The American Delegate (Braden) to the Secretary of State

No. 577

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a memorandum which at his request I prepared for Dr. Alvéstegui, Bolivian delegate, on the proposed security modus vivendi in the Chaco. He informs me that he has transmitted it to his government, together with other arguments which have been adduced by the mediatory delegates in favor of Bolivia’s acceptance of the modus mvendi. The Bolivian delegate as yet has received no expression of opinion from his government on this subject.

Respectfully yours,

Spruille Braden

At a time when it appears that the fundamental negotiations may be begun with some hope of success, for the Conference to accuse Paraguay of insubordination and to place the responsibility on that country for any incidents which might occur in the Chaco would not be in keeping with the role of a mediator and might prejudice the success of our final negotiations. Therefore, providing Bolivia’s juridical position in this security question can be entirely protected and providing that no serious incidents occur in the Chaco, it would be advisable for Bolivia to agree to the modus vivendi at least for such time as would indicate whether it was workable or not.

[Page 42]

Bolivia’s juridical position may be thoroughly protected by

The projected Conference note to Paragray including such alterations in the last paragraph thereof as may seem desirable;
A separate exchange of notes between the Bolivian delegation and the Conference entirely clarifying the position of all parties concerned. In such an exchange of notes, Bolivia could emphasize her conciliatory spirit in trying, once again, to adjust security matters in contrast with a certain degree of intransigence on the part of Paraguay.

Major Weeks, U. S. Army, is acknowledgedly a competent officer whose opinion is worthy of special consideration by reason of his service for sixteen months in the Chaco, as a member of the Neutral Military Commission and the Special Military Commission, as well as a Conference Observer. He has reported that the essential requirements for the maintenance of a minimum of security and tranquility in the Chaco are:

Withdrawal of troops to adequate distances on each side of the intermediary line.
Limitation of the number of troops or police permitted to remain within the aforesaid withdrawal area.
That any “destacamentos” within that area or concentration of troops in the rear of that area are not to be moved excepting in accord with the Military Observers.
That the Military Observers may be empowered to endeavor to adjust any incidents which may arise and in case of necessity should they be unable to do so, the aforesaid incidents to be referred to the Peace Conference.
No shooting for any reason whatsoever to be allowed within one to two kilometres on either side of the intermediary line.

It will be noted that the “disposiciones” or modus vivendi cover the question of withdrawal of troops by fixing certain concentration points for them. The limitation of number of troops is also provided for in the limited number to be allowed in the “destacamentos”.

The third and fourth points similarly are covered in the modus vivendi and Dr. Zubizarreta has assured the Conference committee with whom he negotiated that the fifth point could readily be handled by the Military Observers in consultation with the commands in the Chaco.

Therefore, while there is no equivalence between the April 23 Regulations and the modus vivendi, and the latter document admittedly does not clearly define matters by laying down “lines of withdrawal”, specifying the exact number of police to be allowed within the area, etc., nevertheless the modus vivendi, if carried out in the spirit as well as in the letter, will prevent all contact between Bolivian and Paraguayan posts or patrols and accomplish the same ends as the Regulations. There is every incentive for Paraguay to comply with the [Page 43]spirit as well as the letter of the modus vivendi and Dr. Zubizarreta has assured the mediatory delegates that in actual practice the provisions of the April 23 Regulations will be carried out. That is to say, the Military Observers, in consultation with the commands, will locate concentration points behind the lines of withdrawal or separation. “Destacamentos” similarly will be placed at ample distances from one another and will be limited in number to probably less than the 500 police allowed in the Regulations. Furthermore, Dr. Zubizarreta declares that every liberty of transit will be given over the Villa Montes-Boyuibe road.

Both Bolivia and the Conference repeatedly have emphasized the urgent need for a security system in the Chaco (see Dr. Alvéstegui’s note, August 5, 193730); hence, for Bolivia now to leave matters in their present status would indicate that previous insistence on implantation of a security system was unwarranted and would make both Bolivia and the Conference appear as having been unduly alarmist.

In any event, as long as Bolivia’s juridical position is fully protected, it is certainly worth while giving the modus vivendi a trial, since, if it is found impracticable it can readily be cancelled and the situation returned to the status of October 20 without detriment to the prestige plus the fact that Bolivia, by acceding to the modus vivendi on this trial basis, would once again have demonstrated cooperation and an earnest desire for peace which could not do otherwise than strengthen that country’s position before the world at large and, in particular before the Hague Court if, as and when the question were ever presented there.

  1. Not found in Department files.