The Ambassador in Argentina (Braden) to the Secretary of State
[Received July 6—6 a.m.]
1445. In 1-hour conversation with Perón today he at first took stand that Govt, could no more be responsible for any fanatical attack on American journalists than it could were latter to get pneumonia. He repeated his Govt.’s inability to give assurance against an attack being made by a fanatic from the provinces. After I continued to press for categorical assurances that Argentine Govt, would safeguard American correspondents he alleged that this had been done by public statement reported in Embtel 1406, July 317 and by his having asked labor unions to restrain their animus against these correspondents. In strongest terms I urged a public declaration by Govt, guaranteeing American correspondents’ safety, observing that such was Argentine patriotism that if this statement could also declare that it was a question either of the Govt.’s or Perón’s honor, then even the fanatics would refrain from violence. He refused to do either. Finally he authorized me to state to Dept. and to inform local American correspondents that “every guarantee will be given by Govt, and no greater guarantees will be enjoyed by correspondents in any other country; moreover should they also desire police protection we will assign escorts to them.”
Perón said that yesterday he had summoned editors of principal newspapers to tell them they should not publish despatches sent to the U.S. by American correspondents and retransmitted to Buenos Aires because the publication thereof was creating very bad state of [Page 515] affairs and was prejudicing friendly relations between the U.S. and Argentina. (Reliable journalists present at interview confirm to Embassy editors were told not to republish articles by Buenos Aires correspondents from American papers. Informant further quoted Perón as saying: papers must also avoid editorial comment on those despatches published in U.S. Govt, did not desire to reestablish press censorship because it was repugnant but in case of necessity it would be obliged to do so. Perón said he is daily visited by Army officers and laborers requesting Govt, intervention to stop American journalists. Govt, desires to avoid disagreeable occurrences because of those reckless fellows Cortesi and Newman, whose actions form part of capital’s campaign against Administration. Govt, is determined to stop those two correspondents from disturbing international relations by their campaign of deceit and would go so far as to apply “law of residence” to both of them; i.e., they would be declared undesirable and forced to leave country.)
Perón observed at one point that he was not worried by publication in U.S. of American correspondents’ despatches but only when repeated here. Irrespective of whether he is sincere in his statement it would seem that shutting off their articles here (none appeared in press today and Cue’s Santiago interview18 was suppressed although transmitted by A.P. and U.P.) probably made him more amenable to authorizing me to make a statement quoted at end paragraph 1 above to Dept. and correspondents.
Referring to our last conversation, I underscored my concern because certain 5 centavos’ newspapers were now appearing on streets implicitly attacking me and inferring that our correspondents were writing under instructions of Embassy. I reemphasized that neither my Govt, nor this Emb. had any control whatsoever over the writing of these correspondents and in point of fact we did not know what they were writing until we read it in press. I said since he had admitted an ability to control Argentine press I trusted he could stop distortions in these aforementioned sheets. He alleged that actually these were opposition papers and that since there was complete freedom of press here he could exercise no control (sic). (Our info. is that these sheets actually are subsidized by the Govt.)
Interspersed throughout conversation were Perón’s repeated statements that relations had been very bad between our two countries but everything had cleared and high point of good relations had been reached during visit of Ambassador Warren and Gen. Brett,19 when [Page 516] there had been complete meeting of minds and entire cooperation in every way; now relations had gone back 20 kilometers, were steadily worsening, and he did not know reason excepting as he attributed it to our press correspondents, to statements by Pres. Truman,20 Secretaries Stettinius21 and Clayton,22 and Foreign Minister Padilla, who everyone assumed in speaking from Washington was acting under pressure of U.S. I pointed out the President’s, Stettinius’, and Clayton’s statements had been factual and made precisely in order to clarify the atmosphere and make for friendly relations. I repudiated the inference in respect of Padilla …
Perón endeavored to distort some of my speeches as in nature of interference in internal affairs and as giving basis for charge I was dominating Argentine Govt. Despite his unwillingness to listen I insisted on reviewing my speeches as proof that facts were directly contrary to his assertion.
