The Chargé in Bolivia (Hibbard) to the Secretary of State

No. 505

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Junta Militar of Bolivia has announced elections for the 4th, 5th, and 6th of January, next. On January 4th the electorate will vote on certain amendments or changes in the Bolivian Constitution which have not yet been announced but are now being prepared. These will probably include an extension of the presidential term from four to six years as well as an extension of the congressional term, the inclusion of an article protecting the financial institutions of the country, particularly those established by the recommendations of Professor Kemmerer, such as the Banco Central de Bolivia, the Contraloría General de la República, the National Tax Collecting Company, etc., an article guaranteeing more effectively freedom of speech and action, an article [Page 425] making the continuance of martial law impossible beyond a limited time, certain educational reforms and other reforms in the electoral law making the control of one party impossible.

Elections for the presidency and vice presidency will be held on January 5th and elections for the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on January 6th. The old civil registers have been abolished and the citizens of the country will shortly be permitted to re-register. The registration will be controlled by military officers as well as the actual voting though in the latter there may be civil assistants appointed. The stamp tax on cards of identity, which are required of all voters has been abolished and only the voting requirements specified in the Constitution will be demanded. It is expected thus to secure a more popular and representative vote.

During the past week representatives of the three political parties, the Liberal, Republican and Genuine Republican, have met at the invitation of the Junta Militar to discuss plans for a representative election which would make possible the accomplishment of the revolutionary ideals and a popular government. There has been much speculation as to what means could be taken to avoid party rivalry and whether the party leaders would be able to submerge their personal ambitions for the benefit of the country. After much discussion of a highly patriotic character, a solution has been reached which seems to be the only one possible. The official representatives of the three parties have officially committed themselves to the following ticket. For the Presidency, Doctor Daniel Salamanca, first vice president, Doctor Ismael Montes, second vice president, Doctor Bautista Saavedra. In this way each party has a representative, although such a system will necessitate a slight change in the Constitution which was amended in 1920 to abolish the position of second vice president. It is presumed that the Congress and Cabinet will likewise be coalition in character.

The announcement of this program has been received with universal pleasure. Doctor Salamanca has occupied a unique position in the political life of the country as he has always remained free of party affiliations in spite of his service in various governmental offices. He is honest and intelligent but lacks the force to lead the country from its present crisis. The weakness of his health is a great handicap both physically and temperamentally. His aloofness from party affiliations will also be a handicap as it is impossible for the political life of the country to remain on such an elevated plane and he will be unable by temperament to combat party struggles which must necessarily arise in such a coalition.

Respectfully yours,

Frederick P. Hibbard