The Ambassador in Argentina (Braden) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 1—9:40 a.m.]
1387. Pursuant to his request I called on Vice President today. While courteous he was unusually serious, not gushing as in previous meetings. Most important points of hour and three-quarters’ conversation can be summarized as follows:
Perón began with confused dissertation regarding existing “dangerous movement and movements” which in reply to my request for clarification of what he meant, he said, “I will not tolerate activities of the economic interests, students, and all others who are trying to disturb situation internally and externally. I have the Army with me to a man and more than 4,000,000 laborers who recognize me as their leader and sole benefactor. If these groups try anything we will fight in the streets and blood will flow.”
Observing that this was interesting I asked what did it have to do with us. Perón replied that the U.S. press and its correspondents here were “full participants in the movement and paid by the economic interests.” I emphatically repudiated any such thought insisting that aside from reporting factually neither our press nor the correspondents [Page 509] had anything to do with internal problems of this country. Perón ignoring my statement expanded further on this idea stating that, “the friendly relations resulting from the visit of the Warren Mission have deteriorated and may worsen. In fact anti-U.S. sentiment is now building up.” He went on to say that he had already prevented two labor unions from publishing an attack on us and said, “I could easily with Govt, funds put out a half dozen newspapers selling for 5 cents which would attack the U.S. Don’t forget that ‘Yankee imperialism’ and ‘sovereignty’ are still catch words which will rally all the people around us.” I expressed utter astonishment at this assertion; he said “of course I won’t do it.”
He vaguely tried to intimate that stories were current that I had directed recent attacks on Govt, by economic interests but in face of my rejoinder quickly abandoned this tangent and agreed that not even remotely had there been any intervention by me. Perón then violently attacked U.S. press representatives in Buenos Aires especially Cortesi calling them “liars and troublemakers making for bad relations with the U.S. as their despatches are telegraphed back here. So enraged are the people by these attacks that in their fanatical adoration for me they are entirely capable of murdering Cortesi or anyone who they think stands in my way. There is nothing I can do to restrain them.” So clear was his implication that I replied, “It does not matter whether I, Cortesi, or any other individual is murdered, the all-important thing is to stand on our principles.” He made no comment.
I went on to insist that I had found all press despatches factual and reiterated my grave concern at developments since Cortesi had received several threats, including two through responsible informants that a group of Army officers at Campo de Mayo in meeting presided over by Colonel Rosas (known to the Mil. Attaché but Perón denied his existence) had threatened to attack (actually they spoke of murder) Cortesi either by hired professionals or non-commissioned officers in civilian attire. I said these threats might be summarily dismissed were it not for three considerations:
- Minister of Interior Admiral Teisaire on June 5th threatened Cortesi saying latter “should not be surprised at whatever might happen to him.” This threat was reported by Cortesi in article published in the New York Times which was republished widely in Buenos Aires. Not only did Min. of Interior fail to deny the quotation of his statement but Lomuto during visit to me on June 13th when I inquired whether exception had been taken to this particular article, replied, “On the contrary, Admiral Teisaire was delighted with it.[”] It is therefore apparent that first threat made against Cortesi was by Teisaire and this has become public knowledge.
- That there are those willing to make such attacks is evidenced by American author Waldo Frank, having been attacked in this city [Page 510] in October 1942, immediately following public declaration by Argentine Govt, that he was persona non grata in this country. Moreover, Frank Breese, U.P. correspondent, was similarly attacked a few months later.
- Perón’s own unprecedented denunciation of Herald Tribune correspondent, Newman, could reasonably be expected to encourage some of these fanatics to feel they could with impunity perpetrate an attack on foreign press correspondents such as Messrs. Cortesi and Newman.
I added that, “Beyond my fundamental obligation to protect lives of U.S. citizens and interests of responsible American enterprises such as New York Times the aforedescribed sequence of events creates a dangerous situation so if, were anything whatsoever now to happen to Cortesi—even an otherwise perfectly explicable accident—public opinion in U.S. and elsewhere would of course immediately link it to Teisaire’s original threat and subsequent ones which have been made. Such a development would have serious repercussions on friendly relations between Argentina and U.S.”
I expressed my disgust and disbelief at his assertion that Cortesi and other correspondents’ lives were endangered. After considerable discussion Perón admitted that he knew who were the fanatics and would keep them under observation to safeguard Cortesi. But he “could not guarantee that some fanatic from the country would not kill Cortesi and then commit suicide.” He suggested putting Cortesi under protective custody. I observed this would have only slightly less bad effect than murder. He then suggested that we induce New York Times to remove Cortesi and that Teisaire’s threat might have meant merely to throw Cortesi out of country. I observed Teisaire had had ample opportunity to clarify his thoughts and we could not even intimate to Times that Cortesi be removed, unless latter’s statements were proved untrue.
… I insisted his statement was contrary to Chapultepec Act10 but as I had said in first interview I mentioned these subjects as a friend because of their effect on public opinion throughout hemisphere. He then stated that all prisoners had been released excepting Communists many of whom had shot policemen and if these were released I would soon read of corpses found in ditches in suburbs. Moreover, he was holding Communists until he completed arrangements now underway to get together with their party (mumbling something about relations with Russia) since they would deal with anyone and with their and labor’s support he would teach economic interests a lesson.[Page 511]
Perón claimed that Argentina had done more in less time to control Nazis that any other American Republic (sic). When I objected and pressed for further action he referred me to Ministry of Foreign Affairs which he said had resented his interference in this field.
I repeatedly asked what solution he had to suggest. He could only suggest we control our press which I emphasized was impossible. I concluded interview by saying several times I saw no solution to the problem. He finally suggested we think it over and I again repeated that while willing to think it over I still saw no solution.
- Resolution VIII of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace is known as the Act of Chapultepec; for text, see Pan American Union, Final Act of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, Mexico City, February–March, 1945 (Washington, 1945), p. 40. For documentation on participation of the United States in this Conference, see pp. 1 ff.↩