, cannot be transferred to a third power in times of peace without impairing the national honor, affecting the dignity of the country and destroying the most cherished expectations of Peru. It is deserving of praise that the Honorable Secretary of State should have taken as a point of inspiration in his proposal not to wound the national honor and dignity of any country. Those good intentions, unfortunately, would not materialize with the cession of Tacna and Arica to Bolivia. And if to this is added that the cession is neither gratuitous nor founded on right, but it is to be [Page 523] placed on the basis of pecuniary compensations, then it will be necessary to conclude that by that cession the honor and dignity of Peru would not only suffer but would be irretrievably outraged.

The Bolivian Government itself in its note of December 8th [7th],54 in answer to the Chilean Memorandum55 regarding the proposal of the Honorable Secretary of State makes the following illustrative declaration: If the Government of Bolivia should ever acquire sovereignty of these territories, Tacna and Arica, it is understood that it will fulfill all duties which devolve upon it for the defense and support of those dominions; those provinces cannot be made the subject of a bargain nor can they be transferred any more than any other part of the national territory. As it can be seen, Bolivia must regard her territory as sacred. She cannot sell it or transfer it. This is no doubt true; therefore if Bolivia is required thus to consider the nature of the territory which is sold to her, it is only reasonable to expect that Peru should consider it with the same respect and that it shall not accept that the provinces of Tacna and Arica shall be a subject of the bargain.

Our country never consented, not even at the time when it was under the pressure of armed forces, to cede Tacna and Arica neither for money nor for any compensations and it is precisely for that reason that the formula was adopted of a plebiscite to take place at a certain time.

The Honorable Secretary of State declares that, leaving out of consideration the attempt to carry out the unfulfilled provisions of the Treaty of Ancon, it appears that, from the nature of the case, there are but three ways to deal with the disputed territory: 1. delivery of the disputed territory in its entirety to one or the other of the parties to the dispute; 2. division of the said territory between them upon bases to be established; 3. some arrangements by which neither contestant could retain any part of the territory. In respect to the first way indicated, it is expressed that it may be correctly stated that such a formula has virtually ceased to be regarded as a practical solution by anybody who really hopes for a permanent settlement.

My Government must, at this point, insist upon declaring that there is no reason for concluding that such way is impracticable and that it is virtually abandoned. That way is precisely the one pointed out by law and justice in as much as the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon has been obliterated by the failure of the plebiscite and, therefore, Tacna and Arica continue to constitute an integral part of the Peruvian territory. It would be quite natural for any judge to so declare it.

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It is to be repeated here that although Peru accepted as an act of Americanist abnegation and as a deference to the high personality of the Arbitrator, to enter into the discussion of other formulas of solution she did so exclusively for the purpose of arriving at a settlement with Chile; but Peru did at all times maintain the intangibility [untouchability?] of her rights and the consequent reintegration of Tacna and Arica to her territory, suggesting only the zone to the south of Azapa for the purpose of giving therein a port to Bolivia.

Peru has therefore, shown herself always conscious of her right, and her spirit of cordiality in the discussion of good offices is no reason for assuming that she has renounced it.

The belief that the division of the territory has receded further and further into the background and that however ingeniously it may have been worked out has yet been unable to overcome the fact that neither of the governments considers that it cannot [can] afford to make an adjustment which involves making substantial concessions to the other does not appear to be, and is not, well founded. Indeed, as it has just been stated, Peru has been willing to cede part of the territory with the object of giving a port to Bolivia, or whether [in order?] to put an end to the controversy with Chile, and even this latter country has manifested her willingness to make restorations to Peru of nearly all the province of Tacna. It is rather startling therefore that a tripartite division of the territory upon the basis of giving Arica to Chile, should have been looked upon as feasible, and that the idea that the division has become impracticable should have arisen only when such a division was discussed giving to Peru the province of Tacna together with the city of the same name and the port and Morro of Arica, and making the division of the rest of the province of Arica, between Bolivia and Chile, to the south of Azapa.

On the other hand the proposed division of the territory on the part of Peru is not a mere product of imagination. Such a division is based on one hand on the indisputable legal titles of Peru over all the territories of Tacna and Arica, and on the other hand on the geographical conditions of the land. The division of the territory, by restoring to Peru the cities of Tacna and Arica would have been, and continues to be feasible specially so by reason of the fact that to the south of those territories are the borate deposits (borateras) of Chilcaya, which is the most valuable and productive part of those provinces, this latter circumstance is one more proof that Peru has not attempted to obtain economical advantages but is mindful only of that which constitutes an integral part of its nationality.

