811.24523/8–2346: Telegram

The Ambassador in Peru ( Cooper ) to the Secretary of State

secret
us urgent

920. Yesterday I received invitation from President Bustamante to have conference on Talara incident. This was arranged for 4:30 p.m. and resulted in 2-hour discussion. Present were Foreign Minister60 and Embassy Assistant Military Attaché who acted as my interpreter. Conference was exceedingly friendly in tone. President was careful to explain that we were met for only friendly exchange of views looking toward satisfactory solution of incident. There was no suggestion of any ultimatum respecting incident. My note 288 [88?], August 761 was read to President expressing regret and stating that US had assumed responsibility for punishment its own personnel in affair. I also called attention to fact that court martial personnel had already arrived in Talara and were proceeding with case. President stated that while our action was consistent with my note August 7 yet he intimated that were he to yield on jurisdictional point it might involve reforming his Cabinet and more particularly might involve change of Foreign Minister. It developed that Peru has now lodged charges against 7 others in addition to Eiland. I stated my information was that Corp. Miller and Pvt. Bethany were only others directly implicated. Since Eiland’s condition reported very critical I requested further delay until it is determined whether Eiland will live. While President stated death of Eiland would make no difference in respect to legal situation, I believe effect on public would tend to dismiss affair. I called attention to fact that Eiland was not armed and Rubio not justified in using deadly weapon. President replied that court would of course have to determine whether action of Rubio had exceeded the bounds of reasonable self-defense. President was emphatic in stating that this issue should be handled so as not to jeopardize hemispheric defense program and he feared repercussions not alone in Peru but throughout Latin America if Peru did [Page 1238] not exercise its jurisdiction in trying US personnel. President expressed high hope for future hemispheric defense cooperation. My position two points:

First, that trial in Peruvian civil courts would necessitate long drawn out trial inviting much unfavorable publicity before matter could be terminated, that much material for Communists or trouble-makers to keep issue alive and before South American public with harmful results to hemispheric defense.

Second, that effect on US public opinion would be harmful since US had first apologized, with an American Sergeant’s death probable, whereas Peruvian Ensign had already fully recovered according to President’s own statement. I further pointed out to subject other personnel to bad jail conditions with possible mob violence and penalties which if regarded as too severe by US public would cause serious reaction. I further pointed out that as the President had previously admitted we were proceeding according to our August 7 statement to summarily and quickly punish our own personnel found guilty. I further stated that long line of precedent sustained US court martial proceedings and that clause 2 F in Talara agreement would be subject strict construction and that no ceding of jurisdiction could be implied in absence of specific provisions. President’s reply conciliatory yet firm on point of jurisdiction. He stated his position backed up by long line of precedent plus tradition and that US precedent would only apply in international law when embodied in a treaty or agreement and that he construed clause 2 F clearly to give jurisdiction to Peruvian Govt in area outside base itself. President offered full support his Govt to expedite trial proceedings and minimize accompanying publicity. President said Peruvian Govt would view court martial proceedings as internal US Army matter and that his Govt would still have responsibility to evoke Peruvian court action.

The Talara truck incident (mytel 916, August 2362) was referred to as accident and President intimated that it would have little importance unless the press took it up. However, Foreign Minister had previously informed us that civil authorities were proceeding in this case also.

No mention was made of airplane accident occurring at Talara August 18 (mytel 915, August 2363).

My comment on interview is that if Eiland dies as is feared and court martial meets as planned August 27 and imposes appropriate penalties, barring unforeseen complications, Peru may eventually become satisfied and we would be nearer a termination of the incident.

Cooper
  1. Enrique García Sayán.
  2. Not printed, but see reply of the Peruvian Government, supra.
  3. Not printed; it indicated that a Peruvian non-commissioned officer was killed in the accident which occurred off the base and that the driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter (811.24523/9–546).
  4. Not printed.