Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Brazilian Affairs (Clark) to Mr. R. Kenneth Oakley of the Division of River Plate Affairs
I have your memo dated November 101 regarding the recent conversations between Ambassador Warren and the Paraguayan President concerning the desire of Paraguay to receive further assistance from this Government. I note that this assistance might take the form of, I presume, financial aid in the construction of a road from Villarrica to the Brazilian border at Iguazu.
During my assignment to Paraguay,2 the road from Asunción to Villarrica, which was constructed by the Hebard Company of New York City, was completed. At that time, and particularly towards the conclusion of this construction contract, there was considerable talk about the possibility of extending the road from Villarrica south to Encarnación and from Villarrica east to Iguazu. There seemed to be no physical features discouraging the extension of the road to Encarnación, although it would have more or less paralleled the railway and for that reason at that time this project was put in suspense.
The much discussed road from Villarrica to Iguazu is an entirely different matter. The Paraguayans have long desired such a road as it would give them a direct connection with Brazil and such a road would eventually connect up with a Brazilian road which is being slowly pushed into Iguazu from, I believe, Guarapuava. So far as I know, this Brazilian road will not be completed for some years and the practical utility of the branch from Iguazu to Villarrica in Paraguay until the connection is made would be very doubtful. However, of considerably more importance is the problem of the type of country which lies between Villarrica and Iguazu in Paraguay. It is perfectly true that there are vast open areas with no hills or mountains. However, Mr. [Page 711]Frank Stratton, who for several years was the Managing Director of the Hebard Company in Paraguay and had under his full supervision the construction of the Asunción-Villarrica road, cruised the area between Villarrica and Iguazu in considerable detail, and I distinctly remember his telling me that in his opinion the construction of this road would be extremely difficult and very expensive. Apparently there are large areas which are swampland in the sense that during certain times of the year when rains are fairly heavy the lack of any drainage results in large sections becoming almost bottomless bogs. Mr. Stratton spoke of the probable necessity of foundation work which would presume the transportation of large quantities of stone or cement. In his judgment, the cost of building such a road would be far in excess of either its economic or political value.
I fully realize that the Paraguayans in discussing this matter are prompted by an ever-present desire to gain more independence of Argentina by establishing direct communications with Brazil. However, for the time being I seriously question the practicability of this proposed road from Villarrica to Iguazu, not only because construction difficulties in Paraguay probably would be enormous but also in view of the fact that the Brazilian road leading up to Iguazu has not been finished and probably will not be for several years. This latter consideration, that is the Brazilian program, was confirmed on Wednesday, November 10, during a conversation with the Brazilian Ambassador, Mauricio Nabuco.