Memorandum of Conversation by Mr. R. Kenneth Oakley of the Division of River Plate Affairs

Participants: Dr. Alberto Domínguez Cámpora, Uruguayan Ambassador-Designate
Mr. Paul C. Daniels, Director ARA
Mr. Howard H. Tewksbury, Chief RPA
Mr. R. Kenneth Oakley, Uruguayan Desk Officer, RPA

The Uruguayan Ambassador dwelt at length on what his Government considers an Argentine Plan for hegemony in southern South America, “aimed at nothing less (in the case of Uruguay) than the political independence of Uruguay”. There follows the gist of his remarks.

The recent wave of unrest and revolt throughout Latin America is inspired at least morally by the present Argentine Government. Whether Argentina has had a more direct influence is not known but certainly Argentine activities in Uruguay indicate a systematic attempt to dominate that country.…

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Uruguay is very disturbed about these threats to its sovereignty and is certain that the United States must be similarly concerned. As a loyal and long-time friend of the United States, Uruguay has the obligation to bring these matters to the attention of the United States Government. This has been done through the United States Ambassador in Montevideo, in most part by Ambassador Domínguez himself.

The Uruguayan Government has given much thought to what it should do to counteract such activities and to protect itself. On instructions from his government, Dr. Regules discussed the matter at [Page 751] the Bogotá Conference with Argentine Foreign Minister Bramuglia who promised assurances in the form of a treaty. Later, however, Argentine Ambassador La Rosa stated that a treaty was not necessary and furthermore that Argentina needed to maintain its freedom of action for the next four or five years in order to carry out its plans in the River Plate area. President Batlle discussed these same preoccupations with President Perón in a subsequent meeting but without obtaining satisfaction.…

Still more recently Uruguay has been faced with a meat shortage and the refusal of Argentina, for a time, to permit exports of live cattle. The Ambassador did not dwell on this point but said that it had created a very serious situation.

I stated that Ambassador Briggs had faithfully reported the foregoing information to the Department. I added that the United States indeed is disturbed by the lack of tranquility resulting in part from Argentine activities. At this point I made bare mention of the pending arrival, the following day, of Bramuglia in Washington.

Ambassador Domínguez stated that Uruguay is very much disturbed by Bramuglia’s visit. At this point he asked point-blank what the United States would do in case of Argentine aggression against Uruguay. I stated that the United States immediately would support Uruguay in conformity with the recently effective Rio Treaty of 1947 and also with the Bogotá agreements of 1948.

Ambassador Domínguez said that he did not believe Argentina would commit an open act of aggression against Uruguay but would go far to promote an indigenous Uruguayan movement to overthrow the present government and establish one more friendly to Argentina or perhaps even in favor of the political union of the two countries. Uruguay fears that Argentina, particularly at Bogotá, had asked for and received from the United States a quid pro quo: Argentine hegemony in at least the River Plate area, for Argentine support of United States hemisphere aims. If such an understanding with the United States were not open it might at least be tacit.

I laughed at this remark and the Ambassador stated that he could not laugh because the matter was too serious and important to Uruguay. However he was glad to see such laughter because it supported him in his belief that the United States had not given Argentina any such understanding. Uruguay has faced this problem with a complete sense of loyalty to the United States and the Ambassador would like to have my observations thereon.

I stated that I was very pleased to have a person of the standing of Ambassador Domínguez representing Uruguay in the United States. I invited the Ambassador not only officially to speak for the Uruguayan [Page 752] Government on such matters but personally to give me the benefit of his friendly advice and counsel in this regard. For example, I am considering the possibility that, as the United States representative on the Council of the Organization of American States, I might soon raise the question in the Council, of the procedure to be followed in the implementation of the Rio Treaty. I made it clear that this possibility had not even been widely discussed in the Department and that while I would like the Ambassador’s comment thereon, this desire was purely a personal approach. The Ambassador stated that he would consider the matter and reply to me later.

The Ambassador then dwelt further upon the recent military rebellions and military de facto governments in Latin America. He stated that such revolts amount to the military setting itself up as a judge of the efficiency and efficacy of duly established governments, an inadmissible position. This sort of development is of great and direct assistance to Communism.…

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The Ambassador launched upon an outline of Uruguay’s possible problems as regards Communism. He particularly mentioned the large number of Communists in Brazil and the inability of the Brazilian Government thus far to discover and sequester considerable quantities of arms held by such Communists. He stated that the possibility of Communist attempts against law and order in Uruguay had been mentioned to him by Ambassador Briggs. As a result of this conversation Uruguay took stock of the situation. He had arranged a special liaison on this subject between Ambassador Briggs and the Uruguayan President through the Minister of the Interior. However, Uruguay discovered that it is almost completely lacking in arms (12,000 rifles available) with which to deal with any Communist uprising. Furthermore the armed forces are ill-equipped to deal with this or with any situation provoked by Argentina. Uruguayan money had been spent on schools, sanitation, etc. and the country now finds itself very poorly equipped to face any problem requiring armed force. He stated that Uruguay urgently needs 30,000 rifles for its Guardia Civil and also needs other equipment for its armed forces.

I stated that, in anticipation of this approach by the Ambassador, I had studied the matter of Uruguay’s desire to purchase arms in the United States. I mentioned that certain of the Uruguayan requests had been filled but that there was some doubt in the Department as to exactly what other items are desired. I suggested that a summary list be compiled of existing requests and promised that the Department would be glad to assist in any possible way. I pointed out that the Department of State is concerned in this matter only from the standpoint of granting export licenses, and that the present almost complete [Page 753] lack of surpluses held by our armed forces makes it necessary that Uruguay obtain any arms in the United States through regular commercial channels, probably at a relatively high cost. I added that the Department of State is completely well disposed toward the granting of export licenses to Uruguay.

As the Ambassador was leaving I repeated that the United States is aware of Uruguay’s preoccupation and of the present intranquility in the other American republics. I stated that the United States above all desires better understanding and greater stability in Latin America. I added that I intended tactfully to speak to Dr. Bramuglia about this matter the following day.

The Ambassador stated that Uruguay desires nothing more than complete understanding and friendship with Argentina. It is fully appreciative of United States support and for that reason has resolved to be most cautious not to compromise the United States through some precipitate action.

Paul C. Daniels