The Ambassador in Argentina (Braden) to the Secretary of State
[Received June 2—6:20 a.m.]
1124. My hour and quarter conversation alone with Perón today can be summarized as follows:
- He turned on charm full force demonstrating utmost cordiality and endeavoring throughout to emphasize his complete frankness and dedication to developing friendliest possible relations every kind with U.S.
- Four different times stated his entire lack of interest in politics, was serving only in emergency and completely outside his own technical field. In other words without making flat statement he indicated would not be candidate for Presidency.
- He reviewed Argentine history to prove revolutions here occur only when govts fall due to own decrepitude. Emphasized revolution [Page 381] 2 years ago was essential to clean up corruption every kind including electoral venality and he and other officers had been forced to take over as Army was only organization competent to do so.
- He underscored at considerable length 20 years of mistaken policy which was now reversed by his and Govt’s recognition that Argentina must cooperate with U.S. and become full fledged member of hemisphere system. Curiously enough he and others who had been accused of being our enemies and of Nazi sympathies were ones to establish this firm policy. First job had been to win people over to this program (I observed this had been completely done and he agreed). Next was to win over Army which had been extremely difficult because of German training and fact that every govt directive during last 20 years had been anti-U.S. A year ago declaration of war would have caused Govt’s immediate fall. This was demonstrated by Ramirez breaking relations48 causing his demise despite fact he had put nationalistic interventors in every province. He emphasized this had been long, arduous, extremely difficult requiring infinite patience (I remarked time consumed had left Argentina far behind other American Republics and therefore this country must meet its commitments under Chapultepec49 with utmost speed in order to catch up and really become part of American family).
- Perón analyzed why this country was 20 years behind the times in social programs with wages as low as 10 cents per day and average in many provinces 10 pesos per month. Likewise labor was leaderless, disjointed, and he had found it imperative to organize it effectively. This he had done and labor now was with him. Moreover, this had been essential to prevent Communists taking over. While wages now adequate some further increase might have to follow to insure people higher standard of living. (I agreed higher standard of living probably essential but warned he must be sure workers’ conditions were improved by real wages and be careful not to enter vicious spiral of inflation. I felt justified in mentioning this since inflation in one country necessarily had repercussions in the others.) He agreed, although from what I have heard he has been doing precisely what I warned him against. He added that decree would be out within next few days putting ceiling over both prices and wages with a floor under latter.
- He expressed alarm concerning Argentina’s situation in 2 or 3 years when inevitable world crisis would occur. The war would have to be paid for by everyone including Argentina whose problems would [Page 382] be particularly difficult in meeting such a crisis and at same time preserving higher living standards. (I observed one thing we had learned from the war was the essentiality of cooperation, for instance, many American Republics would have suffered grievously had it not been for the close economic cooperation between us; similarly while Argentina had prospered greatly during war, self evidently his fears might prove true unless she wholeheartedly cooperates with other American Republics and United Nations, in which event our common efforts with intelligence and hard work could enable all to win the peace as well as the war.)
- He agreed with me reiterating his desire for closest
cooperation with the U.S. I said he must understand as I had
explained to Foreign Minister May 28 that criticism in my
country did not emanate merely from Leftists but also from
extreme Right to Left including Center and it was essential
Argentina promptly meet its Chapultepec and other obligations to
enable us closely to cooperate as we both desired. As I had told
him last week, it was necessary for him to help me to help
Argentina. I said certain Argentine obligations must be
fulfilled forthwith since otherwise Nazi position here might be
so entrenched as to gravely endanger hemisphere. I asked
- British and ourselves and perhaps French be given immediate access to German diplomatic and consular archives.50 I described this situation fully, frankly stating what other American Republics had done and expressing hope Argentina would improve her position by following example of 14 other Republics and not delay as had 4 of them. (Perón expressed astonishment we had not received greater facilities from Foreign Ministry and promised to speak to President forthwith and arrange to our satisfaction.)
- I said I had thought Foreign Minister’s statement in respect of Secretary Stettinius’ radio talk51 excellent excepting he had said Argentina intended to meet her obligations fully “as she had done up to the present”. This last sentence was unfortunate since practically nothing had been done. It was imperative for instance that there be a fully effective control all German interests. Perón admitted little or nothing had been done excusing it as due to bad organization but said all accounts had been blocked. I observed I was not even sure this had been done effectively and there were countless other hidden accts. which must be investigated. He promised to cooperate with me and to [Page 383] instruct Colonel Olano52 to work closest way possible with whomever we delegated for this purpose. He felt perhaps this work had been dispersed among too many people and put on a committee basis which was inefficient whereas following procedure he suggested we could get results.
- I outlined Safehaven53 necessities and he reiterated aforementioned assurances saying he would gladly accept our technical assistance in making census and otherwise carrying on investigations.
- I said speaking not as Ambassador to Vice Pres. but as friend
to friend, I wished to comment on two things which strictly
speaking were none of my concern but were of utmost importance
in creating the friendly American public opinion so essential to
- Continued incarcerations and arrests were making an execrable impression on my fellow citizens particularly as many of these prisoners when released have never even had charges brought against them or reasons given for their arrest.
