721.23/54: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru (Dearing)

55. Your 160, September 13, 9 p.m. For your personal information following are the considerations which make it impossible for the Department to comply with Manzanillo’s request. However unpopular [Page 278] the Salomón-Lozano treaty may have been, it is a fact that it was ratified by both countries5 and has been in force for some years. If Peru had desired to modify this treaty there is no reason why she should not have requested Colombia to consider negotiations to that end. To do so now, however, after a Colombian town has been captured by Peruvians and to say that it will be impossible for the Peruvian Government to remain quiet while Colombia reestablishes her control over territory Peru has recognized as Colombian, is to make all international treaties and agreements absolutely valueless and is directly contrary to the declaration of the American republics of August 3,6 a declaration which was subscribed to by Peru. In fact, Peru was the first of the American countries to agree to the proposal of the Neutral Commission that that declaration be made.

The present is a time of great unrest and disquiet throughout the world and it is to the interest of all Governments to try to maintain order and stability not only internally but in their foreign relations as well. There is not a country in South America that has not had serious boundary disputes in the past, almost all of which have fortunately been settled by peaceful agreements. To start reopening these questions now by the use of force can only lead to chaos. In this connection the Department was advised early in the summer by a distinguished Peruvian of the consternation caused in Peru by statements alleged to have been made by one of the recent provisional regimes in Chile7 that it intended to revise the Tacna-Arica settlement.8 If this is correct, Peru should be able to realize the effect which its present action may well have in Colombia.

The orderly procedure to follow in this case would seem to be to disavow the occupation of Leticia and assist in restoring Colombian authority there or at the very least to do nothing to thwart the reestablishment by Colombia of its jurisdiction. After this has been done Peru could then consider whether it felt that its interests required that it should ask Colombia to negotiate with it in an orderly way for a possible revision of the treaty. The important point, however, is that the treaty is in force, is valid, and should be respected, and that no change in it should be sought other than through peaceful negotiations. To endeavor to negotiate on the basis of the occupation of Leticia by Peru is in effect to consider the boundary treaty a scrap of paper and a repudiation of the declaration of August 3 within 6 weeks after Peru signed it. Bogotá informed.