Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Wallace W. Stuart and Mr. James Espy of the Division of North and West Coast Affairs

Participants: Messrs. Edwin W. James and John L. Harrison, of Public Roads Administration
James Espy, NWC—Dept. of State and
Wallace Stuart, Third Secretary, American Embassy, La Paz, Bolivia

The persons listed above met in the office of Mr. Harrison at the request of Mr. Espy to discuss delays which have arisen in connection with the preparation of plans for the Cochabamba–Santa Cruz Highway.

Mr. Espy opened the discussion by pointing out that the State Department was profoundly interested in the progress of the highway and in the successful completion of the project. He said that it was in fact the most important single consideration in our relations with Bolivia. Mr. James observed that the Corporation and the Eximbank were independent entities and inquired as to the State Department’s interest. Mr. Espy replied by pointing out that the Bolivian Development Corporation was an outgrowth of the Bohan Mission74 with which the Department had been closely associated and emphasized that the success or failure of the road project would profoundly affect American prestige and American relations with Bolivia for years to come. He added that the State Department had a further interest inasmuch as the project was being financed largely with United States Government funds.

Mr. Stuart stated that the Embassy in La Paz has followed the [Page 391] progress of the road program closely and has been deeply concerned with the failure of the Public Roads Administration engineer, Mr. Benjamin Cottrell, to produce plans for the highway to meet the minimum needs of the contractor.…

He continued that the officers of the Corporation, disturbed by the delay in preparing plans, sent a consulting engineer, Mr. Roberto Arce, to investigate the causes; that Mr. Arce’s investigation resulted in a memorandum, signed on March 14, 1946 by Mr. Cottrell and by representatives of the contractor (Reference; Despatch 2689, May 20, 194675). This memorandum established the fact that as of that date complete and final plans had been turned over to the contractor for construction only as far as km. 21.7 and established a scale of minimum needs of the contractor. Mr. Cottrell, in the memorandum, committed himself to meet this rate.

It was pointed out that on May 6, 1946, the contractor had received final plans only to km. 46, whereas Mr. Cottrell was committed to turn over final plans to km. 60 on April 30; in other words, in a period of 2½ months Mr. Cottrell had fallen almost a month behind the schedule. It was pointed out that this delay was resulting in corresponding delays in construction and criticism of the Public Roads Administration and apprehension was expressed that the delay was indicative of the inability of Mr. Cottrell or his organization to meet his commitments in the Arce memorandum.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Then there followed some discussion of the difficulties under which Mr. Cottrell had been working during the war.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mr. James stated that he had under consideration the replacement of Mr. Cottrell, but that no action could be taken immediately; that he, himself, expected to visit Bolivia early in August when he would investigate the matter thoroughly. Mr. Stuart and Mr. Espy pointed out the danger of allowing the matter to “slide” too long, particularly in view of the rapid expansion of construction work contemplated when new equipment is received.

Mr. Espy concluded the interview by emphasizing again the State Department’s interest in the project and requesting Mr. James to take such action as might be necessary to assure the production of plans in accordance with commitments undertaken by the Public Roads Administration in the Arce memorandum.

  1. Merwin L. Bohan was Chief of the U.S. Economic Mission to Bolivia; see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. v, pp. 592 ff.
  2. Not printed.