834.20 Mission/11–545

The Ambassador in Paraguay (Beaulac) to the Secretary of State

No. 1251

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram no. 545 of November 5, 11 a.m.,22 requesting that no definitive action be taken to make available to Paraguay military materials and equipment until the Department had received a despatch from the Embassy on the effect of our military cooperation upon our relations with Paraguay.

This cooperation, which has been carried on not only during the war but also since the end of hostilities, has comprised the furnishing of lend lease equipment and materials; the setting up, in Paraguay, of an American Military Mission and Military Aviation Mission; visits of numerous Paraguayan military men and naval officers to the United States, with all expenses paid by our Government; training given in the United States and the Panama Canal Zone to Paraguayan military officers and enlisted men; frequent visits to Paraguay of American military and naval officers, some of high rank; et cetera, et cetera.

On July 11, last, after I had requested the Department’s authority to urge the Paraguayan government, informally, through the Foreign Minister, to restore press freedom and announce Congressional elections, the Department, in granting the authority requested, said, in its telegram no. 238,23 that it did not consider it as intervention in the internal affairs of other American Republics when it lent its support and took the initiative in efforts to rally other American governments [Page 1290] and public opinion generally behind Inter-American action to obtain compliance with the Mexico City resolutions and with other Inter-American commitments.

The implication of the Department’s telegram was that our Government felt that it was free, without subjecting itself with cause to the charge of violating its treaty obligation to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of the other American Republics, to urge those Republics to comply with the commitments entered into at Mexico City, concerning democratic institutions, freedom of expression, et cetera, which have to do with the internal affairs of those Republics. That the Department’s telegram was of a policy nature was indicated not only by its wording but by the circumstance that it was repeated to the Missions in the other American Republics for their information.

It is clear from the foregoing, as well as from numerous public statements of the President of the United States, of the Secretary of State, and of other high officials of the Department, that one of the objectives of our policy toward the other American Republics is the development in those Republics of free, democratic institutions.

Another objective of our policy toward the other American Republics has been, and is, to obtain the military cooperation of those Republics. In furtherance of that objective, staff conversations have been held between the United States and Paraguay, looking to cooperation and coordination between the armies of the two countries. These conversations contemplate the eventual furnishing by the United States to Paraguay of modern arms and military equipment of American manufacture.

The purpose of the present despatch is to suggest to the Department that, while the two objectives referred to above are legitimate and desirable, the means currently being employed to obtain the second objective, that is, the military cooperation of Paraguay, tend to make more difficult the achievement of the first objective, that is, the democratization of Paraguay.

Paraguay has a long authoritarian tradition. Francia24 instituted authoritarian government, Gestapo methods, imprisonment and execution without trial, exchange control, and press and mail censorship, in Paraguay, more than a century ago. Since the disastrous war with the Triple Alliance,25 which ended, in 1870, with the annihilation of nearly all of Paraguay’s male population, the conditions which have obtained in Paraguay could scarcely have been less favorable to the development of democracy. Colorado (Party) governments, which [Page 1291] succeeded each other until 1904, and Liberal (Party) governments, which succeeded each other from that year until 1936, when the Franco military revolt broke out,26 were either headed by military men or kept in power or removed by them. The Paraguayan Army was figuratively up to its neck in politics during all these years, as it is now, the principal difference being that between 1870 and 1936, the military, like the civilians, were divided along party lines and along factional lines within the two principal parties, while, today, the Army, strengthened through our cooperation, is substantially united in its desire to continue to govern Paraguay. Political party activities in Paraguay have been prohibited since March 10, 1936, and the Liberal Party was declared illegal in 1942.

There are elements within the Army, of course, who look forward to the establishment of party government in Paraguay, but they are not the strongest elements, and there is no good reason to believe that even they regard the establishment of party government as an immediate objective. The Army, in general, appears to take it for granted that Congressional elections will not be held until 1948, when Presidential elections are scheduled, and that the Liberal Party, as such, will be excluded from the elections. In the absence of outside interference, it is probable that the Army’s plan will be carried out, and that an Army-supported President and Congress will be elected. These officials, in the ordinary course of events, would be guided or strongly influenced by the Army in carrying out their functions.

We might, of course, interfere with the process, or try to interfere with it, by adopting an unfriendly political attitude toward the present regime, but I am not inclined to believe that our attitude would have any important effect except to push the regime into the hands of Argentina. Such an attitude on our part would probably be particularly futile if we, at the same time, continued our cooperation with Paraguay in military matters.

