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

No. 4090

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my strictly confidential message No. 95 of August 8, 4 p.m., concerning our President’s proposals for an Inter-American Peace Conference and the initiation given the matter with the Peruvian Ambassador in Washington by the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Welles, and to report that when I was at the Foreign Office on August 7, the Foreign Minister said he wished to speak to me about an extremely confidential matter which had been brought to his attention by the Peruvian Ambassador in Washington. He then showed me a telegram in which Ambassador Freyre referred to conversations he had had with Mr. Welles and stated that President Roosevelt was extremely interested in having a general Inter-American peace conference called for the nations of America as soon as the Chaco Conference now under way in Buenos Aires should come to an end. Ambassador Freyre understood that the peace conference proposed to be called the “Inter-American Peace Conference” would take the place of the next or Eighth Pan American Conference which, as provided by resolutions at the last Pan American Conference, is to be held in Lima at some date to be fixed by the Peruvian Government.

Ambassador Freyre reported that the idea was that the legislation of all American countries regarding peace was to be brought into some sort of general harmony and that if possible a multilateral treaty to which all American nations could subscribe would be attempted. The Ambassador wanted to know whether these suggestions were agreeable to the Peruvian Government.

Dr. Concha5 told me that he had consulted President Benavides, who had no objection whatever to changing the Eighth Pan American Conference with an agenda such as had been suggested to Ambassador Freyre by Mr. Welles. He stated definitely that Peru wished to cooperate in this endeavor in every possible way. He then added that he understood that our Government was sounding out the other Latin-American governments, presumably through their representatives in Washington, and said he thought that this action coming at this time would create the impression at Buenos Aires that our [Page 4] Government expects the Chaco Conference to fail. He thought consequently that Argentina would not be particularly receptive to the suggestion coming from our Government and might indeed feel embarrassed by it. It was quite apparent from the Minister’s way of speaking and his expression that he feels Argentina is not only sensitive but inclined to be somewhat overreaching and extremely jealous of her prestige as a leader in the broad campaign for peace. He knows of Saavedra Lamas’ personal characteristics and his intense ambition to get the Nobel peace prize, and just as in the case of Chile and Brazil and perhaps other Latin-American countries, he has no particular desire to play second fiddle either to Argentina or to Saavedra Lamas. It seems to me quite clear that President Benavides and Dr. Concha, both of whom are conscious of Peru’s own dignity and importance in the Latin-American scheme of things, are extremely anxious not to play a negative role in the whole matter, and that it shall be certainly not an inferior one in any way but rather one in which Peru, as the seat of the conference, shall have a certain preeminence and relief, and, as a joint caller of the conference with ourselves, have the amount of leadership such action would make justifiable.

The Minister’s stress while we were talking was upon the danger of creating an unfavorable atmosphere at Buenos Aires which might make the realization of the general peace conference difficult, but I feel so sure that he is reflecting President Benavides’ sensitiveness as well as his own desire to affirm Peru’s rights and importance in the matter, that I have the warrant to say that it is suspicion Argentina may wish to dominate the scene which is the chief matter in his mind. Such a dominance, even in a mild form, would leave Peru unsatisfied and somewhat disinclined to cooperate.

Respectfully yours,

Fred Morris Dearing
  1. Carlos Concha. Peruvian Minister for Foreign Affairs.