It would not had [have] meant a moral victory for either Peru or Chile to make a division of the territory in the form above indicated, because such a division would have taken into consideration reciprocal [Page 525] and equitable concessions in respect to the interest of both countries and it might even lead to the cession of a port to the Republic of Bolivia.

The Honorable Secretary of State believes there is a possibility of an arrangement by which neither of the parties in controversy will have to deliver anything to the other which shall eliminate the prejudices which arise from a comparison with comparative territorial advantages so that such an agreement would imply a mutual sacrifice and would be based principally on the conviction that, under any circumstances neither of the two countries may expect to receive any important part of this area which has been for such a long time in dispute.

It must be said in candor that in the proposed formula there is not the mutual sacrifice that is supposed to exist, and there is not such sacrifice because Chile in the situation in which she is, according to the report of the Plebiscitary Commission presided over by General Lassiter, has lost all right over the territories of Tacna and Arica, so much so that by not returning them to Peru and by delivering them to Bolivia as it is now proposed, she makes no sacrifice whatever; far from it she would in that case, obtain important advantages, for according to the proposal, there must be compensations for Peru and for Chile.

Which would these be? The proposal itself declares it: The only thing that Chile is to say is how far she goes in her demands; on the other hand Peru would have to make incalculable sacrifices for the proposed formula referred to the delivery to a third power of territories which have always belonged to Peru, which Chile has only retained as hostage and which in a juridical sense have been returned to Peru by reason of the decision of the Plebiscitary Commission. It is also assented [asserted?] that none [neither] of the two countries can expect to receive any important portion of the area in dispute. As to this, my Government is able to declare, once more, that it has always hoped, and still hopes, that justice shall eventually prevail and that as a result thereof the territories of Tacna and Arica shall be returned to Peru. Furthermore, in the same division formulas, Chile has shown her willingness in various occasions to return the province of Tacna to Peru.

It seems therefore, that the expectations of Peru to recover her territories, have not only existed in the past but they still exist now; on the other hand Chile does not have, and could not have any expectation of retaining that which she must not now possess.

As to the question relative to the neutralization of the territories of Tacna and Arica to which the memorandum refers it is necessary to state here that Peru has been a supporter of an arrangement upon [Page 526] that basis, because [as] she sees it, such formula upholds the principles evolved and establishes a regime of liberty and protection for the natives of those territories. The Peruvian Plenipotentiary expressed these views in Washington at the Plenary session held on April 15th of last year when he also rejected the proposal for the cession of Tacna and Arica to Bolivia, presented at that time by the Honorable Secretary of State.56

My Government would gladly favor neutralization, more than any thing else because it would put an end to the martyrdom of the natives of Tacna and Arica and because the international policy of Peru has never been inspired in material interest but in high ideals of justice and protection to human rights.

Neutralization has been opposed by Chile on the grounds that the countries of America look upon it with suspicion or as a mark of American predominance in those territories. That is merely a piece of sophistry, indeed neutralization involves a juridical conception entirely opposed of [to] that of imperialism and to that of the predominance of a nation to the detriment of another. Neutralization rather constitutes a basis of equality.

It is true that the efforts made as regards compliance with the treaty of Ancon have been unsuccessful. This assertion which is identical to the one made by General Lassiter is of real and farreaching international juridical importance. The Honorable Secretary of State of the United States of America himself decidedly states that the third clause of the Treaty of Ancon has not been complied with, which evidently means, as contended by Peru, that the plebiscite has been obliterated from the word and spirit of the aforementioned Treaty.

Expounding the thought developed in the memorandum it may be said that it proposes in a concrete manner that the Republic[s] of Chile and Peru jointly, or through various agreements, shall freely and voluntarily cede to the Republic of Bolivia in perpetuity, all the rights, titles, and interests which everyone of them may have in and to the provinces of Tacna and Arica, a cession which would be made subject to adequate guaranties for the protection and defense without distinction as to personal rights and rights of property, of all the inhabitants of the provinces regardless of their nationality.

Peru cannot accept the proposed cession of the territory of Tacna and Arica, to anyone, whether by purchase or by any other method, because he who has been defending for more than forty years his rights over said territories cannot convert them into a merchandise subject to a price however large this may be.

