835.00/2273: Telegram

The Ambassador in Argentina ( Armour ) to the Secretary of State

201. Confirming my conversation with Duggan,8 Gilbert9 called me urgently to Foreign Office at 10:30 this morning and told me he had a very important announcement to make. He said investigations leading out of the Hellmuth case had revealed a serious Nazi espionage ring in Argentina.10 As a result of this definite proof that the Germans had broken their word not to engage in such activities and had abused Argentine hospitality his Government had now reached the definite decision to break relations with Germany not later than next Saturday noon. The intervening time was required (1) to prepare the public through the press, (2) to enable them to advise their shipping to seek safe ports and (3) if possible they hoped our Government and the British would give a navicert for the tanker Buenos Aires as his Government felt this ship would be of great use in the American service.

The Minister added that if their investigations revealed Japan’s participation in the activities mentioned they would also break relations with Japan.

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He said the above however was on condition that no action would be taken in meantime by our Government which might give rise to interpretation that Argentine Government’s action was taken under pressure.

I told the Minister I understood my Government was planning to make declaration today to the effect that we would not recognize the Bolivian Junta and that while I did not have full details I thought this declaration would include references to Argentina as having been the focal point from which activities not only against Bolivia but other countries had been conducted. He replied, “Surely there is time to stop this in view of what I have just told you.” I said I would of course immediately inform my Government of his important statement but could hold out no assurances as to whether this would in any way affect the action planned for today. I reminded the Minister that as long ago as July 611 President Ramírez had given me his guarantee that relations with the Axis would be broken before August 15. He said he was aware of this but he could assure me that the communication he had just made was with the full authority of the President and he gave me his word of honor that the action would be taken not later than Saturday, January 29.

I then told the Minister that he must realize our Government was aware of the participation of the Nationalists and others in the intrigues being carried on in the neighboring countries and that a mere break in relations with Germany would mean little if not accompanied by stern action against those elements who had been openly collaborating with our enemies. The Minister insisted that of course the action taken by the Government in breaking relations would ipso facto carry with it stern measures against all Axis collaborationists and others guilty of subversive activities. The Minister also stated that arrangements had been made to deal promptly with the case of the six Axis spies mentioned in Embassy’s telegram 1849, August 12, 7 p.m.12

  1. Laurence Duggan, Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs.
  2. Gen. Alberto Gilbert, Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. See the statement by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Anthony Eden, quoted in Department’s circular telegram of January 31, 6 p.m., p. 379. For the text of an address broadcast by President Ramirez on January 26, see p. 377.
  4. See telegram 1506, July 6, 1943, from Buenos Aires, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. v, p. 429.
  5. Not printed; it reported that the Federal attorney had finished the cases of the six spies, recommending prison sentences of from 1 to 3 years (862.2021/2482).