724.34119/84: Telegram

The Ambassador in Argentina (Weddell) to the Secretary of State

164. From Gibson.

Saavedra Lamas and Rodriguez Alves lunched with me today and spent 3 hours discussing Conference problems.
Ayala has told Argentine Minister at Asunción he plans to meet President of Bolivia between August 8 and 11 in the hope of finding a direct solution of the territorial question. No mention was made of the possible discussion between commanding generals referred to in Thurston’s recent telegram.
I impressed on Saavedra Lamas that this impending meeting of the Presidents to discuss the fundamental territorial question rendered imperative prompt action by the Conference on the two secondary questions of prisoners of war and tribunal on responsibility; that if we could waive [reach?] agreement on these questions and make it public we should create an atmosphere favorable to agreement by the Presidents, whereas if the Presidents reached an agreement on the fundamental question at a time when we had accomplished nothing, after months of negotiation, publicity and festivities, our Conference would clearly appear to be a fizzle.
Saavedra Lamas became enthusiastic about immediate action and said that we must make a concerted effort to settle both problems without delay.
He adopted for his own use a draft agreement for the exchange and repatriation of prisoners of war which I drew up for him and is to discuss it with the Paraguayan delegation tomorrow in an effort to secure their acceptance. If they accept, believe there will be no great difficulty with the Bolivians. Apparently the chief instance of difficulty is their (Paraguayan) desire to hold the prisoners as a hostage for the discussion of the territorial question and we impressed on Saavedra Lamas that he was the only one who could make them see reason on this point.
We agreed to talk with the Peruvian delegate separately in the hope of persuading him to abandon his obstruction to the tribunal on war responsibility. If this does not suffice, Saavedra Lamas says he will be obliged to make representations to the Peruvian Government, [Page 112] convinced that Concha70 has too true an understanding of the role of a mediator to countenance opposition to an agreement reached between the parties.
Saavedra Lamas brought up the various regional questions referred to in article I, paragraph 5 of the Protocol, maintaining that we should not disband until we had built up a comprehensive régime for the rehabilitation of both countries. Rodriguez Alves and I impressed on him that in our opinion, which was shared by others, these questions were not susceptible of treatment by this Conference. As Saavedra Lamas made still another allusion to American financial help, I took occasion to go into the question fully and said it would be most unfortunate if the subject were broached in Conference, committee or otherwise, as I should be obliged to deal with the matter in plain language possibly pointing out that this warning had already been given; that any proposal made in the Conference could do no possible good and might readily prove embarrassing to those who made it. I said that I counted on him to see that this contingency did not arise and he assured me that he would do his best.
He then said we might furnish financial experts to help both countries put their houses in order. I replied that if either or both countries approached our Government directly, they would doubtless find a readiness to help them in choosing the right man but that this was not a matter which could be handled by the Conference.
Rodriguez Alves then stressed the Brazilian view that these were regional or bilateral problems; he said Brazil was prepared to discuss with both Bolivia and Paraguay the granting of transit and port facilities but that this could not be done in Conference. Saavedra Lamas said that as these questions were raised in the Protocol they should at least be examined and form the subject of Conference resolutions. We expressed our doubts on this subject and left it at that.
Saavedra Lamas said that we could not hope for direct settlement of the territorial question as Bolivia insists on a port on the Paraguay River and that this could not be granted by Paraguay. He said that the only solution would be to recognize that Bolivia was the aggressor and impose on her a sum of reparations high enough to induce Paraguay to grant access to the river. Rodriguez Alves and I objected definitely to prejudging the question of responsibility as we had set up a tribunal to examine this question, but Saavedra Lamas insisted there could be no doubt of Bolivian aggression and said quite calmly that he made no secret of his pro-Paraguayan sympathies.
Espil71 has reported a suggestion from the Department of a further conference72 to deal with machinery to avert further American wars. Saavedra Lamas replied that in his opinion it would be a mistake to consider this subject before we had settled the present conflict. After this is achieved he considers a general conference desirable.
We have agreed on a series of consultations together and with other members of the Conference in the hope of expediting agreement. For the moment there seems to be distinctly more hope of action than at any time in the past, but the Department will realize of course that all this is subject to change without notice. [Gibson.]
  1. Carlos Concha, Peruvian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Felipe A. Espil, Argentine Ambassador to the United States.
  3. See section entitled “Preliminaries to the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace To Be Held at Buenos Aires in 1936,” pp. 1 ff.