Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Welles)

The Argentine Ambassador called to see me this morning. I informed him that we had just received cables from Santiago and Buenos Aires14 stating that Chile and Argentina had now formally invited the United States to take part in the mediation between Paraguay and Bolivia and that I was advised that similar invitations had been extended to Brazil and to Peru. I also told the Ambassador that I had now had time to read the memorandum and documentation15 transmitted to me confidentially by Dr. Saavedra Lamas through the Ambassador and that the Secretary was himself studying the file at this moment.

I told the Ambassador that while it was as yet impossible for me to make any formal or official reply to the invitation, I could tell him that the opinion held here was so far entirely favorable towards acceptance of the invitation and that I hoped to be able to give him the formal reply in very brief order.

I made the following points clear in my discussion with the Ambassador:

I stated that I construed the invitation to the United States to participate in the mediation solely as an invitation to join in the present peace move initiated by Argentina and Chile without any obligation on the part of the United States of any character whatsoever and that we would have free hands upon accepting the invitation [Page 24] to make any suggestions that we saw fit with regard to the bases of the peace proposals and likewise that we would not commit ourselves in any way through acceptance towards the incurrence of any subsequent obligations. I spoke to him of the implied obligations which the suggested “pacts of honor” would necessarily entail and that on this point I fully shared the expression of opinion offered by Dr. Saavedra Lamas, but that I even went further in saying that I did not see how this Government could at any time agree to guarantee compliance by Paraguay and Bolivia of the obligations which they might enter into as the result of the present peace negotiations. The Ambassador stated that he personally was of the opinion that these proposed pacts could only be construed in one of two ways—either that they were pacts which would obligate the signatory countries to force the belligerents to comply with their obligations through the use of armed force on the part of the other governments entering into these pacts, or else that they were purely verbiage not worth the paper they were written on. The Ambassador stated that he did not see how the United States or Brazil, let alone his own Government, could ever agree to the former alternative.

I further told the Ambassador that the Paraguayan Government, through the Minister of Paraguay, had expressed to this Government its hope that Uruguay would be invited to take part in the mediation. I told the Ambassador that I had made no reply to the Minister beyond saying that this Government would give the most friendly consideration to the intimation made, but that I would appreciate it if Dr. Saavedra Lamas would send the Department full information as to the reasons why Uruguay had apparently been omitted from the invitations extended and what the intention of the Argentine Government was in regard to the participation of Uruguay in view of the explicit request made by Paraguay not only in the communication made to us but also in official documents transmitted to the Argentine Government as comprised in the file sent us for our information.

Finally, I asked the Ambassador to obtain from Dr. Saavedra Lamas his views as to the machinery which would be employed in the period which would exist between the time the mediation group is constituted and the formal opening of the proposed mediation conference in Buenos Aires—whether negotiations would be continued independently by the mediating powers in Asunción and in La Paz, or whether some group would be formed composed of the diplomatic representatives of the mediating powers sitting in one of the appropriate capitals to act as a clearing house for the negotiations.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Telegrams No. 37, April 1, 9 p.m., from the Ambassador in Chile, and No. 19, April 1, 9 p.m., from the Chargé in Argentina, not printed.
  2. A copy of the memorandum and enclosed documentation was transmitted to the Department by the Chargé in Argentina in his despatch No. 650, April 2; despatch not printed.