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

No. 2387

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that my Ecuadorian colleague, Señor Aguirre Aparicio, informed me this morning that the Foreign Minister had been earnestly soliciting Ecuador to take some sort of initiative that would assist in the controversy between Peru and Colombia concerning Leticia and the Amazon region. Señor Aguirre Aparicio stated that he had first suggested that representatives from Brazil, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador—the four Amazon countries—should discuss some basic and lasting arrangement of their boundaries in the Amazon region which would allay, once and for all, the spectre of continually recurring disputes. The Minister criticized the method of the Spanish land grants and cedulas and said that until some general arrangement of boundaries concurred in by the four countries could be reached, there would always be the possibility that disputes would arise from time to time. The Minister indicated that Peru and Brazil were somewhat favorable to his idea, but that Colombia was not willing to do anything, and that this obstacle could not be got over. He understands, of course, the Colombian reaction and felt that it was due to the fact that with Leticia occupied by Peruvian civilian invaders, it was impossible to take up any boundary matters until Colombia had reestablished her authority at Leticia. However, Colombia seems not to have held out much promise to do anything even after her authority is again set up.

Señor Aguirre Aparicio then told me that he and the Foreign Minister had agreed that since nothing so fundamental as the Four Power arrangement could be worked out at present, Peru and Ecuador might just as well go as far as possible towards settling their differences. The Minister repeated to me what he has said on various previous occasions, namely, that he was within two months of getting a very satisfactory and fundamentally sound arrangement perfected with Leguia when Sanchez Cerro came into power in 1930. He stated that all the main situations had been worked out and that what would be submitted to the President of the United States for arbitration under the terms of the Protocol, would only be certain of the less important stretches of the boundary where it had been difficult to make mutually satisfactory arrangements by direct negotiations. The Minister said that any broad and early settlement of the boundary question would invite further trouble and that he had [Page 369] worked slowly and carefully precisely to avoid any lengthy arbitration arrangements which would cause local difficulties and later upsets.

The upshot of the talks the Minister had had with the Foreign Minister during the last few weeks was, the Minister informed me, that the matter should be taken up again, that notes should be exchanged, and that the basis for the treaty should be found. This, the Minister stated, was as far as they had got. He added that, contrary to the report now going around to the effect that a treaty would be signed within a very short time, this was not likely, but that there was a clear understanding with the Foreign Minister and that negotiations had begun. However, there is not a very bright prospect that they can continue. The Foreign Minister is ill—rumor has it that he will soon leave the Cabinet, and he is understood to desire to leave the Cabinet. Señor Aguirre Aparicio, however, feels that the situation may be changed somewhat. He says he spoke to the President on Sunday and that the President is now saying complimentary things about his Foreign Minister. Señor Aguirre Aparicio states that the Commission of Notables and the Diplomatic Commission of the Constituent Assembly are both very anxious to have Dr. Zavala Loaiza remain at the head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and that there is a possibility that he may indeed do so on account of this support and to support coming from Civilista ranks. The Minister stated that he had been informed that the new Constitution will be declared to be in force around about the middle of December but that a long list of alterations, provisions, etc., has been drawn up for approval by the Constituent Assembly before the new Constitution is promulgated. One of these provisions, he says, is that the Constitutional requirement that no member of the Judiciary shall serve in the Cabinet will be declared to be inoperative until some date rather far in the future—possibly a year or two away. Whereupon the way will be open for Dr. Zavala to remain.

It is difficult to discover just what is taking place. The Department will recall my other reports to the effect that the President has asked Dr. Araujo Alvarez to form a Government. Yesterday he is reported to have asked Señor Barreda also to do so. Most of the current rumors would indicate that there will be a change, and most of them would indicate that something will be done to change the Constitutional provision above referred to, since Zavala, Alvarez, and Barreda are all members of the Judiciary.

Finally, I beg to call the Department’s attention to the President’s direct statement to me that no treaty with Ecuador has even been considered. Either he does not know what his Foreign Minister is [Page 370] doing, or he wished to mislead me. Señor Aguirre Aparicio feels the President is still in the confidence of the Foreign Minister, but my own impression is somewhat to the contrary.

Respectfully yours,

Fred Morris Dearing