The Chargé in Bolivia (Dawson) to the Secretary of State
[Received October 30.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to previous correspondence, particularly the Legation’s despatch No. 840 of May 21, 1941,43 in regard to the sending of a United States Army air mission to Bolivia and the elimination of the Italian military mission now in the country as a condition thereto. It will be recalled that, in a communication dated May 16, 1941,44 the Bolivian Minister of Defense informed the Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Italian mission would conclude its functions at the expiration of the military scholastic year, in October 1941 (a copy and translation of this document were transmitted as enclosures Nos. 2 and 5 to the despatch under reference).
In view of this commitment and the fact that the period specified for the termination of the services of the Italian mission is at hand, I have made discreet inquiries to ascertain what steps are being taken to get rid of the mission. So far as I have been able to discover, nothing has been done in regard to the matter. In the course of a conversation this afternoon on other matters with the Minister of Defense, General Miguel Candia, I brought the question up but he evaded a direct answer, saying merely that he had communicated with the Bolivian Minister in Washington, Mr. Luis F. Guachalla, on the subject.
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A deputy, Mr. Jacinto Rodríguez, who at the outbreak of the European War requested the cancellation of the contract of the Italian military mission, presented a “petición de informe” yesterday asking the Minister of Defense what reasons there might be for the failure to cancel the contract especially in view of the fact that Italy is at war and of the sizable expenditure by the Bolivian Government under the terms of the contract. Under the parliamentary rules in vogue in Bolivia, the Minister of Defense will have to make a written reply to the “petición de informe” and this reply may clarify the matter.
Even if steps are taken to rescind the Italian contract, the members of the mission are likely to be a problem in the future. While the contract has been running, they have devoted themselves moderately well to their tasks without engaging in any great amount of propaganda. However, once they are idle and without the incentive of their pay from the Bolivian Government to keep them more or less in line, they may become a menace unless some steps can be taken to send them back to Italy or at least get them out of Bolivia.[Page 420]
The Italian Military Attaché in Buenos Aires, Lt. Colonel Alberto L. Osti, who is also assigned to the Italian Legation in La Paz, has been here for the past two weeks. His presence may have something to do with General Candia’s apparent desire to have the stay of the Italian military mission prolonged. Colonel Osti has succeeded in making a large circle of acquaintances among Bolivian army officers in the short time he has been here. General Candia gave him a large party yesterday which appears a little strange in view of the General’s supposed democratic sympathies. No comparable festivities have been given for military attachés of neutral countries by recent Ministers of Defence.
It would be helpful if the Legation could be advised concerning any recent conversations which the Bolivian Minister in Washington may have had with officers of the Department regarding the termination of the services of the Italian military mission to Bolivia. Similarly, instructions would be appreciated as to what representations, if any, the Department desires the Legation to make should no steps have been taken for the cancellation of the mission’s contract by October 31, 1941.