711–Lat.Am.Rep.: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Chile ( Bowers )

11. Your telegram No. 1981, December 29, 10 p.m.58 The most careful study has been given to your secret message reporting your last [Page 756] conversation with Fernández.59 We are fully alive to the delicacy of this matter60 and keenly appreciate the difficulties which confront the President61 and the Foreign Minister. I am sanguine, however, that by an able and courageous presentation the step could be taken with benefit to all.

The very real importance not only to Chile but also to the Inter-American system of all our republics standing shoulder to shoulder as full-fledged members of the United Nations and simultaneously participating on an entirely equal footing in the momentous deliberations which will shortly be held, cannot be over-emphasized. We are sure that the President and Fernández understand this fully and are confident that they appreciate the importance to Chile of taking the leadership in this matter.

With specific reference to the three numbered points made in your telegram, the Department feels (1) that it would be most unwise for Chile to approach Russia and Great Britain on this matter at this time, and we appreciate Chile’s assurance it will not do so without our concurrence. This would confuse the broader issue and would gain Chile nothing; (2) our responsibilities to the other five nations of this hemisphere who are in Chile’s same position will not enable us to wait much longer before going to them frankly in the matter and informing them as we did Chile; and (3) our strong preference is to continue as energetically and rapidly as possible to get all of the republics concerned into the United Nations. It is strongly felt here that no special envoy should be sent to Washington at this time, owing to the fact that the problem is well known in Santiago and there is little that could be accomplished here. The scene of action is rather Santiago than Washington.

Please again see Fernández or the President or both of them, if you consider this best, restating the formula discussed at Viña Del Mar,62 i.e. the Lima and Panama declarations,63 aggression against one being aggression against all, the fact of aggression, the breaking of relations, the statement by Ríos that this was tantamount to war, and the positive acts which Chile has taken against the Axis which do constitute acts of war. Please suggest to them that the formula might be even more acceptable if it were put up to Congress and the people [Page 757] with emphasis on Chile aligning itself formally with the United Nations and softpedaling the declaration of a pre-existing state of belligerency as only a formality in connection with this membership. Good use can be made of argument that action will speed conclusion of war. Please also make such use as you can of the French signature which was fixed at an impressive ceremony held here on January 1. (See radio bulletin.) You should say that we still have hope that Chile will find it possible to take this initiative and feel that this is much the better way of handling the situation. It is to be recalled that Chile has already had a month in which to consider its course of action. To wait longer might well place us in an untenable position vis-à-vis the other governments. If the Foreign Minister or the President answer that they will take the initiative, we would naturally give them a reasonable additional time in which to do this on the understanding that the matter would move as rapidly as possible. If, however, they are unable to assure you that the initiative will be taken promptly, we are sure that they will agree that we owe it to our sister republics frankly and fully to inform them of the predicament in which all of us are likely to find ourselves. I am sure that in making clear this latter point our Chilean friends will understand that we would go forward on this alternative basis only with great reluctance and that they will fully understand the reasons why we must do so.

Please express to Fernández or the President our deep gratitude for the friendly and cooperative manner in which they have dealt with us in this important matter, our firm confidence in them, and in particular express our thanks and admiration for the strict confidence in which the subject has been held.

I hope that we may have a favorable reply from you before the end of the week.

  1. ibid., p. 699.
  2. Joaquin Fernández Fernández, Chilean Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Reference is to Chile’s entry into the war and adherence to the United Nations Declaration.
  4. Juan Antonio Ríos Morales.
  5. Summer residence of President Ríos.
  6. See Department of State, Report of the Delegation of the United States of America to the Eighth International Conference of American States, Lima, Peru, December 9–27, 1938 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1941), pp. 189–190. For information on the First Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics, held at Panama, September 23–October 3, 1939, see Department of State Bulletin, October 7, 1939, pp. 321–334.