- I could not believe he was aware of what was going on in censorship since frequently it appeared so utterly futile and counter productive. I cited various cases to him.
- Perón took notes on what I said stating he would immediately speak to President urging that all political prisoners other than those held on definite criminal charges be released and he would take similar steps in respect to censorship.
- Half an hour later at very end of interview he asked that my Govt. do something “to control the press criticisms of Argentina in the U.S.”.54 I replied it was absolutely impossible for us to do anything of [the] kind and I described strictly limited censorship for reasons of military security citing the Kennedy case55 and told him I understood New York Times this morning had carried front page story by Cortesi56 to effect that press censorship he had suffered here was worse than that he had endured under 10 years of Fascist regime in Italy and that as a case in point were our Govt. even to hint at control of such an article or to chastise Cortesi for it, public opinion at home would be enraged. I added it was not merely U.S. opinion but I had witnessed identical feeling in Cuba and other Republics on my trip southward. I reminded him of action reported in yesterday’s press [Page 384] by Brazil of issuing instructions in presence of newspaper correspondents that there should be no more censorship.
- Perón said if he did not comply in every detail I was free in
future to accuse him of bad faith and reading from a previously
prepared memorandum he raised following points:
- He had considerable volume documentary evidence including letters signed by Lang57 showing latter had been practising military espionage here. This he had kept quiet in order to have no incident disturb our relations. I told him that quite apart from Argentine protests respecting Lang which had first been made to me by Ibarra García in Washington, Lang’s transfer to another post had been previously decided. Perón went on to say he would be glad to give Gen. Harris58 all information he required even most secret including that concerning Argentine Army. In short anything and everything Ave wanted in these particulars would be ours. He had merely mentioned Lang incident as an example of how difficult it had been for him in the face thereof to control his own officers.
- He discussed communism at considerable length saying he had sent word to Lang through Cavenah59 of the visit of the two reportedly Mexican Communists whom he thought really to be Spaniards and who proposed that Mexico in the north and Argentina in the south should be a “two headed dragon to offset Yankee imperialism.” He wanted to know how we handled Communists since he proposed that Argentina pursue identical course. I replied we had practically no Communist problem and therefore no particular method of handling it but on the other hand self evidently if there was to be peace to the world there must be understanding and friendship with Russia, with that country actively participating United Nations organization. After some further fishing around he bluntly asked whether or not Communist Party should be allowed to organize under the new political party statute. I replied that was exclusively an Argentine problem on which I could express no opinion whatsoever.
- He said Counselor of Russian Legation Montevideo60 had visited him to propose purchase of all of Argentine grain surplus and this self evidently was attempt to monopolize market.
- He referred to British endeavors to regain commercial supremacy in Argentina but stated flatly he preferred if possible to deal with U.S. and hoped our commercial and other economic relations could be greatly expanded in every direction. Also he hoped for our assistance in development of industry here. He made some vague generalizations on the work of his postwar council and suggested Embassy appoint a liaison officer to that body. I countered by suggesting conversations under his and my general direction but with experts from both sides in consultation and offered to draft a preliminary agenda in this connection. I have in mind Dept.’s instructions [Page 385] for such conversations which I rec’d. in Cuba but which have not been rec’d. here. (If Dept. approves, please send me duplicate instructions.) I added that due to Embassy staff reductions during last year and complete reorganization Embassy personnel shortly to be initiated there might be some delay in this connection which he agreed would do no harm.
- It is interesting to note Perón made no request at all in respect to staff conversations, military matériel which he raised in our May 22 chat.
- Interview concluded with mutual assurances of each being available to other at all times and desire to work in closest cooperation.
As Dept. is aware Perón’s reputation is that of a great promiser but poor performer but he certainly went far out on the limb today with me. It of course remains to be seen how much he fulfills or we can induce him to fulfill of all these promises.
- For documentation relating to United States concern with this subject, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. vii, pp. 228 ff.↩
- The Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace held its meetings at Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City, February 21–March 8, 1945. For documentation, see pp. 1 ff.↩
- For documentation on United States policy in 1944 with respect to diplomatic and consular property of enemy governments and the property of enemy diplomatic and consular personnel in liberated areas, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. i, pp. 1471 ff. For documentation on United States policy with respect to the disposition of German property and archives in German repositories, see ibid., 1945, vol. iii, pp. 1136 ff.↩
- For text of address of May 28, 1945, see Department of State Bulletin June 3, 1945, p. 1007.↩
- Col. Manuel José Olano, President of the Administrative Council for the Intervention of Axis Firms.↩
- For documentation on the inception of the policy represented by this code word, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. ii, pp. 213 ff.↩
- For documentation on Argentine censorship of the press and treatment of press representatives, see pp. 505 ff.↩
- The reference apparently is to Edward Kennedy, chief of the Associated Press Bureau at Paris. See Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command in the official Army history United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1954), p. 527.↩
- Arnaldo Cortesi, United Press representative in Buenos Aires.↩
- Brig. Gen. John W. Lang, former Military Attaché in Argentina.↩
- Brig. Gen. A. R. Harris, Military Attaché in Argentina.↩
- Col. Kenneth A. Cavenah, Chief of the U.S. Military Air Mission in Argentina.↩
- Presumably Nikolai A. Andreev.↩