Memorandum by the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Daniels) to the Secretary of State


Subject: United States Diplomatic Relations with Latin American De Facto Governments Arising from Military Coups.1

The present Paraguayan case serves as a fairly typical example of the question of using “non-recognition” as an instrument of sanction, censure, or as an expressing of moral indignation in instances where a de facto military government comes into power by coup d’etat.

Considerations which encourage a delay in resumption of relations with Paraguay are:

In the background of three recent military coups in Peru, Venezuela and El Salvador, it is possible that prompt resumption of relations might be an encouragement to revolutions elsewhere and contribute to instability and setbacks in representative government;
Even though we may not be convinced that resuming relations with the Paraguayan revolutionary government would be a notable factor in encouraging other revolutions, prompt resumption in relations with Paraguay might result in unfavorable publicity accusing us of “giving the green light” to military coups and accusing us of not adequately censuring the travesty of democratic ideals—particularly if there should happen soon after to be further revolutions; and
Delay in resuming relations might affect domestic prestige of the de facto government sufficiently to encourage it to adopt more representative procedures and democratic practices in order to win United States “approval” by recognition and add to its prestige and political strength.

Considerations which encourage prompt resumption of relations with Paraguay are:

Suspension obstructs conduct of business, protection of direct economic and strategic interests and United States citizens;
Suspension divides Hemisphere opinion, damages unity, and inconveniences multilateral collaboration;
Suspension has usually led to eventual resumption of relations accompanied by embarrassment, loss of United States prestige and accumulated resentment in eventual relations;
Suspension is a feeble sanction, is not clearly a deterrent to other military coups, and has not been shown in the past to have made any lasting contribution to establishment of representative government (the government which was overthrown on January 29 was not put into power by procedures that could reasonably be defined as “representative” or “democratic” and it seems unlikely that any government will come into power in Paraguay by improved “representative” procedures in the predictable future);
In so far as suspension is effective as a deterrent to revolutions elsewhere, it is largely because it is a sanction. As a unilateral sanction it tends toward being interventionist. In so far as it is interventionist, it tends toward the following disadvantages:
it undermines confidence, in the Good Neighbor policy, which is based on mutual respect and voluntary cooperation for common interest,
it implies United States judgment of domestic policies of another state,
it implies United States responsibility for ensuing internal political difficulties of the other state,
it implies discrimination in favor of other equally dubious or more dubious governments, including disreputable governments in other parts of the world,
it arouses public criticism in some other countries for United States “picking on” another country,
it arouses resentment of even the “repressed” peoples whose repression we censure, when their nationalism overcomes their appreciation of United States moral support, and
it detracts from the worldwide reputation of the regional system which supposedly rests on voluntary cooperation rather than coercion.
The Paraguayan de facto government happens to be led by army officers who are notably friendly to Brazil—an orientation which seems generally preferable to an Argentine orientation since the United States has closer collaboration from Brazil than it does from Argentina.

In order for suspension of relations with Paraguay to be a notable factor in discouraging or postponing further military coups and in bolstering shaky governments in other countries, suspension of relations would probably have to be extended over such a long period that we would begin to incur some or all of the preceding disadvantages.

With respect to the accusations that we are encouraging military coups and deserting democratic ideals, our statements deploring the use of force and urging democratic procedures have served as useful and widely-accepted answers. The reaction to our circular telegram [Page 752] of December 17 [16]2 on this subject indicated clearly that none of the responsible officials of other American States thought seriously that we should suspend relations indefinitely with Venezuela—which was the problem at that time.

The situation is confused somewhat in the public mind because the Department, for a while, encouraged popular support for non-recognition as a sanction against certain dictatorial governments (having shifted to this criterion of an internal nature in the instance of Argentina—where the original criterion was alleged aid to the enemy during wartime and the non-recognition was decided upon after multilateral consultation).3 This method of censure and sanction became so popular that, in May 1947, when Somoza flagrantly resumed power in Nicaragua, eighteen countries spontaneously suspended relations with his government.4 This parallel non-recognition by eighteen countries at least relieved the United States of the onus for unilateral action. Nevertheless, non-recognition, even on a multilateral basis, continued to have practically the same disadvantages, particularly those numbered from (1) to (4)—if not all those of number (5). It therefore seemed to us that the disadvantages so outweighed the advantages that it would be highly desirable to discourage the use of non-recognition among the American States except in the most extreme and unforeseeable instances. We felt that a declaration such as Resolution 35 of Bogotá would help to accomplish this—by declaring that continuity of relations is generally desirable and that establishment or maintenance of relations should not imply any judgment of domestic policy. It is, of course, very difficult to get away from this entrenched association of ideas by a declaration, but it should be possible to use the fact of multilateral approval of the declaration to our advantage by alluding to it when we have decided that we are going to resume relations on the basis of a clear weighing of our national interests.

There is, of course, nothing in Resolution 35—other than the statement that continuity of diplomatic relations is desirable—to deter us from indefinitely suspending relations with any country, if we were to decide that the “justified” advantages to our national interest are greater than the disadvantages.

Paul C. Daniels
  1. In a memorandum, not printed, of February 17, Mr. Acheson stated that he had taken up with President Truman the question of recognition of the Rolón Government in Paraguay and that the President indicated he was not disposed to authorize recognition at the present time but would reconsider when and if the Department of State felt action was required as a pressing matter (834.01/2–1749, 9–1249).
  2. Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, p. 147.
  3. See ibid., 1944, vol. vii, p. 259.
  4. For pertinent documentation, see ibid., 1947, vol. viii, pp. 841 ff.