The equipment of the Paraguayan Army has been improved with the help of lend lease. It is contemplated that, as a result of the recent staff conversations, additional modern equipment will be made available. The American Military Missions give prestige, locally, to the armed forces. Specially conducted tours of the United States carried out at considerable expense to our Government, and instruction in American military schools, also give the military prestige, and flatter their ego. The representatives of the Office of Inter-American Affairs,27 engaged in health and sanitation work, have military commissions and wear their uniforms and insignias. In addition to our [Page 1292] Military Missions, we have, in this tiny country, a Military Attaché, an Assistant Military Attaché, an Air Attaché, a Naval Attaché, and an Assistant Naval Attaché. There are, in all, sixteen American military and naval officers, in addition to a number of enlisted men, regularly stationed in Asunción, and I see no sign of any intention to lessen the number in the near future.

All these things tend to give prestige to the military in Paraguay, and to strengthen their hold on the government. If our cooperation is continued on anything approaching its present scale, I see little chance that any suggestion that the Department or the Embassy might make regarding democratization will have much effect, except, perhaps to weaken the Embassy’s position here.

The purpose of this despatch is not to criticize or complain. It would have been very difficult and probably unwise for us to give up our military interest in Paraguay immediately after the end of hostilities. It is my understanding, too, that the staff conversations were intended to place in effect a program of military cooperation and coordination deemed essential to the future defense of the continent. The Department is, of course, in a position to judge the importance to the United States of this program, and particularly the importance of Paraguay’s part in the program.

The Department is in a position also to evaluate the importance to the United States of fostering democracy in Paraguay.

The point that is sought to be made is that our military cooperation with Paraguay, including implementation of the staff conversations, visits to the United States of military officers, instruction in the United States and the Canal Zone, et cetera, tends to make democratization of Paraguay more difficult.

As already pointed out, we have two laudable objectives in Paraguay, the one being to tie Paraguay into a coordination system of continental defense, the other being to encourage the democratization of Paraguay. The first is comparatively easy to accomplish because it involves, for the Paraguayan military who dominate the government here, exchanging old arms for new, trips to the United States, instruction in American military schools, support for larger military budgets (at the expense of education, public health, et cetera), et cetera. However, realization of the first objective tends to defeat the second objective, and our Government’s efforts to accelerate democratization, with one hand, while it helps to further build up the politically dominant military establishment with the other, seem at times, to Paraguayans and particularly to liberal elements in Paraguay, to be slightly ludicrous.

Abandonment of military cooperation would not, of course, guarantee democratization of Paraguay. It might, in fact, create new and [Page 1293] immediate obstacles to democratization, such as causing the Paraguayan military to draw closer to the Argentine military. However, it would place us in a position of not giving positive help to the opponents of democracy in Paraguay.

I make no specific suggestion, because I consider that only the Department can evaluate the relative importance of the two conflicting objectives to which I have referred above. Continued military cooperation might encourage the Paraguayan government to give us the same, or almost the same, cooperation in international matters that it has given us during the past year and a half. It will not help the cause of democracy in Paraguay, however, and will probably render efforts by us to encourage democracy futile and harmful to our own standing with the Paraguayan government.

Abandonment of military cooperation, on the other hand, would interfere, temporarily at least, so far as Paraguay is concerned, with our plans for future hemispheric defense. It would probably mean that Paraguay would be less cooperative with us in many matters than it has been in the recent past. Moreover, it would not guarantee democratization, which would still be a long, difficult process. However, it would remove at least one obstacle to democratization, and that is the prestige and strength which the Paraguayan military now receive from our cooperation. This does not mean that new obstacles would not appear, however.

The principal immediate obstacle to democratization in Paraguay is the strength, unity and anti-democratic attitude of the Paraguayan Army. To the extent that we add strength and prestige to the Paraguayan Army, we make that particular obstacle to democratization more formidable.

The recommendations contained in my telegram no. 535 of October 30, 2 p.m., concerning implementation of the staff conversations, are reiterated, subject to the foregoing considerations.

Respectfully yours,

Willard L. Beaulac
  1. Not printed.
  2. July 11, 1945, not printed.
  3. José Gaspar Rodriguez Francia, dictator of Paraguay from 1814 to 1840.
  4. Documentation on the war of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay against Paraguay is printed in Foreign Relations, 1866, vol. ii, pp. 548616; ibid., 1867, vol. ii, pp. 705733; ibid., 1868, vol. ii, pp. 647838.
  5. For documentation with respect to the position of the Department of State toward the regime of Franco, see Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. v, pp. 858 ff.
  6. A United States emergency war agency.