740.0011 European War 1939/1173: Telegram

The Ambassador in Brazil (Caffery) to the Secretary of State

432. Aranha16 and Nabuco17 talked informally with me this morning in connection with the recent naval action off the Uruguayan coast. They showed me a telegram from the Brazilian Ambassador at Montevideo setting out that the Uruguayan Government had decided to consult the American, Brazilian and Argentine Governments as to the course to be pursued at the present juncture, having in mind the Panamá Declaration. Aranha and Nabuco are very anxious to work in close cooperation with the State Department and will not reply to Montevideo until they hear from the Department. Aranha and Nabuco make three suggestions for a reply:

In view of the fact that the British insist that their vessels were attacked 180 miles from the coast when convoying merchant ships engaged in normal trade, the German ship can be defined as the aggressor in the case and therefore should be interned for the duration of the war; and the principle be laid down by the American nations that any belligerent naval vessel in the future taking refuge after a naval engagement in an American port be interned for the duration of the war. (Since the conversation I see in the press the S.S. Exeter may put into an Argentine port for repairs.) Aranha went on to remark that the United States and Brazil were both voluntarily keeping their ships out of the European danger zone, see my despatch No. 2176, December 6;18 on the other hand by actions of this sort the blockade was being brought to the South Atlantic to the detriment and hurt of international commercial relations.
In case the first suggestion seems too harsh the second suggestion is that all the nations of America protest to both belligerents citing the present instance and expressing the strong hope that similar instances will not occur again; or if it is clear that the German was the aggressor to protest to Germany alone.
His third suggestion would be that consultations among the American nations be not held if there is any possibility that common agreement cannot be reached on either of the two previous suggestions because in their opinion a failure to reach an agreement would have “deplorable results”. In that case Uruguay should apply its own neutrality laws.

Aranha said he and Nabuco will be awaiting with much interest and expectation the Department’s early reply.

  1. Oswaldo Aranha, Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Mauricio Nabuco, Secretary General of the Brazilian Foreign Office.
  3. Not printed.