710. Consultation (4)/12–844: Telegram
The Ambassador in Chile ( Bowers ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 9:27 p.m.]
1898. For Armour from Wright. As I told you over telephone all of points made in your 1217, December 7, had been most fully covered in conversations with Fernández. In interest of full understanding, I shall give you some background:
After full discussion with Ambassador, it was decided that it would be best for original presentation to be made by Ambassador without my presence and subsequent to Ambassador’s interview with Fernández it was further agreed that owing to fact Ambassador was proceeding to Viña, I should not approach Fernández unless he sent for me, Ambassador having informed him of my presence and that I had brought message. Ambassador told me that if Fernández did send for me, I should go at once to see him. Fernández called me yesterday afternoon and Millard68 and I spent over an hour with him. He did not then appear in any way distressed and gave every impression of understanding problem fully and seemed personally entirely disposed to take action if he can find a suitable pretext which would stand up under political pressure. There seemed to be no question of desirability in his mind but rather only one of how much Administration can get away with politically at this time particularly when elections are approaching. One of things I most strongly underlined to him was that we were simply as old and good friends of Chile informing them of a situation which exists and there was not slightest pressure. If Chile acted, it would act on its own initiative and in its own interest. There cannot be slightest misunderstanding on this score. Fernández said he thought it would be highly desirable for President to speak with me to get Washington background on matter. He asked me if I could go to Viña. I said that I did not want to push in this matter in any way, that I had a luncheon engagement in the Chilean Central Bank for Saturday noon, that if I broke this engagement questions would be asked, however, if President really wanted me to come to Viña and after consulting Ambassador Bowers and it was considered desirable, I would be glad to do so on Sunday if he would let me know. Fernández agreed that it would be unwise to break Central Bank engagement and said if President wanted to see me and after speaking with Ambassador Bowers he would telephone to me.
It was made clear to Fernández we had not told Mora69 in Washington of this matter solely because we did not want to embarrass [Page 694] Fernández by having other persons know about the situation when he should be the one to tell them if they should know. He expressed his appreciation for our having handled matter this way and also agreed that by keeping down the number of people involved likelihood of leaks decreased proportionately.
To summarize: My present estimate of situation is that chances are better now than 3 days ago but that it is still a long shot. The political hurdles are really great and Fernández said yesterday that not only would Senate have to act but also Chamber and he was even doubtful what control Administration has over Congress. Unless Chile goes along, I believe that it would be a very serious mistake for us at this time to endeavor to foster this proposition in other countries involved. We would wind up exactly where we started. You will recall that before I left we agreed that I would come to Chile and feel out situation here and that I would make no approach in other countries until there was full agreement with Department on future course of action. This is still my view and I made it abundantly clear to White70 in my talk with him in Lima Sunday night that absolutely no action was to be taken until definite instructions were received from Department. He fully understands and concurred in strong terms although he is very sanguine that Peru would go along. [Wright.]