The Minister in Paraguay (Wheeler) to the Secretary of State
[Received 3:55 p.m.]
53. Your telegram No. 22 of July 15, 1 p.m., was received at 10 o’clock last night and I made the instructed representation this morning. The following note in reply to the neutrals’ cable of July 11 was sent. I transmit it:
“His Excellency Henry Stimson,
Secretary of State of the United States of America,
Excellency: I have the honor to address Your Excellency and through you Their Excellencies the members of the Commission of Neutrals in reply to your telegraphic note of the 11th instant, with the request that you be good enough to send this reply to the said Commission.
My Government, Excellency, appreciates at its high value the noble effort of the Commission of Neutrals to prevent the closing of the conference for the negotiation of a pact of non-aggression because I understand that by means thereof there would perhaps have been obtained the signature of the pact which would have constituted a guarantee for peace without diminution of the honor to which my country aspires, but regrets its inability to defer to the request to revoke the decision to withdraw its delegates from the above-mentioned conference because the offense committed against the nation by the attack in the midst of peace on Fortín Carlos Antonio López (Pitiantuta) by regular troops of the Bolivian Army prevents it from continuing to treat with the aggressor without the latter’s first giving a satisfactory explanation of the fact and just reparation of the damage caused.
However great our love of peace and our desires to settle the boundary dispute with Bolivia through juridical and conciliatory procedure, we cannot continue in that conference which was organized precisely at the initiative of the same Government which has just made an aggression upon us in a manner treacherous and wholly unjustified under law and international morality.
For the better comprehension of the attitude of my Government, I shall make a brief statement of the facts which form the basis for it.
In the morning of the 15th day of June of the current year the small garrison of five privates and a corporal of the above-mentioned Fortín Carlos Antonio López (Pitiantuta) was attacked by surprise by a detachment of regular troops of the army. In the assault the corporal at the head of the small garrison and one private disappeared, the remainder, pursued by the aggressors, buried themselves in the deep woods of the region and after three days of privations arrived at the quarters of the regiment, Colonel Toledo, situated [Page 30] about 150 kilometers from the place. According to the dispersed soldiers, the attackers remained in possession of the fortín and of the equipment, tools, food and some rifles.
The above-mentioned soldiers communicated the news to the headquarters of the above-mentioned regiment. The commander of the division, Lieutenant Colonel Estigarribia, in view of the unusual character of the news, ordered a patrol under the command of Lieutenant Scarone to go to the place of the action to verify the information. The reconnaissance made by this officer on June 29, which cost the loss of two more soldiers of our army, verifies the sad truth that the fortín was in fact occupied by a detachment of about 200 men of the Bolivian Army.
In spite of the fact that to date your honorable Commission has not informed my Government of the cause, pretext, or motive which Bolivia adduces to explain or justify the action whereby she angrily broke off the Conference, this chancelry has learned from the publications of the Press that the Bolivian delegates presented a memorial to your honorable Commission in which they state that a detachment of troops of the Bolivian Army, under the command of Major Oscar Moscoso, while looking for water approached a small lake near Fortín Mariscal Santa Cruz, that the detachment found to the east of the lake an old abandoned cabin and, believing that it might be of Paraguayan ownership, went to the west of the lake to prevent any possible attack, that the detachment remained in that position from June 15 to June 29, on which date it had to face a surprise attack by a force of 50 Paraguayan soldiers, etc.
This communication, Excellency, in which the truth is twisted in an ignoble and perfidious manner, is demonstrating that Bolivia upon beginning the new adventure, which is pregnant with peril for the peace between the two countries, premeditated and carried it out with the deliberate object of putting an end to the conference, since, being able to give an explanation more in harmony with the reality of the facts and the geographic characteristics of the region, she chose another in which insult is added to injury.
The aggressors know that the building which they call an abandoned cabin is Fortín Carlos Antonio López located at 60° 20’ approximately from the meridian of Greenwich to the north of the parallel passing through Fort Olimpo and on the shore of Lake Pitiantuta, a fortín which was occupied by the small detachment of regular forces of the Paraguayan Army which was attacked. Nevertheless in the memorandum in reference Bolivia affirms with most reprehensible audacity that the above-mentioned lake is found near the Bolivian Fortín Mariscal Santa Cruz, a fortín which, according to Bolivia’s own maps is situated more than 100 kilometers to the northwest of the point mentioned. Neither do the aggressors mention in their memorandum that in the surprise attack of June 15 the corpora] and private disappeared, and we do not know whether they are dead or alive in the power of the Bolivian Army. Neither do they state that the encounter of June 29 with the Paraguayan patrol, to which they refer, occurred when the latter was going to Fortín Carlos Antonio López, the reoccupation of which was opposed by the attacking Bolivian detachment.[Page 31]
With respect to the assertion that the position in which is located Fortín Carlos Antonio López was not occupied by Paraguay, it is also false since on the maps which accompanied the last memorial of reply of the delegation of Paraguay in the conferences of Washington it is clearly shown that all that region, as well as the greater part of the Chaco, is under the possession of Paraguay and that Bolivia holds only a part of this territory, thanks to the military advance of the last few years in violation of the statute established in the pact of 1907.
Paraguay, with the purpose of preventing clashes with the Bolivian Army, especially during the course of the conferences which were being held, ordered that the advanced positions should not be protected except with small detachments of not more than six to ten soldiers, but Bolivia instead of responding with like nobility to this conduct took advantage of it to attack us with very superior forces at Fortín Carlos Antonio López and possess herself of it after having organized, to the alarm of all America, a showy military concentration at Villa Montes hardly two months ago.
In view of the facts briefly set forth the members of the honorable Commission of Neutrals, jealous defenders of the honor and dignity of their respective countries, will understand fully the right my Government has to withdraw its delegates from the present Washington Conference.
What prospect of a reasonable and trustworthy agreement can be offered by a conference held in an atmosphere of shocks and anxiety constantly provoked by the bad faith, which is not even dissimulated, of one of the Parties. But the decision to which my Government sees itself obligated by the latest aggression which has caused the noble efforts of the Neutral Governments to fail does not mean that Paraguay considers closed the peaceful path which may lead to the solution of the long controversy. Paraguay does not deem that conciliatory procedures for the settlement of the dispute have been exhausted and is now, as always, disposed to hear and study any reasonable proposal suggested by the Neutrals whose earnest good will she does not cease to appreciate and be grateful for, which may tend to tranquilize spirits, either by the conclusion of a pact of non-aggression which is satisfactory because of its provisions and because of the dependability and honorability of the nations which guarantee its execution, or by a study of the fundamental question of the Chaco dispute to try to find for it a legal solution through the procedure of arbitration to which civilized countries appeal to put an end to their differences.
Paraguay, during the course of her boundary dispute with Bolivia, consistent with her history of clean diplomacy has given unequivocal proofs of her peaceful sentiments, has accepted all the conciliatory procedures, hitherto unfruitful, but her love of peace and harmony among nations will not prevent her from acting to safeguard her sovereignty and her dignity in harmony with the dictates of honor and the pride characteristic of her historical tradition.
Thanking once more the very worthy representatives of the Neutral Countries for their noble efforts to prevent the sky of America from [Page 32] being darkened with the clouds of an international conflict, I have the honor to offer to Your Excellency the assurances of my highest and most distinguished consideration. (Signed) Higinio Arbo.”