The Minister in Bolivia (Jenkins) to the Secretary of State

No. 1136

Sir: I have the honor to report that in the course of a conversation I had yesterday with Dr. Alberto Ostria Gutiérrez, Minister of Foreign Affairs, he mentioned the deplorable condition of rolling stock on the Bolivian Government railways and expressed the hope that it [Page 426] would be possible for our Government to lend its assistance in this matter. The Minister referred to the proposed $8,000,000 loan to this country for military purposes and said that it would be much more helpful to Bolivia if a part of this credit could be earmarked for locomotives instead of armaments. He added that these engines would be just as essential, if not in fact a little more so, than guns and ammunition.

I told Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez that I would be glad to bring the substance of his remarks to the attention of the Department for such consideration as might be deemed feasible, and asked him how many locomotives he thought would be needed to put the local railways in a reasonably efficient condition. The Minister replied that this entire question had been under recent discussion in the Cabinet and it was understood that ten locomotives would be required as a minimum.

Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez told me that President Peñaranda was gravely concerned over the situation and had authorized him to speak to me about it. The shortage of food supplies in many districts which was causing discontent and threats of strikes and other disorders, Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez said, was the direct result of the breakdown in railway communications and the consequent inability of the authorities to bring into the country foodstuffs and other supplies absolutely necessary for the people.

After my conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I called on Mr. William A. Pickwoad, general manager of the British-owned Antofagasta-Bolivian Railway, and asked for his opinion in regard to what Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez had told me. Mr. Pickwoad said it was perfectly true that the Government lines in Bolivia were in desperate need of locomotives and that his railway was lending them some engines and cars to help out, but of course this was only a stop-gap and could not be continued indefinitely. Mr. Pickwoad pointed out that all of the railway lines in Bolivia were of the meter gauge. He said the Baldwin Locomotive Works in the United States had filled orders for engines of this sort in Brazil in the past and could no doubt do the same thing for Bolivia. He then offered to write me a letter in detail in regard to the matter, and a copy of this communication is attached to this despatch.50

If at all feasible, it would appear to be a wise step for the responsible authorities in Washington to consider applying a part of the $8,000,000 credit mentioned for the purchase of some, if not all, of the locomotives reported by Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez and Mr. Pickwoad to be so badly needed.

Respectfully yours,

Douglas Jenkins
  1. Not printed.