The American Delegate (Braden) to the Secretary of State

No. 166

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 162 of April 17, 1936, and previous correspondence concerning plans for the repatriation of Bolivian and Paraguayan prisoners of war.

On April 23 Dr. Miguel A. Soler, Paraguayan delegate to the Peace Conference, finally received instructions from his government authorizing him to agree to the repatriation of the greater part of the Bolivian prisoners via Villa Montes, in accordance with Bolivian desires, instead of having them repatriated entirely via La Quiaca, as the Paraguayans at first insisted. There are enclosed herewith copies, in Spanish text and English translation, of a resolution26 which was adopted as a consequence, by the Executive Committee of the Chaco Peace Conference on April 24. The resolution fixes the routes to be used for repatriation and establishes certain rules as to the manner in which evacuation through Villa Montes shall be accomplished.

The Special Repatriation Commission has practically completed plans for the transportation of the ex-prisoners and has worked out railroad schedules, etc. It is now planned to have the first regular contingents of repatriated prisoners start back to their respective countries on May 13, 1936. An endeavor will be made to have a few Bolivian ex-prisoners begin their homeward journey sooner in order to satisfy sentiment in Bolivia.

In order to insure adequate control and supervision of repatriation operations, the sub-committees of the Special Repatriation Commission at La Paz and Asunción are being enlarged. Lieutenant Colonel Lester D. Baker, United States Army, who is arriving on April 29 and who will replace Captain Frederick D. Sharp as the American member of the Special Repatriation Commission, has been designated a member of the sub-committee in Paraguay. He and those of his colleagues not already in Ascunción are scheduled to leave Buenos Aires on May 2. It is intended that, after completing the necessary preparatory work in Asunción, Lieutenant Colonel Baker and some of his colleagues will proceed to Formosa, Argentina, where Bolivian prisoners brought from Paraguay by river boat will entrain for Bolivia.

One problem of some importance in connection with repatriation has not yet been solved. It has been the general understanding that Paraguay would meet the costs of transporting prisoners, both Bolivian and Paraguayan, between Asunción and Formosa. Recently, however, [Page 51] the Paraguayan representatives on the Peace Conference and the Special Repatriation Commission have insisted that Bolivia should meet the costs of transporting Bolivian prisoners between Clorinda, the Argentine town at the mouth of the Pilcomayo river just below Asunción, and Formosa. Their stand is based on the claim that once the Bolivian prisoners have reached Clorinda they will be out of Paraguayan territory and that it has been agreed that all costs of transportation in neutral countries shall be met by the government of which the prisoners are nationals. Since, however, the prisoners are to be transported as far as Formosa by river boat and the Parana river forms the boundary between Paraguay at Formosa as well as Clorinda, the Paraguayan stand would appear to be a mere quibble in an endeavor to save expenses. Actually, despite the smaller number of Paraguayan prisoners, it is probable that the cost to the Bolivian Government of transporting Paraguayan prisoners by rail from the interior of Bolivia, where they are now held, to La Quiaca, on the Argentine-Bolivian boundary, will be higher than would be the cost to the Paraguayan Government of transporting the Bolivian prisoners from Asunción to Formosa. It is hoped that the matter will be satisfactorily settled within the next few days.

Respectfully yours,

Spruille Braden
  1. Not printed; for Spanish text, see La Conferencia de Pass del Chaco, p. 204.