The Chargé in Argentina (Mallory) to the Department of State

No. 1184

Subject: Discussions between President Perón2 and Former Ambassador George S. Messersmith.3

In connection with the general condition of United States-Argentine relations and with special reference to the positions to be taken by the two countries at the Conference of Foreign Ministers of the American Republics,4 to be held in Washington beginning March 26, 1951, it was considered desirable by Assistant Secretary Miller5 to convey certain thoughts and considerations to President Juan Perón. Inasmuch as former Ambassador Messersmith, a person who has had a sympathetic and understanding attitude towards Argentina’s problems, who has had a long and cordial friendship with President Perón and who has spoken and can speak to the President with great frankness, was proceeding to Argentina, Mr. Miller requested him to approach the President. In the letters referred to, Mr. Miller provided certain background information in addition to discussions held in Washington.

Mr. Messersmith arrived in Buenos Aires on January 29, 1951.6 Arrangements were completed for him to see the President. He has prepared full memoranda of his conversations, which are enclosed. Inasmuch as the memoranda themselves are the important source of information, [Page 1080] no attempt will be made in this despatch to summarize them. It may be pointed out, in explanation, that three memoranda are enclosed,7 of which Enclosure No. 3 not only constitutes a statement of what Mr. Messersmith considered he could say on behalf of the Department of State but was so prepared that it could be translated and given to President Peron following his request.

The reporting officer, in connection with this matter and the three enclosures, observes that the attitudes and comments made by President Perón are, by and large, quite favorable to an understanding of the position of the United States. This reported attitude is not reflected in other facets of Argentine life, including the Administration press, the attitude and statements of his ministers and advisers. A condition previously noted still exists, namely, that it is difficult to determine whether to believe the President, who speaks in private, or to judge from the acts of the press and the government, which speak and act in public. His apparent unwillingness to face up in public or to condition the people of Argentina to realities is of paramount importance. It is believed that following this introduction by Mr. Messersmith Assistant Secretary Miller, during his projected visit the first days of March 1951, will find it desirable to endeavor to obtain precise and categoric definitions of President Perón’s stand.

L. D. Mallory

Enclosure 3


During a conversation which I had the privilege of having with President Perón on Friday afternoon, February 9, I conveyed to him the following thoughts and observations which Assistant Secretary of State Miller had asked me to convey to the President with respect to the attitudes of the State Department on the Conference to be held in March of the Foreign Ministers of the American States.8 I said that naturally the thinking of the State Department was still in a preliminary stage as it was preparing for the Conference in collaboration with other Departments and Agencies of the United States Government, and that final conclusions on many points would only be formulated in the period before the Conference began. Assistant Secretary of State Miller, however, felt that it might be interesting to President Perón to have the thoughts of the Department as formulated so far.

[Page 1081]

1. The United States Government intends firmly to pursue its policy of friendship towards Argentina. There are obstacles and sources of friction on each side, but the United States Government is of the firm opinion that through patience and mutual understanding such obstacles and sources of friction can be minimized and eventually overcome.

2. The United States Government does not intend in any way to use the forthcoming Conference of Foreign Ministers to place Argentina in any embarrassing position but, on the contrary, hopes to facilitate in the ways within its power the most complete cooperation on the part of the Argentine government.

3. The United States Government strongly hopes that each delegation at the Conference will be able to understand the problems and views of the other delegations so as to reduce the possibilities of misunderstanding which may be inherent in the situation.

4. To facilitate the long-term approximation between the two governments and countries, the United States Government realizes that it will be necessary on its part to keep working on the elimination of the historic prejudices and misconceptions which exist against Argentina in the United States, and that conversely it realizes that its success in this effort will depend so largely on a similar attitude and action on the part of the Argentine government in eliminating such prejudices and misconceptions in the Argentine against the United States. The increasing disposition of the American press to meet Argentina half way is shown by the favorable reaction in the American press to such conciliatory gestures as the release of Balbin.9

