Memorandum by Mr. Eugene A. Gilmore, Division of River Plate Affairs 67
The resumption of normal diplomatic relations with the Argentine Government and its admission to the United Nations Conference were based upon certain measures which it adopted pursuant to Resolution 59 of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace. These were stated in the Department’s circular telegram of April 4, 9 a.m., to be:
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Against the standard of expected performance set forth in the foregoing resolutions the record of the Argentine Government since April 9 is as follows:
1. Control of pro-Axis individuals. Despite the internment of Japanese diplomatic and consular personnel there is considerable [Page 387] laxity in surveillance—wives, children, and servants of internees being allowed to circulate freely and to associate with other Japanese.
The decree of April 2 providing for registration of enemy aliens has been modified to permit freedom of travel and communications by enemy aliens within Argentina and to exempt from registration priests and members of religious orders and others whose activities are frequently dangerous.
Graf Spee crew members, though officially prisoners of war, enjoy unusual privileges.
The Argentine authorities have expressed doubt concerning their legal authority to continue the detention of Fritz Mandl.
2. Elimination of Axis propaganda. Although closure of Axis press previously reported has been retained, the Deutsche la Plata Zeitung was allowed to reopen as Die Zeitung on April 29.
The pro-Axis magazine Hechos continues to appear with modified totalitarian tendencies but showing clear support of Falangism. La Fronda, (PL)68 continues to appear.
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On April 24 the Flota69 was given permission to comply with War Shipping Administration regulations and to request ships warrants. Inconclusive discussions concerning Argentine participation in UMA70 have also been held.
On May 2 the Argentine authorities agreed to cooperate in the suppression of smuggling of crude rubber in return for supplies of synthetic rubber and an interim allotment of tires. On his return to Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires, Korkegi,71 rubber expert, expressed skepticism concerning the intention of the Argentines to stop the flow of contraband.
On May 9 the Argentine authorities undertook to make available the exportable surpluses of linseed and certain other vegetable oils in return for supplies of fuel oil. Adequate measures have been taken to implement this commitment.
On various occasions the Argentine Government has expressed an interest in cooperating with UNRRA.72 Action on this proposal will be taken by the UNRRA Council at its meeting in July provided that prior to that time the status of Argentina as a United Nation is further clarified.
- Freedom of access to information. Despite official denials and certain instances of vacillation, the Argentine Government retained until June 6 rigorous internal and external press censorship. On June 13 Ambassador Braden announced that the Government had informed him of total abolition of censorship on incoming and outgoing [Page 388] news despatches. There have been no reports of interference with external news services since that date. On June 18, however, four members of the staff of El Patriota including the editor were arrested. Prior to June 13 frequent and arbitrary interference with the local press and the international news services occurred. Between April 9 and June 27, eleven instances of interference with freedom of expression, arrests of journalists, and closure of publications have been reported.
- Restoration of Constitutional Government. On April 22 a large number of army officers and democratic leaders were arrested for alleged complicity in a subversive plot against the Government. The majority of those seized were well-known for their democratic leanings.
The Government took extraordinary measures to prevent popular demonstrations upon the fall of Berlin. These were probably motivated principally by fear of action against the regime by “subversive groups”. An official holiday for the surrender of Germany was belatedly declared on May 8 but curbs on public demonstrations were maintained.
On May 16 the Government announced a six-point program for the return to constitutional normality: (1) repeal of decree prohibiting political activities; (2) approval of political party statute and creation of electoral court; (3) organization of political parties; (4) final completion of voting registers; (5) electoral preparation; and (6) elections. It was announced that the first two steps would be taken before the end of May but that further steps including release of political prisoners would depend upon developments. A statute entitled “Organic Statute for Political Parties” was released on May 31 to become effective on August 1, 1945. Presumably this implies the intention to repeal the decree prohibiting political activities, although this step has not yet been taken.
On June 14 the names of 246 recently released political prisoners were published in the press. The persons in question were practically unknown and it was reported that the list was believed to contain some falsified names.
On June 26 the Embassy reported that political prisoners still held in Villa Devoto, Neuquen, Martín García, Chaco, and Río Negro made an estimated, but probably incomplete, total of 458.
A chronological table of developments is appended.73
- Addressed to Messrs. W. S. Lockwood and George H. Butler of the Division of American Republic Affairs.↩
- Proclaimed List.↩
- Flota Mercante del Estado, state shipping organization.↩
- United Maritime Authority, international body established to control shipping.↩
- Harri Jacob Korkegi, of the Rubber Development Corporation.↩
- United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.↩
- Not printed.↩