The Ambassador in Argentina ( Bruce ) to the Secretary of State
A–502. In a call on me on October 29, Brigadier General Arturo Bertollo, Chief of the Federal Police, immediately launched into an explanation of why he desired to see me. He prefaced his remarks by mentioning that several events which had taken place during my absence in the United States might have appeared to imply that there exists an unfriendly feeling in high circles of the Argentine Government toward the United States. He stated that such was not the case and that the events referred to had been necessary in order to maintain for the Government the strong support of the working classes. General Bertollo then described how the headquarters of the branch of the Cominform which controls Latin America is located in Paris with an executive office which carries out its directives, located in Mexico City. He explained how strong the Communists are in Central American countries and also in Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
In Uruguay and Argentina, however, the Communists have not made much headway due to the strong and popular democratic-governments in power. He explained why Argentina, surrounded by countries in which unrest, due to the Communist activities prevailed, found it necessary at times to take strong measures against opponents of the Government. He further stated that a united America was the only solution to the problem and that such unity was one of the principal aims of President Perón. In order to obtain this united America it was necessary to educate the masses and that such a process would take time.
General Bertollo stated that there were three general groups which were working against the present government in Argentina, and in addition working for disunity and confusion among the American Republics. These three groups in so far as Argentina is concerned are [Page 296] the Communists, the opposition political parties and the capitalists. He stated that although not communist the political opposition and the capitalists were accomplishing, through their activities, the very thing which the Communists most desired. In other words, by opposing and trying to undermine the present government they were aiding the Communists and might just as well be working with them.
General Bertollo then referred back to the time of Ambassador Braden, mentioning that at that time, in the State Department, there were numbered among Braden’s supporters, Mr. Briggs, presently Ambassador to Uruguay, Mr. Wright, Gustav Durand and Robert Newbegin2 and that Mr. Griffiths, as Cultural Attaché, used Newbegin as his contact with Mr. Briggs. He mentioned that at this time there were undercover groups of men gathering information for Mr. Braden and that these groups still exist and are now controlled by Mr. Griffiths who he believes is financed by American capitalists. General Bertollo said that there are five of these ex-Braden-Griffiths-controlled, anti-Argentine groups functioning at present time in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. He has no proof that Griffiths is a Communist but does believe that some of the men working for Griffiths are members of the Communist party.
The primary reason he offered for his belief that capitalists are backing Griffiths is the fact that Griffiths’ henchmen are paid in American dollars. General Bertollo believes that Ambassador Briggs supports Griffiths and even protects him when the need arises. At this point I interjected that such a belief was entirely without foundation, in fact so ridiculous that it hardly merited comment. When asked if there were other Americans involved in this plotting General Bertollo indicated that there were, but that their number was not great. He further stated that there were many more people than those who have already been arrested involved in the recent plotting against President Perón but that revelation of their names might cause serious reaction in the country and work to the benefit of the Communist party.
General Bertollo stated that during a conversation with the President of Uruguay he was told that the United States had some 500 secret agents working in Uruguay. When asked by the Ambassador for further information upon this subject he stated that all he knew was what the President of Uruguay had told him. He did, however, state that he, General Bertollo, and the Government of the Argentine [Page 297] did have full knowledge of all foreign intelligence agencies operating in this country.
General Bertollo’s visit probably was prompted by my remarks to the President following my return when I commented on the apparent deterioration of the Argentine-American relations in my absence and by a desire on their part to reassure me and explain the Government’s actions at the time. It was no doubt with this in mind that he stated that the events in question had been necessary to maintain the support of the working classes. This intimation that the affair was rigged for domestic political purposes is in ill accord however with his subsequent reiteration of the existence of a capitalist plot and Griffiths complicity therein. In the absence of any proof, it is difficult to judge of the depth of their conviction in such an intrigue but it is notable that occasion was again taken to bring these charges to the attention of the Embassy.
- The source text was mailed November 12, 1948, replacing an earlier text of the same document mailed November 5.↩
- Spruille Braden was Ambassador in Argentina from May until August 1945 and Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs from August 1945 to June 1947. Ellis O. Briggs was Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs from October 1945 until his appointment as Ambassador to Uruguay in July 1947. James H. Wright was special assistant to Assistant Secretary Braden. Gustavo Durand was a special assistant in the Embassy in Argentina in 1945. Robert Newbegin was assistant chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central America Affairs in 1945 and chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs in 1946.↩