The Secretary of State to the Acting Chairman of the American Delegation to the General Disarmament Conference (Gibson)
14. For Wilson. Please explain to Drummond and de Valera following regarding the Chaco matter:
First, give them a copy of the declaration made by the other 19 American countries to Bolivia and Paraguay on August 3rd.19 Please state that on July 7th the Neutrals received the first complaint from either of the parties regarding an attack in the Chaco. On that date Paraguay complained that one of its forts had been attacked by [Page 237] Bolivia on June 15th. A series of complaints from one side or the other ensued regarding attacks through July 29. On August 3rd the declaration of the 19 American countries was made and the Neutral Commission asked both parties to stop hostilities on the basis of the status quo before June 15th and enter into immediate negotiations for a settlement of their differences. The suggestion of the status quo ante was made on account of lack of reliable information regarding the series of attacks by one side or the other because it was felt that this suggestion would be fair to both parties and that any other basis might lead to a refusal while one of the parties tried to recapture positions lost since June 15th and also because it coincided with the doctrine of August 3rd. Bolivia declined to go back to the status quo prior to June 15th. The Neutrals then suggested a truce for 60 days, during which negotiations for a settlement would be undertaken.
Bolivia accepted a truce for 30 days. Paraguay accepted termination of hostilities contingent upon guarantees that Bolivia would not use the period of suspension of hostilities to better its military position and attack Paraguay at the end of the truce.
Both parties repeatedly expressed their peaceful intentions but the fighting continued. On September 22, therefore, the Neutral Commission advised both parties that in view of their professions of peaceful intentions the further continuation of fighting was inexcusable and called on them to terminate hostilities at once without conditions and to agree to enter immediately into negotiations for an arbitral settlement without reservations. The Neutral Commission added that it would send military representatives at once to the Chaco to observe and report on the compliance of both parties with their agreement to stop hostilities, should they accept, and added that if these military representatives reported that either party had resumed military operations the Neutral Committee would declare that country the aggressor and would invite the other American countries to withdraw their diplomatic and consular representatives from that country. It was felt that this gave Paraguay as full guarantees as it was possible to get regarding the observance of the truce while the matter was being arbitrated.
Bolivia accepted the immediate cessation of hostilities but did not at once reply regarding arbitration. Bolivia has now said that she can not accept arbitration without reservations because Paraguay claims as part of the Chaco a large section of country which is really in Bolivia proper. Paraguay accepted arbitration but still makes conditions regarding the termination of hostilities, namely, the evacuation of all troops from the Chaco. Bolivia does not accept this and states that the condition of the terrain would put her at a great disadvantage [Page 238] should she accept. Bolivia maintains that Paraguay could reoccupy in a few days positions evacuated whereas Bolivia would require 2 months or more to do so.
The Neutrals today are requesting both Bolivia and Paraguay to state what they consider to be the limits of the Chaco to see if agreement on this point will not make it easier to get an acceptance of suspension of hostilities and an immediate arbitral solution of the fundamental question. Paraguay is also being asked whether, in view of her recapture of Fort Boquerón and other forts taken from her by Bolivia since June 15th, and the beginning of the rainy season, she does not feel that she can now suspend hostilities without reservations but relying on the neutral military commission to see that the truce is observed.
The Neutral Commission feels that there is nothing more to be done at present; is appreciative of the offer of the League to support what the Neutrals are doing, and will gladly keep the League informed, making such specific suggestions for cooperation as the situation, as it later develops, may require.
The League should use patience at the present moment and not expect to get a settlement in the 3 weeks it is in session. The matter will move more slowly. It seems to be entering into a more satisfactory phase and the beginning of the rainy season, while possibly not preventing small clashes, will undoubtedly prevent for some months any large operations.