The Ambassador in Paraguay (Beaulac) to the Secretary of State

No. 1861

Sir: I have the honor to report that following a conversation with the President this morning on various matters pending between the Embassy and the Paraguayan government, I asked the President how things were going politically. The President said that while he was absent in Misiones province last weekend the Government had frustrated a plan involving young officers in the Army and communists to take over the Cavalry Regiment at Campo Grande as well as the Police Department in Asunción (see my telegram no. 291 of June 26, 3 p.m.8). He confirmed the arrest of Colonels Vásquez, Espinoza and Arrua on the charge of being involved in this plan and said that Lieutenant Colonel Vera Vargas, who took asylum in the Mexican Embassy on June 25, was one of the leaders.

He said that Vera Vargas was, for a number of years, a professor in the Military Academy. Last year one of the cadets, who is a distant relative of the President, told him that Vera Vargas was indoctrinating the cadets with Russian propaganda. He would talk to them between classes and at rest periods of the extraordinary efficiency of the Russian Army, its democracy, the excellent conditions pertaining in the Russian zone of occupation in Germany as well as the chaotic conditions existing in the American and British zones. He would say that Paraguay had sold itself to the United States.

The President said that following this conversation he called General Andres Aguilera, now Minister to England and France and then Head of the Military Academy, and told him of the conversation. [Page 1182] Aguilera stoutly defended Vera Vargas and said that there was nothing to the allegation. Some time passed, and the President received similar reports concerning Vera Vargas from other sources. He then instructed General Machuca, at that time Minister of National Defense, to transfer Vera Vargas out of the Military Academy. Machuca transferred him to the Chaco.

Several months later General Andino returned Vera Vargas to Asunción as an unsatisfactory officer. Vera Vargas was given a minor post in Asunción.

When Benítez Vera rebelled against the Government Vera Vargas, Vásquez and presumably Arrua, although the President did not mention his name, began to contact the younger officers in both the Cavalry Regiment and the Air Force. Vera Vargas knew a great many of them personally because he had taught them in the Military Academy. These high-ranking officers incited the younger officers to believe that they could take over the Government and make it really democratic. The plot of last weekend was a result of their agitation. The President said, in passing, that he thought Colonel Espinoza was innocent of any wrong doing.

The President did not allege that any of the officers had Liberal affiliations. He said that he believed that Colonel Vásquez, who was mentioned in my telegram no. 291 of June 26 as having Liberal affiliations, was brought into the plot through his brother-in-law, Rafael Oddone. The President said that he had long believed that Oddone, a University professor, was one of the behind-the-scenes intellectual leaders of the communists. He said that he was a demagogue of the first water, always associated himself with anything that had a democratic color, but belonged to no party. There is enclosed for the Department’s information a brief memorandum from the Legal Attaché9 concerning Rafael Oddone. It will be noted that the Legal Attaché says that, “Oddone has previously been reported as one of those individuals active in labor circles who is believed to be a member of the Communist Party”. The Embassy files indicate that Oddone was a member of the “Committee in Defense of the (Franco) Revolution”, and that he conducted a newspaper during the Franco regime which that regime closed. In December 1944 he signed the petition for a Constituent Assembly and on June 21, 1945 he was deported to Argentina.

The President said that as a part of the plan to take over the Cavalry Regiment and Police Department, some 150 communists, armed with guns and machetes, assembled on the night of June 22 at a place near the waterfront. In this connection the Legal Attaché reported on June 22 that a communist “concentration” was to be held that night. [Page 1183] He later reported that the concentration had been postponed for one day.

The President said that he himself had warned Vera Vargas, after the President’s return from Misiones, to cease his political activities, and had ordered him to go to his house and await instructions from his superiors. Vera Vargas, after disclaiming any connection with the plot, sought and was given asylum in the Mexican Embassy. He left for Argentina yesterday.

I told the President that it was being rumored around that the young officers at Campo Grande were refusing to accept the higher officers assigned to the Cavalry Regiment. The President said that the situation at Campo Grande was, indeed, bad. He said that a number of officers from Campo Grande were under arrest, others had fled, and that discipline among the younger officers was very deficient. (From another source the Embassy obtained a report that fourteen officers were sent to the military prison at Peña Hermosa today).

I told the President that there was general complaint, in and out of the Army, that the Government was too vague in its promises of democratization. It had failed to fix dates for the various measures promised and in other ways had not been specific. This, it seemed to me, gave ammunition to persons who alleged that the Government had no real intention of restoring democratic institutions. The President said that the Government needed stability before it could become precise in these matters. I said that it seemed to me that there was a good chance that stability would not be obtained until more precise information were given out.

The President then said that some of the steps contemplated would have been taken already had it not been for Benítez Vera’s rebellion and the complications that had subsequently arisen. He could tell me that press freedom would be reestablished during the first half of July and that the political truce would be lifted during the latter part of the month. The electoral law would have to be studied by the political parties. The list of registered voters would have to be revised. I reminded the President that he had said these same things months ago but that nothing had been done, and that it seemed to me that he had to hurry.

The President said that he had talked with Colorado and Franquista leaders, recently, and advised them to get ready to participate in the coming political campaign. He implied, without saying it, that they had agreed to cooperate. (The Embassy had received a report from a member of the Governing Board of the Colorado Party that Federico Chaves, head of the Party, had a three-hour conversation with Morínigo a few days ago. Federico Chaves denied this report to a member of the Embassy staff today. The Embassy is inclined to [Page 1184] believe that the conversation actually took place). I asked the President whether Colonel Franco would be allowed to return to Paraguay. He said he would.

I then asked the President what the status of the Liberal Party would be. He said that he was going to put this question up to the Franquistas and Colorados. He was tired of pulling other people’s chestnuts out of the fire and he wanted to handle the question of the Liberal and the Communist parties in a “democratic” way.

Respectfully yours,

Willard L. Beaulac
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