824.6363 St 2/533

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

No. 731

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my despatch No. 726 of March 27, 1941,12 and especially my telegram No. 39 of March 27, 3 p.m., concerning the opposition to the Government’s plan to settle the Standard Oil case, and to report that another demonstration of labor organizations is scheduled for Thursday, April 3. This will doubtless be much larger than the first, but the Government does not expect any disorders.

I had an opportunity to discuss the situation this afternoon with Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez at the Foreign Office. The Minister had just come from the Chamber of Deputies where he had been answering a series of questions put by deputies opposed to the Government’s plan for negotiating a settlement of the Standard Oil case. He was obviously very tired and, I thought, rather discouraged.

He said the public demonstration of the day before of the chauffeurs’ and mechanics’ union was doubtless instigated by socialists of whom there were many who had supported the Busch regime. These people were now followers of Major Belmonte (The Department will recall that Belmonte is actually in exile although nominally serving as Bolivian Military Attaché at Berlin) and are a dangerously radical lot, he said. During the debate one of the deputies, the Minister said, talked of revolution if the Government agreed to pay any indemnity to the Standard Oil Company.

According to Dr. Ostria Gutiérrez, fifteen members of the Chamber have already given notice of their intention to speak on the Standard Oil case and the Minister did not know how long the discussion would continue. He seemed to fear it would last another ten days or two weeks, and declared more than once that it would be difficult to bring the question to a vote, although he seemed to feel that if there were a vote the Government would have a majority.

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The Minister asked me to explain to the Department that he had found it necessary to deal very frankly during the debate with both the Senate and the Chamber and had referred to all phases of the Standard Oil controversy, but that in doing so he had endeavored to present the matter fairly, both from the point of view of Bolivia and of the United States. He mentioned Secretary Hull’s confidential letter to Dr. Finot and he said he had explained to the deputies that the Secretary had adopted this plan of communicating with the then Bolivian Foreign Minister because he did not want to allow the slightest impression that our Government was threatening Bolivia or demanding compensation for the Standard Oil Company.

With regard to the attitude of the radical deputies, the Department may be interested in a conversation Dr. Oreamuno (of the Inter-American Development Commission now in Bolivia) tells me he had a day or two ago with Dr. Baldivieso, formerly Vice President in the Busch Government. According to Mr. Baldivieso, there was very serious opposition in the Bolivian army to any cash settlement of the Standard Oil case and if the Government continued in its plan to settle the matter in that way, there was danger of revolution. Mr. Baldivieso said he was not in the same political party as President Peñaranda, but he was personally very friendly with him and had recently told the President the situation would be serious if the Government continued its policy with regard to the Standard Oil matter.

As the Department knows, Mr. Baldivieso was treated with scant respect by the Quintanilla regime13 which refused to permit him to succeed to the Presidency, as he had a right to expect at the time of President Busch’s death. He is generally regarded as a weak unimportant person but there may be some foundation for what he has had to say regarding the attitude of certain groups in the Army. On the whole the Ministers concerned in the Standard Oil controversy seem to feel that the Government will finally win out, although there may still be a good deal of talk in the Chamber and more street demonstrations.

Respectfully yours,

Douglas Jenkins
  1. Not printed.
  2. Gen. Carlos Quintanilla assumed executive power on August 23, 1939, following the death of President Germán Busch; see Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, pp. 307308.