810.20 Defense/111: Telegram

The Minister in Paraguay ( Howard ) to the Secretary of State

36. This morning Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Benitez, informed me that the President11 desired my Government to know without delay and in strict confidence the following: [Page 151]

The victory of Great Britain would alter very little the status quo of this Continent while should its blockade be broken a problem for all the American countries would be created because of the probable conduct of the totalitarian powers.

In Brazil there exist dense groups of German and Italian population, in addition to the Japanese, which might immediately raise a minority issue similar to the Sudeten. Brazil alone would be powerless to resist such demands and autonomy of these groups would destroy Brazilian unity and constitute an aggressive force in the vicinity of the River Plata countries.

The British blockade being broken the power of the United States would be the only barrier to expansion these forces inspired and aided under cover from overseas but for the moment that power is more potential than real so that if the United States does not prepare in time a base of operations in South America, it might run the risk of finding important sections of South America under firm German-Italian influence.

In case this should occur such alien forces would immediately desire to bring Paraguay within their orbit as also zones in Uruguay and Argentina, all of which would isolate Paraguay and render its resistance very difficult in view of the lack of adequate means of defense; on the other hand a well-prepared Paraguay could seriously combat any such attacks. There are common interests between the United States and Paraguay in this connection the defense of which can only be made in common.

Domination of the Atlantic Coast by hostile armed forces would create much uncertainty for Paraguay to which the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine is of great importance.

Any disturbance could be combated advantageously were there to be organized in Paraguay a substantial air force and a strong motorized corps. Action could then be taken from the interior of the Continent while the American fleet was acting at sea, a quite different situation from that in which the fleet had to act alone.

Should the United States share the views expressed Paraguay would be disposed to converse concretely regarding the matter. However in order that Paraguay may announce a policy of close cooperation it should be able to count on the aid of the United States in a definite manner.

The matter of the organizing of propaganda and public sentiment should be taken up and undoubtedly little progress could be made without cooperation of the United States already decided upon. Paraguay’s economy is weak but the nation has an energetic spirit which its neighbors lack.

In explanation of the foregoing I believe that certain prominent Uruguayan friends of the President and the Paraguayan Minister in Brazil while visiting here have brought him alarming reports. The Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that this matter had arisen since the departure for Habana of the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is consequently unaware thereof as is the Minister in Washington due to lack of sufficiently confidential code. He emphasized the desire for strict confidence stating that only himself and the President had [Page 152] knowledge of this matter and requested that any further conversation be held between the latter and myself.

He represented the President as determined to go as far as he possibly could in an open pro-American policy and desirous of knowing the views of my Government.

Within a few days I hope to obtain from the President personally further information concerning what he has in mind. I would welcome any indications which the Department may deem convenient be conveyed.

  1. Gen. José Félix Estigarribia.