724.3415/1811: Telegram

The Minister in Paraguay (Wheeler) to the Secretary of State

41. Immediate for White.16 Instruction is being sent to the Paraguayan delegation to retire from the pact conference. The Minister for Foreign Affairs informs me than on June 15 Bolivian troops in a surprise attack made without provocation took Fortín Carlos Antonio López. First information was carried by fleeing members of its garrison and reached the Government here from Commander Estigarribia of the 1st Division. The truth of the account was doubted and he was appointed head of a commission to establish the facts, the news being suppressed here in the interest of the conference at Washington. The Commission’s report was received here last night and fully verifies details, stating that the Fortín was found to be occupied by 250 Bolivian soldiers.

Two Paraguayan soldiers of the Fortín are missing and it is suspected that they are the two men reported some 10 days ago as having been executed by Bolivian troops as alleged spies. I have just left the President who said that the breaking off of the conference is forced upon the Cabinet by the internal political situation here and that if it were not ordered there would probably be popular uprisings [Page 21] when the news is made public tomorrow that would endanger the safety of the Government. Arbo is ill abed. The President expressed regret that the situation was such that no other action was possible in the temper of the people and that no warning thereof could be given to you or to the neutrals. He thinks the instructions will probably not reach the delegates before this reaches you and expressed the opinion that if the neutrals desire to make any representation through them to the Government here it would carefully be considered. The formal note from the Foreign Office, given to me tonight, announcing the instruction to the delegates states that the decision is one which the Government “is obliged to adopt in preservation of the nation’s dignity and its own self respect”. It adds “however great this Government’s good will toward every negotiation for conserving peace, it cannot remain indifferent to an act treacherous and without possible justification”.

  1. Francis White, Assistant Secretary of State; Chairman of the Commission of Neutrals from 1929 to 1933.