The Ambassador in Argentina ( Bruce ) to the Secretary of State
Sir: I have the honor to report that during a four-hour conversation yesterday, April 27, with Bay and me, President Perón discussed at length the problem of communism in the Americas with particular reference to relations between Argentina and the United States as affected by the communist problem.
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The President said he was not in agreement with the policy followed by the U.S. Government in combating communism in Latin America. He mentioned that his analysis of the situation indicated that the United States attempted to handle the communistic problem by direct government to government dealings and that the communists in turn avoided such government contacts and made their contacts between their agents and the masses. It appeared to him that the United States had now changed its policy in this connection and was attempting to influence the masses in the various Latin American countries through North American labor delegations which are being sent to the various labor conventions which are held from time to time in the capitals of the Latin American countries. He felt that the idea was not bad but that the selection of delegates left much to be desired. His impression was that the majority of American delegates sent to these conventions had strong socialistic tendencies and that they contacted and worked with Latin Americans who represented the extreme socialistic groups which in most cases were closely allied with communist groups. He gave as an example Serafino Romualdi who headed the American delegation visiting Argentina sometime ago and stated that Romualdi worked closely with Ghioldi, the socialist, who is a brother of Rudolfo Ghioldi, a strong communist leader.
We explained to the President that American labor groups and federations were completely independent organizations which were not controlled in any way by the Government and that the participation of these groups in Latin American labor conferences was not the result of any official policy on the part of the United States Government.
He emphasized that the influence of the Mexican Lombardo Toledano1 was used in favor of Moscow and that Argentina’s influence in labor circles in the Americas would be used against the communists. The President’s opinion is that it may be useful to have exchanges of [Page 285] visits by the labor representatives of various countries but that steps should be taken to screen these representatives as to desirability and to eliminate communists from these trips and meetings.
When requested to give an explanation of the so-called third position with the remark that such a position had given rise to considerable misunderstanding and uneasiness in the United States and in the other countries, the President said he expected to be called on for such an explanation and that he was glad to give it in detail.
President Perón reiterated it must be understood that the so-called third position is a political device for use in peace time and that it has no application and would not even exist in the event of war between the United States and Russia. He said it must also be understood that the third position is definitely anti-communist, and not in any sense a compromise with communism. He added that we must all recognize that capitalism had indulged in certain abuses and that at least to some extent communism had been able to grow because of such abuses; a third position which would not espouse capitalism in the form in which it is popularly conceived in the Latin American mind will have more effect and a wider appeal to labor in Latin America than would an attempt to defend capitalism as opposed to communism. He went on to say that Argentina desired to use its influence in Latin America to the greatest possible extent to combat and eliminate communism.
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The President said that in his mind there are two distinct ways of combating communism: one, a process of extermination, and two, buying them off. He said he thought the latter would be more effective and in the long run much less expensive. He explained that by “buying them off” he meant raising wages and improving living conditions to such an extent that there would no longer exist a fertile field for communist activities.
The President said that with regard to Argentina, the communists are not strong enough here to create any real trouble and that in the event of war, the Argentine administration would meet with no problem whatsoever in placing itself on the side of the United States and declaring war against Russia. He remarked, however, that recent happenings at Bogotá should be a lesson to all of us as it demonstrated how easily civil war could break out in many Latin American countries. He expressed the view that should war break out, civil war might easily start in many of the American countries and only after one side or the other won would it be known whether the government would side with the United States or with Russia. He made specific reference to Chile and Brazil as outstanding examples of where the communists probably have sufficient strength to cause real trouble and [Page 286] make it necessary for the government to engage in civil war which it might or might not win before joining effectively with the United States against Russia. He reiterated that the recent events at Bogotá should open everybody’s eyes and make it clear to all of us that such things are definitely possible and that fear of civil war in a number of American countries is not exaggerated.
The President said that unfortunately he did not know the situation in the United States as well as he would like to but that the United States has by far the highest standard of living of any country in the world, and he took it for granted that the United States would be able to control the situation and carry on a war without any serious interference from the communists. He remarked that Argentina has a far lower standard of living than the United States but that the people have a higher standard of living and especially are better fed than any of the other American countries where poverty and misery are widespread in varying degrees. His conclusion was that there would be little real danger from the communists in the United States and Argentina, but we must not forget that there are 19 other American Republics where the communists have fertile fields for their propaganda and organizational activities.
