740.0011 EW/12–1244

The Ambassador in Chile (Bowers) to President Roosevelt

Dear Mr. President: I understand you personally are much interested in the matter which brought Wright here with a confidential message to me regarding a declaration of war. The instructions were that the utmost care should be taken not to create the impression that pressure was being exerted, or even that a request was being made, but to make it clear that we were merely setting forth possible contingencies as to the future which are of concern to Chile and to us. That was done with a meticulous regard for the instructions and that is thoroughly understood by both Ríos and Fernández.

It is unfortunate that war against Japan was not declared at the time of the rupture but at that time the Department did not encourage but rather discouraged such steps as being meaningless and possibly embarrassing to us. It could easily have been declared at that time.

The embarrassment now lies in the fact that nothing new has developed on which to predicate a declaration of war after a year and a half, and yet such a declaration would have to be explained to the Senate which would have to be consulted. Fernández unquestionably is right in saying that without a pretext the Government would be attacked in the Senate by its enemies.… And the time is inopportune because party feeling momentarily is high because of the congressional elections in early March.

I sat beside Ríos at a luncheon for General Dunham in Viña Thursday and he made it clear that he wishes to comply and will earnestly [Page 698] seek a pretext or solution. On Sunday in the garden of the Governor, at Viña, I had forty minutes with him alone on that subject and others, and that afternoon in the President’s summer palace in Viña, Wright and I had an hour with him and Fernández. Both keenly appreciate the fact that we come first to Chile; both made it crystal clear that they see the advantage and will seek a solution. When it was suggested that it would be sufficient if Chile declare that she considers herself legally in a state of belligerency with Japan, both perked up, exchanged glances which indicated relief, and Ríos thought it might be done without inviting attack since he had said publicly before rupture that rupture was equivalent to a declaration of war. With this statement before them, the Senate voted for rupture. I think Ríos and Fernández will make the most of this in informal conversations with senators who will not know that the idea originates with us, but will be given the impression that it originates with Chile because of a fear that her position will not be strong enough in the post war conferences.

I feel strongly that we should be patient while they seek a way out that cannot be plausibly attacked. The Ríos régime is under political attack now because—

She did break with the Axis.
She is moving with more vigor than anywhere else in the liquidation of the German bank, insurance company and many German firms.
She did accept our position as to Argentina, taking our three points.78
She has just agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Russia.79

These array some powerful factors against the Administration at the beginning of a campaign. It is not timely to insist at this moment. Our enemies are with the opposition. However, I shall talk with Fernández frequently without pressing him in any way.

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Claude G. Bowers
  1. For text of the statement of this position, see p. 64.
  2. With regard to U.S. interest in the establishment of diplomatic relations between the American Republics and the Soviet Union, see bracketed note, p. 170.