The American Delegate (Braden) to the Secretary of State

No. 575

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram No. 212 of November 6, 3 p.m. concerning statements attributed to Major Mauriño, Argentine Military Attaché in La Paz, to the effect that Dr. Saavedra Lamas desired the elimination of the other mediatory nations so that Argentina could act alone. The Bolivian delegate yesterday advised Ambassador Rodrigues Alves and me that he had received a telegram from his government confirming the Mauriño story.

In that connection, on the evening of November 25, Sr. Carcano, Argentine Ambassador in Rio de Janeiro, confidentially advised the Brazilian delegate, Ambassador Rodrigues Alves, that he had warned the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs that Argentine policy on the destroyer incident28 and the Chaco would, if continued, alienate Brazil and cause that country’s withdrawal from the Peace Conference. The Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs replied that he did not mind in the slightest degree if Brazil and all the other mediatory powers withdrew but would indeed welcome it, since he had agreed with the Paraguayans that negotiations might be pursued with Argentina [Page 38]as the sole mediator. I believe allowance should be made for Ambassador Cárcano’s strong antipathy for Dr. Saavedra Lamas; Dr. Zubizarreta and his colleagues have shown no such disposition as attributed to them by the Conference president.

I am reliably informed that Major Tauber, Argentine Military Attaché in Asunción made a hurried and secret trip into the Chaco a couple of weeks ago and thereafter immediately came to Buenos Aires. One naturally wonders if his mission was not similar to that of his fellow officer in La Paz.

Dr. Zubizarreta, Paraguayan delegate, advised me confidentially on November 27 that he had been summoned a few days before by the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs to a meeting with Major Mauriño who, among other indiscretions, said that Bolivia, being anxious for a final treaty, was willing to pay a large sum of money to Paraguay and no longer desired a sovereign port. Dr. Saavedra Lamas injected the remark—“No paltry sum but many millions”. While I believe the Bolivian government will be willing, in the final showdown, to put up money and forego a sovereign port if it obtains an otherwise satisfactory agreement, to pass this information on to the Paraguayans at this time can only make our negotiations with them more difficult. Major Mauriño, supported by the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs, also told the Paraguayan delegate that they could obtain a frontier, for at least a short distance, along the Parapiti river. The Bolivians have always declared they preferred war to making such a concession.

The Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs naturally tried to keep secret the Mauriño mission. When he found he could not do so, and that his personal efforts to settle the Chaco singlehanded were not as successful as he had hoped, he produced Major Mauriño at the Conference session of November 26, that the other delegates might be enlightened by him on his mission in Bolivia. Among other statements, Major Mauriño said that the Bolivian government would be willing to put up between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 pesos, Argentine currency. The maximum sum ever discussed previously had been £200,000 or approximately 3,350,000 Argentine pesos.

The importance of this affair lies in the fact that there is confirmation that Major Mauriño, under orders from Dr. Saavedra Lamas, did interview high Bolivian officials with a proposal to torpedo the Conference. He was unsuccessful since the Bolivian officials replied their country preferred the Conference. It is the role of Charity to suppose that Major Mauriño exceeded his instructions. On the other hand the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs’ statement to his Ambassador in Rio de Janeiro that the Paraguayans were agreeable to his idea of Argentina proceeding alone in the mediation was written only [Page 39]a short time before Major Mauriño was sent to La Paz and therefore strong presumption exists that he acted under orders.

I have thoroughly discussed this matter with Ambassador Rodrigues Alves and we are of opinion that nothing can be done by us in the premises without seriously endangering the Conference. It appears best to leave that Mauriño incident where it is and to ignore this last intrigue by Dr. Saavedra Lamas as we have others.

Respectfully yours,

Spruille Braden
  1. See despatch No. 1710, August 20, 1937, from the Ambassador in Argentina, p. 246.