With particular reference to the recent refusal at Bogotá of Foreign Minister Bramuglia to agree immediately to a joint campaign against the communists, the President remarked rather grimly that he was going to talk with us with extreme and unusual frankness. He said that Bramuglia had taken the position he had under direct instructions from himself. He pointed out that prior to the Río Conference in August 1947 Bramuglia had informed this Embassy of Argentina’s desire to enter into some form of agreement with the United States and other American countries to combat communism. He assumed we had so informed the State Department. (In this assumption the President was, of course, correct.) Perón went on to say that when Bramuglia proposed to the United States at the outset of the Río Conference that an agreement be reached for a joint effort to combat communism, Bramuglia had a most cordial conversation with the Secretary and other high ranking American representatives but was given a “polite brush-off” with the explanation that the United States was not interested and that each country should individually take whatever measures it saw fit to adopt against communism and furthermore any agreement either in the form of a written treaty or a verbal understanding among the American Republics to combat communism was undesirable. He said that at that time Argentina was ready and prepared to join with us and other countries in fighting the communists. He added that at Bogotá they were not quite ready for reasons which he would explain to us in the greatest confidence and with extreme [Page 287] frankness. Here, lie brought up the question of the Falkland Islands and remarked that the connection would probably not be immediately apparent to us but he would explain why. He blamed the British for provoking the recent disagreements over the Falkland Islands and the Antarctic regions.2 He said that the naval maneuvers which had drawn the British ire were nothing new but were maneuvers which Argentina had engaged in before for many years. He said the British were to blame for making too much out of these routine maneuvers and that they sent British warships to the Falkland Islands for what were undoubtedly political reasons not very clear to him. He described the Falkland Islands question as being a matter of “life and death” for Argentina and said that British possession of the Falkland Islands might be described as a fishbone in the throat of every Argentine and the irritation would not be removed until the fishbone was disgorged; every Argentine was convinced of the validity of Argentine claim to Falklands.
The President remarked that we had explained to Bramuglia the position of the United States with regard to the Falkland Islands and he understood clearly that for reasons of our own we had not found it possible to support the Argentine position. He recalled that when we had explained the United States position to Bramuglia, the latter remarked to us he already knew it or “at least had guessed it.” The President said frankly that at Bogotá, Argentina wanted the Falkland Islands and we wanted an anti-communist pact and he was merely having Bramuglia “play a little poker.”
The President referred to his establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviets. He said that at the time the policy of the United States was definitely unfriendly toward Argentina and so was that of the Soviets. He remarked that one day he got a kick from the United States and the next day a swift kick from the Soviets. He said he thought at that time that it was better to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviets and “get them at least off his neck.”
The President emphasized again here his desire to cooperate wholeheartedly with the United States and reiterated that we had his word of honor that in the event of war between the United States and Russia, Argentina would immediately throw its full support to the United States.
When it was explained to the President that unsettled conditions which now exist might make it more difficult for the United States to furnish arms and general supplies, including machinery and equipment, to Argentina, the President said he understood this point and thought it was important for us to know that “Argentina is with us.” He recalled that his Minister of War, General Humberto Sosa Molina, [Page 288] left last Sunday for the United States and added that he had given Sosa Molina explicit instructions to give the military leaders in the United States the most definite possible assurance that in the event of war between the United States and Russia, Argentina would immediately side with the United States and within 24 hours declare war on Russia. It is obvious that in the President’s mind there is little or no doubt that war is inevitable between the United States and Russia. The President emphasized that he is a military man with military training and that he is accustomed to planning things rather than making snap judgments and taking precipitant action. He said that his statement that Argentina would be with the United States was not made lightly but that Argentina’s position had been planned over two years ago and that there had been no deviation from this determination and there would be none.
The President said that he hoped we would transmit to the Department of State his categoric assurance regarding Argentina’s position as described above and repeated his fervent hope that all of us would understand the seriousness of the situation and realize that there exists in many of the Latin American countries a real danger of revolution and that if war comes, revolutions may well break out in them; in fact, there is a real danger in all of them except in the United States and in Argentina. In this connection he remarked that we should all profit by the graphic lesson given us at Bogotá. He added that whatever the cure for Latin American ills may be, it certainly does not lie in government loans from the United States to the various countries. He thought the sooner we learned this lesson, the better.
Perón seemed anxious to continue exchange of information with us regarding communist activities and said he would send us shortly some information which he thought would be of real interest to us.
Counselor of Embassy