724.00/3–3050: Telegram

The Ambassador in Bolivia (Florman) to the Secretary of State


110. ReEmbtel 100 March 27 and Deptel 62 March 28.1 Deringer, manager Catavi,2 informed Johnson3 by telephone this afternoon that he had just returned Uncia where he conversed with Judge Villa Gomez, who will try persons indicted Catavi massacre.4 Deringer stated Villa Gomez told him that he intends release tomorrow without bail Antonio Gaspar,5 Severo Oblitas and Fortunato Perez, and will decide tomorrow on release other prisoners indicted for massacre. Gaspar according Deringer was one of four principal leaders of mob who helped round up foreigners and was present in union hall, was also direct representative Miners Federation at time. Oblitas was one of lesser ring leaders. Perez was at Catavi during massacre, but announced he intended shoot Deringer and Conklin. Deringer said he protested strongly against release these men to Villa Gomez and Sub-Prefect, but without result. Sub-Prefect according Deringer said “he would see what he could do to keep released prisoners out of Catavi area.” Deringer added that while situation quiet at Catavi, he fears consequences if released prisoners are allowed to circulate among workmen.

Embassy made immediate representation Foreign Office orally and by note pointing out that, while has no desire attempt intervene administration Bolivian justice, US will hold Bolivian Government strictly responsible any outrages or injuries which may be caused US citizens by activities released prisoners.6

While presenting note Johnson made oral presentation Under Secretary Foreign Office Alvarado who expressed appreciation information and showed visible concern. He immediately asked Penaranda, Counselor Foreign Office, to carry note to Foreign Minister7 who was [Page 747] in Cabinet meeting at Palace. Penaranda promised telephone results interview Foreign Minister which will be communicated soonest.8

Other sins only speak, murder shrieks out.

  1. Neither printed.
  2. The Catavi mine of Patiño Mines and Enterprises Cons., Inc.
  3. Richard A. Johnson, Second Secretary of Embassy at La Paz.
  4. For documentation regarding the killings at Catavi in May 1949, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. ii, pp. 525 ff.
  5. Antonio Gaspar Caraval, also known as Juan Gaspar.
  6. In telegram 69, March 31, 1950, the Department stated in part it fully approved the Embassy’s action. (724.00/3–3050)

    In a memorandum of telephone conversations held March 31 with Ricardo Martinez Vargas, Bolivian Ambassador, Spencer M. King of the Office of North and West Coast Affairs reported he had told Sr. Vargas in pant that release of the prisoners would render it impossible for the U.S. “… to send its citizens to reside in Bolivia to undertake any program of technical cooperation, as an example. Furthermore, such developments undoubtedly would generate in US Government circles a strong resistance to any type of aid to Bolivia. Finally, I added that a certain result of the failure of Bolivia to apply even its own laws would be the presentation of diplomatic claims.” Sr. Vargas informed his government of these views that day. (724.00/3–3150)

  7. Pedro Zilveti Arce.
  8. In telegram 134 from La Paz, April 5, 1950, Ambassador Florman reported in part Sr. Zilveti had assured him the prisoners would not be released on bail or under any other circumstances and had stated Judge Villa Gomez was under indictment for having shown partisanship. (724.00/4–550) In telegram 335, January 25, 1951, the Ambassador stated he had been informed that of those accused of the murder of Americans at Catavi, four had been sentenced to death, 11 had received prison terms, and 33 had been acquitted. (724.00/1–2551) Reference was to the court of original jurisdiction.