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

No. 3373

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department, in connection with my despatch No. 3370 of April 17, 1934 and my further despatch No. 3372 of today’s date,8 that I had a conversation at the Palace this morning with President Benavides, in which I sought his assistance in bringing about an early ratification by Perú of the London Silver Agreement.9

During the course of the conversation the President referred again—as he had done on the 16th—to the denial of dry-dock facilities to the Bolognesi at Panama and to the engagement of American aviators by the Colombian Government, intimating that the attitude of our Government was unfriendly and that requests from us such as that regarding the ratification of the Silver Agreement came with somewhat poor grace in the present circumstances.

The President said that for the last three days the press agencies have been receiving a flood of messages regarding the Bolognesi and that he had been obliged to have the censorship suppress every one of them as they were of so incendiary a character that for them to be published would undoubtedly arouse resentment against the members of the American colony and he was anxious for that not to happen.

The President was particularly incensed by a report that the Colombian Government had offered a prize of a thousand dollars to any American aviator for every Peruvian plane brought down and said he wondered whether he should not engage some American aviators himself and offer them a higher price for every Colombian plane brought down. He wondered what would happen if Americans should find themselves fighting each other!

Dr. Polo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, had come into the room while I was talking to the President and accordingly I was able to turn [Page 385] to him and ask him to tell the President what had been said in the Department’s Instructions No. 31 of April 11, 3 p.m. Dr. Polo confirmed me in my statement that the denial of facilities to the Bolognesi was an absolutely impartial act and was not directed against Peru, to which the President replied that unfortunately it was Perú that had been affected. I told the President that our Government, after the most careful consideration, had felt it should not, with Government facilities, aid even in preparations for war, and that he could be sure our Government would act with the utmost impartiality in every case; that a real friendliness for Peru animated our Government; that we felt the two Governments were friends and good neighbors and that it was traditional with us that Peruvians were among the closest of all the friends of our Country in Latin America. I added that over a long period of years I had never heard the slightest unfriendly expression in the United States regarding Peru. In short, I said everything I properly could to convince the President we are not inimical to Peru, that we are holding the scales even and that there is no partiality for Colombia.

In the conversation, however, it came out quite distinctly that the President is now quite hostile in his thoughts about Colombia and is convinced that our Government is more favorable to Colombia than to Peru. I told him I felt sure Colombia had felt as much aggrieved in certain cases as he did about the Bolognesi, and mentioned our Government’s action with regard to the aviators going to Colombia as set forth in the Instructions above referred to. The President expressed incredulity and was not to be appeased. He referred to the fact that this Embassy is the custodian of the interests of Colombia in this country, whereupon I asked Dr. Polo to assure the President that our functions were carried out with the utmost care for Peruvian susceptibility and that of course they depended upon the complete acquiescence of the Peruvian Government.

I told the President that I felt it to be my duty, as I was sure he felt it to be his, to keep the best and friendliest relations between our two Governments, and that I hoped any lingering suspicions he might have as to our Government’s action or my own would be dismissed. The President very graciously concurred in this and the question came up as to the mediation the press reports say Secretary Hull has determined upon in case both Colombia and Perú should request our Government’s good offices. I told the President it would seem to me, from what I had read, that what had occurred had been given too positive a character; that my impression was that correspondents at a Press Conference had made an inquiry of the Secretary and had developed his common sense reply that of course if Perú and Colombia should request the good offices of our Government, whatever might be possible under the circumstances would be done, and that it seemed [Page 386] hardly likely that there had been any considered intention of offering mediation or that our Government was merely waiting to be asked to offer it.

I stressed to the President the fact that our Government is following the policy of the good neighbor, saying we sincerely hoped the countries in this part of the world would be able to work out their own problems in their own ways and within their own resources. The President replied to this by saying that if the worst should happen, he would have to defend his country, but that as always, he is doing everything possible to bring about a peaceful settlement of the country’s international dispute.

The Department must not get the impression from anything I have said that there was anything disagreeable about the conversation with the President and with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have always welcomed the President’s directness and frankness as it makes it possible to talk to him with equal frankness and to perceive how he really feels. I regret to say that he is undoubtedly more hostile to Colombia than he has been heretofore and that he has been nettled by the Bolognesi and the aviator matters and finds it difficult to get them out of his system. His army affiliation becomes more apparent and it seems a pity that he has allowed himself to drift back into the attitude of the Sanchez Cerro Government instead of following the policy initiated in the conversations with Alfonso López.10

The internal situation is difficult and the President is undoubtedly under considerable strain. He has problems of considerable importance to deal with in the direction of Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador and the financial situation is also a difficult one. I trust I have been able to persuade him, in response to his frankness about ourselves, that he is under considerable misconception and that notwithstanding his natural disappointment, he can have no real ground for complaint.

As a final remark in closing this despatch, I beg to inform the Department that a decree has just been issued for the construction of a military airport in the vicinity of Lima. A translation of the decree is enclosed herewith.11

Respectfully yours,

Fred Morris Dearing
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Peru ratified “by acceptance” on April 24, see Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. i, p. 771.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. iv, pp. 529535, passim.
  4. Not printed.