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As for Chile it has no rights to cede because it has lost all expectations of retaining those territories from the moment that the possibility ended of a plebiscite which would decide their fate.

The most serious point of the cession is the one relative to its inhabitants referring to which the Honorable Secretary of State only provides guaranties for their protection and defense. This part of the proposal of the Honorable Secretary of State contradicts the principles of nationality, those of self-determination and the respect which must be borne not only to the great but to the small national entities, principles proclaimed chiefly by American statesmen like Woodrow Wilson during the European conflict, and when it was found necessary that the World should agree to a durable and just peace. On the 11th of February 1918 Mr. Wilson declared:57 “the peoples and provinces cannot be objects of bargain among sovereignties as if they were simple things or pawns in a game, even if it is that of the equilibrium of forces from now on discredited.” The proposal to cede the territories of Tacna and Arica to Bolivia was made in the plenary session of the 15th of April 1926 and it was disregarded [rejected?], as has been already stated, by the Peruvian Plenipotentiary in the most categorical way. It is surprising therefore that with this antecedent it should be brought up again as a new and decisive formula.

After proposing the cession to Bolivia of the disputed territories the Honorable Secretary of State establishes, as an integrant part of the adjustment, an adequate compensation which Bolivia is to give to Chile and Peru respectively for the public works, railroads and improvements, made both by Chile and Peru during the time that each was in possession of the territories and administered them, which involves the admission that Chile and Peru must be treated on equal terms and forgetting that in virtue of the Lassiter motion, said territories are Peruvian only.

The Honorable Secretary of State proposes that the morro of Arica, with its boundaries to be determined, will be excluded from the transfer to Bolivia and will be converted, under the authority and jurisdiction of an international commission, into a monument, a mausoleum or a light-house which may illuminate the friendly agreement of the Tacna and Arica question.

This suggestion is an ample proof of the possibility of arriving to the neutralization of the territory, because it would be just the same to internationalize it all as to internationalize a part of it.

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The morro is not and can never be to Chile what it is to Peru. The history of the War of the Pacific only says that it was made immortal because [of] the heroism of Bolognesi and the sacrifice of Alfonso Ugarte. The morro has therefore an historical and sentimental interest for Peru; for Chile it can be a strategical position for future conquests but its loss does not wound any fibre of its nationality.

The Honorable Secretary of State in his desire to see continental peace consolidated says that once the aforesaid agreements of transferring the territory to Bolivia, of the payment for compensations and the arrangement between Chile and Peru of said compensations are carried out, treaties of peace will be signed between these two nations, their diplomatic, consular, commercial and navigation relations will be renewed as also all those on other matters necessary to re-establish normal and friendly relations between the two countries.

It is appropriate to state that Peru is and has been a partisan of true friendship; it can only renew it with Chile the day that the latter shows itself disposed to return to Peru the territories of Tacna and Arica. Before that just reparations, which would reveal sincere repentance, it is not possible for treaties to come and which far from tempering forty years of continual outrages would revive them and threaten peace. Peru does not deny its friendship to Chile, but it demands that it come inspired by a spirit of sincerity and of justice which will give it a stable character.

In speaking of the demilitarization, the memorandum refers to the territory which now embraces Tacna and Arica. This phrase must be rectified so that the question of Tarata may not be considered as included in the proposal of the Honorable Secretary of State. In the award of His Excellency the President of the United States of America it is decided that no part of the Peruvian province of Tarata is included in the territory to which the dispositions of article three of the Treaty of Ancon refer to, and which only refer to the Peruvian provinces of Tacna and Arica as they existed on October 20th, 1883 and that the northern frontier of that part of the territory included by article three which lay within the Peruvian province of Tacna, was the river Sama. To establish the boundaries of the province of Tarata the same award created the Boundary Commission. Once the award was issued, delivery was made to Peru, six months afterwards, of a small portion of the Tarata territory; Chile has still to return the rest of the territory which belongs to the same province. It agreed to this by signing an act in which it declared that when the special Boundary Commission made its report and determined the true area of the Province of Tarata in accordance with what article three of the Treaty of Ancon stated, as it was interpreted [Page 529] in the arbitral award, then it would deliver the rest of the territory.

It is not therefore acceptable that it be said that the basis for the cession to Bolivia must be the territories as they are today in the power of Chile. The award has already resolved on those territories and has determined as their area what the Peruvian laws of October 20th, 1883 established. There is therefore a large part of the territory which cannot be disposed of.

