Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Bonsal)

Participants: Señor Fernando Iturralde, Special Representative of the Bolivian Junta
Señor Carlos Dorado, Counselor of the Bolivian Embassy
Mr. Bonsal, ARA
Mr. Lyon, WCA36

Señor Fernando Iturralde, Special Representative of the Bolivian Junta, called this morning accompanied by Sr. Carlos Dorado, Counselor of the Bolivian Embassy. He said that he had just arrived a few days ago in the United States, having come here for the purpose of clarifying the position of the Bolivian Government. He said that he quite understood the desire of the United States at this time to make a thorough investigation before recognizing the Junta. However, he said that he wished to point out that in international affairs the Junta was on the side of the United Nations. The real purpose of the Junta was the internal situation in Bolivia. It had been decided some time ago that the government of President Peñaranda must go as it was not the proper one for Bolivia. Moreover, while paying lip service to the cause of the United Nations the government of General Peñaranda was at heart pro-Nazi. This is proven by the fact that it took no action against Japanese penetration, and the question of taking over Axis-controlled firms was exploited for the benefit of a small group in which the family of Señor Peñaranda played a prominent part. Moreover, the Peñaranda Government had never implemented the recommendation of the Magruder Commission.37 Señor Iturralde felt that if the Department had received proper information in the past it would have no reason to suspect the present Junta and even now when it has investigated all circumstances it certainly will find no reason not to recognize.

On the other hand the Junta has taken strong measures against the Japanese, who control all the small shops with which the miners deal, has taken favorable action in favor of the Jews, intends fulfilling all obligations in regard to continental defense, and will continue to support the cause of the United Nations.

Señor Iturralde said that the present Junta represents a whole generation of Bolivians, the young men who are disgusted with political graft and wish to aid the exploited miners and generally put their [Page 437] country in order. It represents no one group but all parties ranging from the Conservative to the extreme Left. It is absurd to call it pro-Nazi, it is pro-Bolivian, nothing else. Señor Iturralde said that he understood that certain importance was given to the fact that Señor Paz Estenssoro had been in Argentina some months prior to the revolution, reportedly plotting. This was also absurd; Señor Paz Estenssoro had close connections with intellectual circles in Argentina. He had been invited to go to Argentina many months before; his going was no secret; it had been announced in the press in both countries and the program of his reception and entertainment was also given wide publicity. Señor Iturralde states that no one has more influence amongst the young liberal elements in Bolivia than Señor Paz Estenssoro; a whole generation looks to him for leadership. It is true that he has frequently criticized the government’s war policy but the emphasis of the criticism was on the manner in which this policy was conducted rather than on the policy itself. The former Government, however, used the international situation for internal politics. Everyone who was against the government or criticized it was labeled Nazi. The slaughtering of the laborers at Catavi38 by the government was even so twisted as to make it appear that it was action against the Nazis. Señor Iturralde emphasized the fact that while delaying recognition we were creating a feeling against us in Bolivia. He stated that he quite understood the necessity of thorough investigation. However, the simple Bolivian worker does not understand this. There is all sorts of talk of exchange of information between the Americas, rumors fly about that the United States is going to bring Peñaranda back into office and this in turn creates an unfavorable feeling against us.

I told Señor Iturralde that I was very grateful for his explanations and that I would be pleased to inform the Secretary of what he said and that while I was not in a position to speak officially, I could say there had always been a very warm friendship in this country for Bolivia and that this friendship and interest in Bolivian progress had been demonstrated by both the Bohan39 and Magruder Missions; that we were now fighting a war, a war “which meant life or death, and naturally continental security was of principal importance; our enemies were very able and apt to use various elements and influences.

Señor Iturralde stated that he appreciated this and again repeated his arguments about the revolution being merely a simple movement which had for its aim the improvement of the lot of the workers, the [Page 438] building of hospitals, roads, etc., but which had been linked up by its opponents with international affairs with which it had no connection.

I then said I would like to ask a question, perhaps indiscreet, and one which perhaps I ought not to ask, and that was whether or not in the past certain members of the Junta had been pro-democratic in sympathy. Señor Iturralde claimed that they had been but that their views had been misrepresented by the former government which, as he had said above, always labeled its opponents as Nazis. He said that the Junta was striving for a Bolivian democracy. They do not aspire for a democracy such as we have in the United States; that would be hoping for too much. A United States miner would be considered a small capitalist in Bolivia, but they did want to progress toward fair and decent treatment of the long oppressed miners.

Philip W. Bonsal
  1. Cecil B. Lyon, Assistant Chief, Division of West Coast Affairs.
  2. For correspondence on this Commission, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. v, pp. 607 ff.
  3. In December 1942, a strike in the Patiño mines at Catavi led to violence and the death of a number of strikers, for which the Government was blamed.
  4. Merwin L. Bohan, Chief of United States Economic Mission to Bolivia. For correspondence on the Mission, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. v, pp. 592 ff.