The Chargé in Argentina (Ray) to the Secretary of State
Subject: September 24 Plot to Assassinate The Peróns.
Sir: I have the honor to furnish herewith a résumé of events connected with the alleged plot to assassinate the Peróns.
As approximately 2:00 a. m. the morning of September 24 Chief of Police General Bertollo called in representatives of the press. He announced to them that a dozen people had been arrested, charged with plotting to assassinate President and Mrs. Perón on October 12 as the two left a ceremony scheduled to be held in the Colon Theater in celebration of continentally-observed Día de La Raza. The best known of those arrested was Cipriano Reyes, one-time labor leader who subsequently became a member of the National Chamber of Deputies, but who fell from power after he fell out of grace with Perón. The list included three priests, two of them Navy chaplains. Bertollo also said that people in Uruguay were implicated, principally former American Foreign Service Auxiliary Officer John Griffiths.1
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Beginning with late Friday (the 24th) editions we were lambasted in all administration papers, particularly in those which hew solidly to the Perón party-line. Both front page streamer headlines and individual story captions had it that the plot was conceived in the United States and that orders for the Peróns’ assassination came from the United States.
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With regard to the “plot” itself, and to the terrific lambasting the United States has been subjected to in all pro-administration papers, but more so in all-out pro-Perón La Epoca and Critica, no proof has [Page 293] yet been furnished. With regard to the motives why we should come in for such a lambasting, at a time when the Ambassador is in the United States attempting to find an outlet for Argentine products which would provide sorely needed dollar exchange, all that can be offered is speculation.
Some of those arrested, if not all, unquestionably think illy of the administration, for one or another reason. They may have discussed ways and means to eliminate Perón. Cipriano Reyes, who because he failed to see eye to eye with Perón was reduced to a minor local union post, may have mentioned Griffiths’ name (Griffiths denies having had any connection with Reyes since the two talked here more than two years ago).
However, the police haul was so small and the individual fish so insignificant that suspicion arises that if the whole thing was not a complete hoax it was much ado about little, and the ado must have had a broader purpose. This feeling, either that the whole thing was a hoax, or that more was made of the discontent of a few insignificant people than was warranted, is pretty widespread. And the question is asked why, if the assassination was not to be carried out until October 12, it was deemed necessary to make the announcement of its discovery in the early morning hours of last Friday, only the day before a pro-constitutional-reform monster mass meeting was scheduled to be held.
Several theses have been advanced for the great to-do raised. One was that Perón sought to draw attention away from the continuing deterioration of the economic situation. Another, that he wanted to give people something to think about which would cause them to forget the hysterical hanging threat he made at Santa Fé on September 8 past. A third, that barbs thrown by opposition representatives in the Chamber of Deputies had become overly annoying. Yet another, that there has has been so much pulling and hauling and jockeying for position among top officials that he felt it necessary to provide something on which all could agree, i.e., to pledge allegiance once more to the lider. Still further, that in a desire to cow the opposition to the point of abstaining from putting up candidates for election as Constitutional Convention delegates he would stop short of nothing, even of committing a hoax.
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First Secretary of Embassy
- Mr. Griffiths, a commission agent in Buenos Aires, had been employed from 1941 to 1946 as a cultural attaché and as a special assistant in the Embassy in Buenos Aires.↩