Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

In order to avoid press comment I went yesterday evening to the Peruvian Embassy, where I had a conversation with the Peruvian Ambassador17 and with the Chief of the Peruvian boundary controversy delegation, Dr. Tudela. I said to Dr. Tudela that I wanted to reiterate my appreciation of the message which the Peruvian Foreign Minister, Dr. Concha, had sent me through Dr. Tudela when the latter recently returned to Washington from Lima, namely, that Dr. Concha wanted me to be kept fully and closely informed of all details of the negotiations between the delegates of Peru and the delegates of Ecuador and would welcome any personal suggestions I might have to make with a view to facilitating the course of the negotiations. I said once more to Dr. Tudela what I had repeatedly said before, namely, that this Government as such had no part in the negotiations and was merely acting as host to the two delegations. Dr. Tudela said he fully understood this but nevertheless deeply appreciated, as did his Government, the disinterested hope of the Government of the United States that a satisfactory outcome of the negotiations might be found.

I asked Dr. Tudela what his impressions were of the recent conversations he had been having with Dr. Viteri. Dr. Tudela said that he was afraid that the conversations had reached an impasse. He said that he and Dr. Viteri had first discussed the possibility of agreeing upon geographical lines which would bound a disputed zone to be submitted to arbitration by the President of the United States; that when Peru found this to be impossible because of the fact that Ecuador would not agree to any boundary lines which Peru could accept, Peru had then suggested a preliminary arbitration to be undertaken by the World Court in order to define the respective “sovereignties” of the two republics at the time the independence of Peru and of Greater Colombia was declared. This, he reminded me, Ecuador had refused to accept. The conversations had then centered upon the [Page 220] delimitation by each party to the controversy of zones which they could mutually concede one to the other leaving in dispute certain zones for eventual submission to arbitration. This effort had likewise failed because of the presentation by Ecuador of zones for submission to arbitration which involved the existing control by Peru of both banks of the Marañon and the Amazon Rivers and Peru could not possibly agree to relinquish her existing control of these rivers. In this connection Dr. Tudela reminded me that Peru only recently had been placed in a highly embarrassing position and legally in an indefensible position because of her former treaty with Colombia when the inhabitants of Leticia had taken the law into their own hands and had attempted to wrest control from Colombia of territory ceded to Colombia by Peru under that treaty. He said that naturally Peru did not want to get into this situation again. He reminded me that at the present time Peru had no constitutional government and that any treaty she entered into with Ecuador for the determination of the boundary between the two republics would have some day to be ratified by a Peruvian Congress and that it was inconceivable that any Peruvian Congress would ever ratify a boundary treaty with Ecuador which ceded to Ecuador as a result of a direct agreement control of one bank of these two rivers.

I then said to Dr. Tudela that if these were the facts in the present situation, it seemed to me that the likelihood of a breakdown in the negotiations was imminent. I stated that this was all the more regrettable because of the fact that, as the Peruvian Government well knew since it was a secret to no one, Ecuador was passing through a difficult period both politically and economically; that with the possibility of frequent changes in the Government of Ecuador it was by no means unlikely that public opinion would demand that the Ecuadoran delegates be withdrawn from Washington because of the lack of progress which had been made and because of the heavy expense to the Ecuadoran Government which their continued presence here implied and that if that were done, it seemed very unlikely that negotiations could be resumed in the near future. Under such conditions, I said, any chance spark might create a really serious difficulty, which I was sure it was the desire of Peru to avoid. I further said that under these conditions it was not unlikely that the Government of Ecuador, from what I had been told, would refuse to attend the Inter-American Conference at Lima18 and that the whole continent would necessarily regret the holding of an inter-American conference, at a time when inter-American relations on the whole were so highly satisfactory, with one important Government on the continent absent [Page 221] and unwilling to attend because of her continuing controversy with her neighbor.

Dr. Tudela said that his Government felt exactly the way I did but that he did not see that there was anything that Peru could do beyond what she had already done. I said that of course one complaint which the delegates of Ecuador had made to me was that Ecuador had repeatedly made concrete and practical suggestions with the understanding that Peru would make counter-suggestions but that in every case Peru had limited herself to turning down the suggestions made by Ecuador and refusing to present any counter-proposals.

I then said that Dr. Tudela had frequently told me that Peru would be willing to agree to any arbitration which envisaged the determination of Peruvian sovereignty at the time of the declaration of Peruvian independence. I said that it would seem to me that perhaps a way out of the difficulty was to revert to the Peruvian suggestion re prior arbitration involving this point upon which Peru had insisted but that of course Ecuador could not be expected to agree to any such suggestion unless the arbitration included the determination of other factors which Ecuador believed favorable to her own case. Dr. Tudela said that he recognized this but that of course any prior arbitration must necessarily include the so-called Incorporation of 1821, which was the basis for the Peruvian contention that the territory in dispute had been actually a part of the Republic of Peru when it declared its independence in that year. I said that I had that fact clearly in mind and I then asked Dr. Tudela what his opinion would be if Ecuador were to take under consideration the possibility of a prior arbitration to be undertaken by the World Court on the following bases: from the standpoint of factors favorable to the contentions of Peru, the determination of the validity of the Cedula granted by the King of Spain in 1802 and the incorporation of Peru in 1821 as an independent republic, and, as factors favorable to the contentions of Ecuador, the determination of the validity of the Cedula granted by the King of Spain in 1740 and the treaty entered into between Ecuador and Peru in 1829. I stated that it seemed to me that all of these factors must necessarily be weighed in any arbitration which would determine the respective sovereignties of the two countries at the time of their emergence as independent republics and that such an arbitration would determine exactly the question of “sovereignty” upon which Dr. Tudela had insisted. I then suggested that if such a prior arbitration could be had, once the validity of these various factors was determined through such arbitration, the remaining questions to be disposed of, namely, the exact geographical limits of the provinces found to be under the jurisdiction of one republic or the other and the [Page 222] thesis of Peru that possession during the intervening period should be taken into account in the determination of sovereign jurisdiction, might be submitted to arbitration by the President of the United States as provided in the Protocol of 1924.19

To my satisfaction Dr. Tudela seemed very favorably impressed by the suggestion made. He discussed the various factors above recited at some length and after some consideration expressed his belief that possibly some solution along these lines might be satisfactory to his Government. I told him that I had discussed this possibility with Dr. Viteri and that while I had no commitment to transmit to him, I had the impression that Dr. Viteri might be willing strongly to recommend such a solution to his Government provided it was suggested by Peru in place of the terms of the prior arbitration earlier suggested by Peru.

Dr. Tudela said that he would at once communicate with his Foreign Minister, Dr. Concha, by cable and would let me know as soon as he had a reply. He again expressed his particular appreciation for the trouble I had taken in the matter.

S[umner] W[elles]
  1. Manuel de Freyre y Santander.
  2. See pp. 1 ff.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. i, p. 305.