The Ambassador in Argentina ( Braden ) to the Secretary of State

No. 295

Sir: I have the honor to report that on July 2 the Secretariat of Press and Information distributed a leaflet to the local press in which American correspondents in Argentina were attacked in violent terms.

According to information received … the Secretariat of Press and Information used to distribute regularly, until 6 months ago, leaflets containing propaganda material to the most important Argentine newspapers. Newspaper editors were requested by the Government to publish this material with any superficial modifications that they might consider necessary, and in such a manner that the reader would not be aware that these articles did not represent a true expression of the newspaper’s own point of view. High reasons of patriotism were invoked, and principally the duty of every Argentine citizen to assist the Government in its endeavor to extricate Argentina from the difficult position in which she was prior to our and the other American Republics’ recognition. These reasons were accepted as valid and practically all important newspapers carried, in slightly altered form, the items furnished them by the Secretariat.

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After a 6 months lapse, the Secretariat apparently decided to reestablish the above described practice. At noon on July 2, Señor … received a leaflet from the Secretariat attacking American correspondents in Argentina. Señor … was urged several times by telephone by officers of the Secretariat to publish the contents of the leaflet. On the evening of that date, he was again asked if he was willing to publish it and the next morning he received an ultimatum to the effect that if he persisted in his attitude, his newspaper would be expropriated by the Government. Similar threats were also made to Señor … by Oscar Lomuto, Chief of the Press and Information Secretariat, and by the Minister of Interior, Rear Admiral Teisaire. However, Señor … persevered in his refusal to comply with the Government’s order.

The contents of the leaflet were not carried by either Crítica or by any important Buenos Aires newspaper. However, the leaflet may have been used by some of the Government’s subsidized tabloids.

The Embassy obtained a copy of the leaflet through Mr. Mooney, correspondent for Time and Life magazines in Buenos Aires. Whether the information submitted by Señor … is authentic or not, the fact still remains that the leaflet is couched in a language similar to that previously used by the Press Secretariat in its handbills and notes to the press. American correspondents are presented (a) as naive and ignorant gringos ready to gulp down any stuff that is fed them by smart and malicious criollos; (b) as rat-pickers or guttersnipes; and (c) as irresponsible journalists who deliberately report “monstrously grotesque” facts which never took place except in their own imagination.

It is interesting to relate this note to the statement Colonel Perón made to me on June 30 (reference my telegram No. 1387, June 30, 11 p.m.) that he could, if he wished to do so, initiate at any moment a campaign of defamation against the United States in several Buenos Aires newspapers. Despite Perón’s assurance that he would not do it, this leaflet may be taken as the first evidence of his intended campaign. Once again he failed to keep his word. It remains to be seen whether he will attempt to carry out an anti-United States campaign on a really large scale.

Respectfully yours,

Spruille Braden