The American Delegate (Braden) to the Secretary of State
[Received August 16.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 406 of April 20, 1937, wherein I commented on the many delays encountered by the Peace Conference and stated that “the Conference must now demonstrate that definite progress towards a final solution is being made, otherwise its prestige will be undermined, its authority weakened and the opportunity for a final peace lost”.
On April 23 the Conference formally approved the regulations for transit, control, and policing;12 on June 16 Colonel Trabal (Uruguayan Army) and Captain Vacca (Argentine Army) were despatched to the Chaco to put the regulations in force; on May 25 the Bolivian and Paraguayan Foreign Ministers exchanged telegrams declaring diplomatic relations renewed; on June 8 the Conference resolved that direct negotiations on the fundamental question were opened; and on July 12 the Conference reaffirmed this resolution. Nevertheless, the regulations are not in force; ministers have not been appointed, hence diplomatic relations have not been effectively renewed; and little useful discussion on the territorial question has been had in the Conference since last December.
This lamentable state of affairs, aside from those reasons listed in my aforesaid despatch No. 406, in my opinion may be ascribed to a combination of the following: [Page 20]
- Unfortunately phrased public statements by Dr. Stefanich, Paraguayan Foreign Minister, and also by Dr. Finot, Bolivian ex-Foreign Minister, in contravention of their solemn promises to refrain from so doing.
- Further delays and quibbling over interpretations by the Paraguayans through Dr. Ramírez, head of their delegation.
- As I have, on various occasions, informed the Department, it has become increasingly apparent during the last several months that the supreme consideration of Dr. Saavedra Lamas, Conference president, is to preserve his personal reputation as the Great Peacemaker. He fears to face the difficulties which necessarily will arise in the territorial negotiations or the drafting of the arbitral compromise and frequently has admitted of late that his earnest hope is to pass the Chaco question to the World Court for solution. Failing in this, his program will be through procrastination and obstruction to avoid the Conference actively entering the territorial negotiations until he has retired from office, so that the responsibility will fall on his successor as Foreign Minister and Conference president. Last year, at Geneva and elsewhere, he had it widely circulated that nothing remained to be settled in the Chaco but a mere question of boundaries such as exists between many countries (sic). Thus, he would disparage success as an unimportant detail made possible by his own efforts, and ridicule failure as evidence of incompetence by his successor in contrast to the accomplishments attained under his own leadership.
- Dr. Saavedra Lamas’ desire for Argentine domination—at least economically—over the Chaco and southeastern Bolivia, coupled with a fantastic fear that his country is surrounded by envious neighbors who are forming “blocs” with one another directed against Argentine interests. This reasoning by the Foreign Minister perhaps leads him to believe that the best policy to pursue is either to make the final peace alone, free from the other mediatory powers, or to perpetuate the division between at least two of Argentina’s five neighbors—divide et impera.
The Conference failure to make measurable progress this year may largely be attributed to (c), although (a) and (b) definitely are factors. I mention (d) as a possibility, although I am not prepared to affirm that it has been an element of any importance.
Now, in my opinion, the essential facts are:
- The Conference, during 1937, can point to little, if any, constructive accomplishment.
- Enough is known of the opposing Bolivian and Paraguayan theses to warrant the belief that a final territorial agreement, though extremely difficult of attainment, nevertheless is possible if only a determined, intelligent, uninterrupted effort be made by the Conference. Whether such an intensive effort can be had under the presidency of Dr. Saavedra Lamas remains to be seen.
- Unless a solution of the territorial question can be reached by the Conference another Chaco War, sooner or later, will be inevitable.
- The evasive, face-saving program of Dr. Saavedra Lamas outlined under (c) will not solve the territorial differences but on the contrary will open the way for a renewal of hostilities.
- Interpreting what I understand to be the Department’s wishes, my attitude in the Conference has always been that every conceivable effort must be made to arrive at a solution of the Chaco problem at this Conference, and if possible before the Justo government goes out of office.
- Previously, my Brazilian and Chilean colleagues (Ambassadors Rodrigues Alves and Nieto del Río) and I have been able to circumvent Dr. Saavedra Lamas’ personal peculiarities, delays and obstructions by reasoning, flattery, and other means, doubtless because his and our final objectives were then identical; now they are different and it has been amply proven that our former methods with him no longer are successful. Therefore they must be changed.
As the opening broadside in my new campaign (activating the dismay at the El Mundo article transmitted in my despatch No. 468 of July 29, 193713), I read my enclosed statement of July 30 at the Conference session held that day at my insistence after it had been cancelled by Dr. Saavedra Lamas. He did not attend. It had a decided effect. Also, it brought out the fact that my Uruguayan and Peruvian colleagues apparently have not been presenting to their governments a true picture of the sad course of this Conference, and they made it clear to me that were my statement to appear in the minutes they would be subject to criticism by their governments. I therefore agreed that it should not appear in the minutes but threatened to read it in should there be any further cancellation of meetings and procrastination. This mild piece of blackmail will, I hope, have a salutary effect. During the session of July 301 likewise commented upon the unjustifiable number of meetings which had been cancelled (see enclosed schedule for July).13
As a second step in my program I refer to the special report from the Military Observers dated July 28 and the personal letter dated July 27 addressed to me by Major John A. Weeks, both enclosed with my despatch No. 473 of August 2, 1937.13 The situation described in those two communications is dangerous and, in view of that fact, at the session of August 21 read the statement appearing as enclosure No. 2. The essential was the removal of Bolivian and Paraguayan troops from their present positions almost in contact with one another. Hence when Sr. Ramírez, Paraguayan delegate, was invited to the meeting, he was informed this withdrawal of the troops from near the line of “hitos” must take place without delay. I repeated to him that [Page 22]if this is not done, I shall in duty bound have to recommend to my government that it discontinue its moral guarantee. Sr. Ramírez did not answer; this may be an indication that he was impressed.
Needless to say, I shall, as heretofore, exercise every precaution, in carrying forward these new tactics, to avoid any serious clash with Dr. Saavedra Lamas. But I trust the Department will agree with me that it is impossible to permit things to continue as they were going, and that it is imperative that action be obtained.