The suggestion of the Honorable Secretary of State indicates that the territory of Tacna and Arica will be completely demilitarized in the most ample sense of the word.

The advantage of this suggestion is understood and Peru applauds it; but even more than the demilitarization of the territories, what is needed in America, as in the rest of the world is to diffuse or impose the spirit of peace and solidarity between the peoples, and above all that of justice in the order of their relations, because without the basis of justice nothing lasting can be built.

With the aforesaid suggestion comes also the one of declaring the city of Arica a free port by means of a tripartite convention making arrangements to insure that no tariff or differential duties be established between the three countries, Chile, Peru and Bolivia and that the same be done about the railroad or about any other means of communication within the same territory which now is composed of the provinces of Tacna and Arica. This suggestion is not clear enough. Is the port to be free only for Peru, Chile and Bolivia or it is [is it] to be free to all commerce of the world?

The memorandum of the Honorable Secretary of State continues stating in short, the reasons which in his high opinion better the idea of ceding the territories of Tacna and Arica to Bolivia. He believes that they offer the way to substitute the dispositions which have not been complied with of article three of the Treaty of Ancon and end the controversy which has existed since the treaty was signed; that is to say that he recognizes the necessity of revising the Treaty of Ancon from the moment that he recognizes that clause number three has not been fulfilled. The reasoning ratifies and strengthens and exalts the Lassiter motion.

The proposal of the Honorable Secretary of State does not end the controversy nevertheless, his Memorandum far from simplifying the solution complicates it.

It is affirmed in the Memorandum that the proposal it contains cannot wound any national susceptibility neither Peruvian nor Chilean, because neither one of these two countries makes any concessions to the other. Peru, it is convenient to state, would not only make concessions but would be the one to cede its territories of Tacna and Arica to [Page 530] Bolivia, leaving Chile the right to obtain compensations as if said country preserved any right over the provinces.

The Honorable Secretary of State takes pride in the idea that the proposed solution will insure peace in America. To re-establish the predominance of Right and Peace in America all that is required is to respect justice and to give to each one what belongs to him.

That is why the principal statesmen of the world when signing the Treaty of Versailles sought not only formulas which would end controversies, but immutable principles of right.

Because of the preceding considerations the Government of Peru has found itself in the difficult position of not accepting the proposal of the Honorable Secretary of State, but in its desire to give it life and seeking the means of at least attenuating the resistance incited by it, in the country, addressed to the Honorable Secretary of State the consultation contained in its Memorandum of the third of December last which was meant only to clear up the conception of his proposal in the part which most deeply affected public sentiment, whether if to agree to the cession of the territories to Bolivia, the will of the inhabitants of said territories was to be consulted or not. The Honorable Secretary of State has unfortunately not yet answered the question. In his Memorandum of 11th of the same month he only refers to the civil rights of said inhabitants referred to in his last proposal, but he says nothing of the political rights of the same, which was the matter consulted.

The Peruvian Foreign Office, finds therefore, very much to its sorrow, that it cannot accept the proposal contained in the Memorandum of the 30th of November last. This rejection does not carry with it, nevertheless, the intention of obstructing any other solutions. Far from that, Peru has accepted the partial or complete internationalization of the provinces, has accepted their division giving Bolivia gratuitously an outlet to the shore and there an inlet whose conditions would allow it to be converted into a large, suitable, and safe port. Finally it is disposed to listen to all suggestions for a settlement, but under the condition that the towns of Tacna and Arica be returned to it, the latter with its port and Morro.

Peru cannot accept, even at the risk of running counter to its traditional policy of deference to the United States of America, a solution which carries with it the forsaking of its citizens, which is what it would amount to, if they are left in the state of subjugation and shame in which they live today.

Pedro Jose Rada y Gamio

Minister for Foreign Relations of Peru
  1. Memorandum in English left at the Department of State by the Peruvian Ambassador Jan. 17, 1927.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1922, vol. i, p. 505.
  3. Bolivia, Anexos a la Memoria que presenta el Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores y Oulto al H. Congreso de 1927, p. 52.
  4. Ibid., p. 46.
  5. See telegram No. 44, Apr. 15, 8 p.m., to the Ambassador in Peru, p. 385.
  6. Message to Congress Feb. 11, 1918; Foreign Relations, 1918, supp. 1, vol. i, p. 108. The quotation reads: “Second, that peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were mere chattels and pawns in a game, even the great game, now forever discredited, of the balance of power.”