825.5045/10–1347: Telegram

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

confidential

796. Vergara Foreign Minister11 summoned me at 7:00 to Moneda. He was sitting with Council of Ministers on the crisis when I arrived. He was very serious and emphatic. He reports conditions not improving, with but few miners returning to work who can produce but 6% of necessary output. Sees a thoroughly organized Communist push intended as incentive to Communism through SA. If coal cannot be had from outside and unemployment on large scale results with hunger and suffering, confesses does not know where it will end. Government knows today that Communists are preparing similar strike in nitrate and copper mines. Chile has but 42,000 tons on hand and using Navy stock. Normal coal consumption 240,000 tons; by closing some factories, drastic rationing on light and heat, reduction [Page 506] rail operations can manage with sacrifices on 105,000 tons per month. Reports our Coal Control Board offers 18,000 tons from Pacific at $10 ton; that private companies are asking payment before shipment but Chile unable to get dollars. Asks if some credit arrangement cannot be made in consequence.

He made it clear that he came from President and Council Ministers to say Chile must know positively what if any moral support can expect from the US. Says unless shipment begins within 3 days supply here be exhausted before arrival. He understands large coal stock in Balboa.

Vergara’s statement no exaggeration. The strike is Communistic and revolutionary and result will have inevitable effect throughout SA. No possible doubt that strike is ordered from outside as a major effort of Communism to take over in Chile as first step toward the Continent. The issue is clear as crystal—Communism or democracy. With such an issue earnestly urge that we stand by for this fight is ours. It seems to me our clear duty in our own interests. Dribs of coal will not suffice. All parties but Communists, all sectors of society and opinion warmly supporting the President who thinks it may mean a struggle of two to three months. In view of the world contest between Communism and democracy it seems incredible that we should be indifferent to the major battle Communism is waging in Chile, and that we cannot be better than heretofore indicated. Unless we can and do we may prepare ourselves for a grave Communist triumph in our backyard and which will spread to other American nations.

Bowers
  1. Germán Vergara Donoso took office as Foreign Minister on August 2, 1947.