Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Latin American Affairs (Wilson)
Mr. Freitas-Valle, the Minister-Counselor of the Brazilian Embassy, called in order to furnish further details of recent developments regarding the Chaco matter, concerning which the Brazilian Ambassador had spoken yesterday to Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Valle said that his Government had been informed by its representatives in Buenos Aires and Santiago that recently the Argentine Government had sent Señor Podestá Costa to Asunción, and the Chilean Government had sent Mr. Félix Nieto to La Paz, in an effort to see if the two belligerents could in some way be brought together [Page 9] upon an agreement for the settlement of the dispute which would thus remove any possibility of the imposition of sanctions upon Paraguay by the League of Nations. Mr. Valle said that his Government’s information was that there had first been an exchange of communications between Presidents Justo5 and Alessandri6 and that following this exchange it had apparently been decided to send the two emissaries mentioned. He said that Dr. Cruchaga, the Chilean Foreign Minister, had asked the Brazilian Ambassador at Santiago for the support of the Brazilian Government at La Paz, evidently in the hope that the Bolivian Government might be prevailed upon to request the League of Nations to postpone any action looking to the imposition of sanctions in order to afford an opportunity to see if it were possible to bring the two countries into direct negotiation. Prior, however, to receiving this request from Dr. Cruchaga the Brazilian Government had received word (this was the impression of Mr. Valle) that Podestá Costa’s mission to Asunción had failed, inasmuch as the Paraguayan Government had indicated certain conditions upon which it would be prepared to negotiate directly with Bolivia, these conditions being those already frequently expressed by Paraguay, e. g. immediate cessation of hostilities, settlement of the basic question as a frontier problem and not a territorial problem, and moreover Paraguay had indicated that she did not desire to negotiate with Bolivia with the assistance of either the League or of any of the American states, but wished to negotiate directly and alone with Bolivia.
Mr. Valle said that in view of the facts as set out above, and inasmuch as his Government had been advised of the Argentine-Chilean démarche only some time subsequent to an apparent agreement between those two countries as to their plans, and as his Government had not been informed of any of the details of the Argentine-Chilean plan or the bases on which they hoped to conciliate the views of the belligerents, his Government had replied to Dr. Cruchaga that under the existing circumstances and in view of the fact that the dispute was now in the hands of the League, the Brazilian Government felt that it could not take any action such as had been suggested until such time as the League had failed or withdrawn from its efforts and the matter should again be presented (as it inevitably must, said Mr. Valle) for the consideration of the American states. Mr. Valle went on to say that, as we well knew, Brazil had strongly opposed action by the League of Nations in the Chaco matter, believing that a settlement could be reached only with the assistance of the American states; also, that recalling the friction and resentment which had only recently existed between Saavedra Lamas and Cruchaga, his Government [Page 10] was convinced that this most recent effort was inevitably doomed to failure—as was in fact shown to be the case by the Paraguayan response.
Mr. Valle said that the Embassy had been asked to furnish us with the foregoing information and to inquire whether we had been approached with regard to the Argentine-Chilean démarche, and what our views might be regarding the attitude which the Brazilian Government had taken in this matter.
I told Mr. Valle that we had not been approached in any way by the Argentine or the Chilean Government in this matter and that the only information we had was contained in a telegram from the Embassy at Santiago sent on February 19, which I proceeded to read to him (the Embassy’s 22, February 19, noon). As regards the statement at the end of the telegram that the Chilean Government “is in full accord with the American point of view as understood here (there)”, I said that I could only assume that the reference was to the views which, as Mr. Valle knew, Mr. Welles had expressed early in January to the Brazilian Ambassador and to the Peruvian and Chilean Ambassadors, that the holding of the suggested Inter-American Peace Conference at Buenos Aires (one of the recommendations adopted by the League Assembly on November 24, last7) might well have practical and beneficial results, inasmuch as it would afford both belligerents an opportunity for direct negotiations under the auspices of friendly and impartial countries. I said that we still felt that if it were possible to bring Bolivia and Paraguay together in the proposed Inter-American Peace Conference at Buenos Aires, this might indeed prove extremely beneficial. I said, however, that in view of all the circumstances, as he had described them, surrounding the proposal which had recently been presented to the Brazilian Government by Dr. Cruchaga, I did not see how the Brazilian Government could have taken any other position than the one which it had adopted.