Perón added that some of other American Republics’ Ambassadors likewise thought that I was intervening. As matter of fact each one of colleagues with whom I have talked has emphatically declared exactly reverse. However, it is possible that to gain kudos with him someone may have made such a statement. On other hand, he has lied so persistently in conversations with me that I am disposed to think he is doing so in this instance.
When he said his conversations with me including this one were “purely personal and not official,” I inquired whether I should obtain from FonOff official statement of guarantee given by him as quoted in paragraph 1 above. He replied this was unnecessary since he was speaking for the Govt. Among his other interesting assertions was one “I am best informed man in country because whatever is said in streets, busses, restaurants, clubs, or elsewhere is immediately reported back to me within a question of minutes, not because employees in those places are spies but because of their dedication to me.”
He had had to restrain workers of all telecommunication companies in their desire to paralyze every communication means within country and even to exterior if necessary by breaking apparati (sic).
When in rejoinder to his assertion of mounting hostility toward me throughout Argentina, I expressed astonishment and commented on many demonstrations to contrary such as applause received when my [Page 517] presence was discovered in a popular restaurant and unprecedented marked applause when American Ambassador appears in local news-reels. (Neither my staff, my friends and informants, or others have any doubt about general popular regard for me.) To this Perón replied, “you must not count on that. I too receive great applause wherever I go and yet I know that there are others who would like to beat me. You must realize that our people are two-faced. I have learned from experience in Govt, that there are only three or four people on whose loyalty I can count.” I of course expressed my astonishment at any such accusation against Argentine people.
Perón commented on “very bad effects” of my announcement to “American and local correspondents” of removal of censorship. I of course pointed out that I had made my statement exclusively to American correspondents and had done so at Lomuto’s specific request. There ensued an attempt by him to give different version of my conversation with Lomuto. I therefore repeated it verbatim saying I could give him my word it was as stated by me. He observed that Lomuto was a fool and would be punished.
He implied I should make no speeches or statements whatsoever since they might be interpreted as attacks on Govt. Of course there is a measure of truth in this since any reference to democracy, liberty, Four Freedoms, Atlantic Charter, or any of rights … for which we stand is inferentially criticism of this Govt.… However I limited my reply to saying necessarily an Ambassador here is called upon frequently to make addresses and statements but that I would defy anyone in the past, present, or future to find anything in what I had said which could be remotely interpreted as unfriendly to Argentina.
Throughout Perón’s entire conversation there was repeated in greater or lesser degree menace that we must dance to his tune or suffer reprisals.
My net impression of conversation is that our correspondents will have security although in fit of temper Perón is capable of taking revenge for any article which stings him too sharply. Otherwise he has bit in teeth, is determined to go his way and will fight like cornered wild animal as he further realizes that we intend firmly to press for compliance with Chapultepec commitments. He has no conception of democratic system and his Fascist mentality is further evidenced by fact, as he reiterated several times in our last interview, he genuinely feels he “has reason” on his side.
In view of these assurances Newman left Embassy residence today.
- Not printed; statement referred to, which was issued by the Argentine Under Secretariat of Information, indicated ignorance of any threats and stressed reliance on Argentina’s “traditional hospitality” and independent judiciary as offering guarantees of protection (811.91235/7–345).↩
- Pedro Cue, Editor of El Mundo of Havana, who reportedly voiced his opinion, at an interview held in Santiago, Chile, that Perón’s Government was antidemocratic.↩
- Lt. Gen. George H. Brett, Commanding General, Caribbean Defense Command.↩
- Reference is presumably made to presidential letter sent to Wilbur Forrest, of the New York Herald Tribune; for text, see Department of State Bulletin June 24, 1945, p. 1144.↩
- See the Secretary’s report on the United Nations Conference held at San Francisco, ibid. June 3, 1945, p. 1007.↩
- For text of Assistant Secretary Clayton’s statement on renewal of the Trade Agreements Act, made before the Senate Finance Committee, see ibid. June 3, 1945, p. 1024.↩