834.01/17: Telegram

The Minister in Paraguay ( Howard ) to the Secretary of State

39. The following observations are respectfully submitted in response to the Department’s telegram No. 4, March 3, 2 p.m.

The Peruvian Government has been without diplomatic representation in Paraguay since the first of the year (see my 77, January [December] 16, 11 a.m.16) and consequently has no first hand information regarding recent developments here. Its only reports which would not have come from Buenos Aires whence its Minister to Paraguay, who arrived here today, recently submitted a despatch on the situation.17 The Chilean Government has recently changed its Minister at this post, the new representative having arrived January 15. A profound antagonism toward Chile exists among Paraguayan officers which is I understand reciprocated. (See Legation’s 22, April [Page 877] 4, 4 p.m.17a) The Chilean Minister informed me a few days ago when it was rumored that Colonel Irrazabal might be appointed Minister at Santiago, that he would not be received “nor would any other Paraguayan Army officer”. The recent uprising in Brazil has apparently inspired in its Government a keen preoccupation with Communism in adjacent countries. The Brazilian Legation in Asunción has reflected that condition, and appears to be of the opinion that Prestes18 is a refugee in this country. Just before his downfall President Ayala assured me that Prestes was not here and I do not believe he is here now. The special position of Argentina with respect to Paraguay is of course axiomatic. The British Embassy at Buenos Aires has informed the British Legation in Asunción that the Argentine Government “is highly displeased” by the Paraguayan insurrection. Eye witnesses report that two Argentine gunboats and at least six Argentine Army airplanes are assembled at Corrientes and it is fair to infer from the foregoing that while honestly concerned for the fate of the Chaco peace arrangement, the governments named are also influenced in their attitudes towards the new regime in Paraguay by inadequate information, or expert advisers or other considerations.

I share the Department’s opinion that we should as a member of the mediatory group act concurrently with it in regard to recognition and base recognition upon the receipt from the Franco regime of formal assurances that it will respect the Chaco peace agreements. However [apparent omission] are to be the criterion it would seem to be proper to take some positive action designed to elicit such assurances. Through ineptitude and inexperience the new Government destroyed its own means of communication with other governments and to the best of my knowledge its initiatives through the locally accredited Diplomatic Corps have not produced any constructive suggestions. The military mission now in Buenos Aires is not, I understand, empowered to negotiate on any subject other than the return of prisoners and to do that only after relations with the mediatory states are restored although I have no doubt it would be suitably empowered if an intimation of the advisability of such action were to be conveyed to the Provisional Government. Protracted non-recognition without explanation or indication of the course to be pursued in order to obtain it will soon provoke hostility and stimulate the anti-foreign element and might hasten or provoke the collapse of the present regime—in which event it is not improbable that a period of civil war would follow during which the Chaco agreements might be seriously impaired if not irrevocably lost. Constructive action leading to recognition, on the other hand, presumably (although [Page 878] of course it is impossible to know) would strengthen the new Government and facilitate the early conclusion of the present phase of the Chaco negotiations.

Prior to the establishment on February 20th of the Provisional Government some of its present members and the insurrectionary army officers indulged in intemperate utterances especially concerning the Ayala regime and its works including the conduct of the war and the peace arrangements. As spokesmen for the new Government they have become conscious of their responsibilities and the inducements of expediency and have publicly avowed its intention to conform to the practices of international intercourse. If further attacks on the Chaco agreements have been made from these quarters they have not come to the attention of this Mission. On the contrary reliable information indicates that the Bolivian prisoners are now being assembled preparatory to early repatriation. As to the Communist and extremist elements there is evidence that they are being curbed. Certainly they have as yet been prevented from engaging in other than verbal activities although it is true that the students and ex-combatants have, as is not unusual in Latin America, been permitted to seize and operate the liberal newspapers. The Government is proceeding with the reorganization of the administrative establishment (the three branches of Government were declared overthrown by the army on February 17). Public order continues to prevail and no attempt at opposition has yet been reported although widespread uneasiness still exists. The Government is structurally unsound by virtue of its heterogeneous composition and lack of an established party foundation. At the moment an attempt is being made to found a national party inspired by nationalistic sentiments to promote which the memory of Francisco Solano Lopez is being officially evoked. It is more likely that strength will develop through a consolidation of army opinion or the ascendency of the Republicans, conversely the new Government may abrogate at any time. It is probable, however, that it is as satisfactory a government as we may look forward to in Paraguay for the immediate future and it is of course the only agency through which the accomplishments of the Chaco mediation can for the moment be made effective.

  1. Telegram in two sections.
  2. Not printed.
  3. This sentence is apparently garbled.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Luis Carlos Prestes, leader of the Communist uprising.