5. The United States Government is keeping the people of the United States fully informed on all phases of its policy with respect to the extremely critical world situation in which it and we all find ourselves, and has made and is making every possible effort to make the fundamental facts of the world situation and their significance for the United States and the Western world completely clear so that public opinion is prepared for and ready to support the acts of the Government. The United States Government hopes that President Perón and the Argentine government will take more definite steps to align themselves publicly and unequivocally with the Western Powers in the present conflict, and prepare public opinion in the Argentine for such definite and unequivocal attitudes on the part of the Argentine government. References to the Third Position10 are not understood in the United States and lead to confusion there as to the real [Page 1082] attitude of President Perón and the Argentine government and tend towards alienating public opinion in the United States. With the position of President Perón and of the Argentine government so strong internally as it now undoubtedly is, it is difficult to understand why a more unequivocal stand should not be taken and why Argentine public opinion should not be more adequately prepared.

6. As concerns the Conference of Foreign Ministers, the United States Government is aware that Argentina has difficult internal political and constitutional problems with regard to the question of military cooperation outside of the hemisphere, and in this respect the United States Government has full understanding and is prepared to ease as much as possible Argentina’s share at the Conference.

7. The United States Government does not have presently in mind discussing at the Conference or raising in any way for discussion at the Conference, anything which will add to the commitments which the various countries of the Americas have already solemnly assumed under the Rio Treaty11 and the United Nations Charter.12 What the United States believes should and must be considered is the implementation of the commitments already solemnly undertaken by all the governments concerned. Because of the overwhelming importance of the situation which we all have to face, and of the issues which are at stake, and of the Conference taking clearly defined decisions, we hope that everyone will understand in all of the American countries the necessity of having the Conference do more than speech making or passing equivocal half-hearted or inadequate resolutions or measures. Public opinion throughout the free world will not be impressed if the Conference produces merely empty phrases and does not show a solid determination on the part of all of the American states to resist Communist aggression.

8. The United States Government is of the opinion that the Conference will make it clear that the armed forces of each country can be committed outside of its national territory only in accordance with the constitution and laws of each sovereign country. Every country has this same problem and the discussions in the United States Congress and in the press of the United States indicate how fully and clearly it is understood and is being examined. It is nevertheless obvious, in view of the world crisis, that it is important to take as positive positions in advance of actual aggression as the constitutional processes of the various American states permit.

9. In connection with the political and military parts of the agenda of the Conference, the United States hopes that the Conference would, [Page 1083] first of all, adopt a declaration reaffirming the solidarity of the hemisphere and the declaration to resist aggression, and to take cooperative measures towards this end. Such declaration must be strong, unequivocal and adequate.

10. One of the objectives the United States will seek at the Conference will be that the Ministers give broad policy directives to the Inter-American Defense Board to undertake plans to implement our treaty commitments and those of all the American states with regard to hemisphere defense. These directives of the Inter-American Defense Board would, of course, be subject to the approval of the respective governments. In this respect the United States Government is of the opinion that hemisphere defense is not merely a passive concept, but includes defense measures outside of the hemisphere. The action of each government will depend on its constitutional processes.

11. With respect to the second item of the agenda of the Conference, the United States plans for its part to place emphasis on the control of subversive activities rather than endeavoring to propose legal concepts which would be difficult for some countries to comply with. Specifically, the United States Government has no intention at this time of proposing to or asking other countries to sever diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia or to outlaw the Communist Party as neither of these programs are in effect in the United States. The points on which the United States Government believes it should concentrate in its proposals will be such matters as control of travel by subversive elements, protection of strategic installations and such similar measures. The United States Government believes that the Conference will discuss the exchange of information, and on this point the planning of the United States has not progressed very far at this date. It is not, however, the present opinion of the United States that a replica of the Committee for Political Defense13 which met in Montevideo during the war should be recreated, and its present thinking is that any multilateral consultation which may be deemed necessary may probably be done within the framework of the COAS. In this latter respect, however, the thinking of the Department of State has not progressed adequately and the matter is receiving consideration.

12. With regard to the items on economic matters on the agenda of the Conference, the United States has not been able to formulate and conclude its planning. In view of the critical world situation, the responsibilities which this situation places on the United States and its economy and production, new agencies having to do with wartime economic activities, have, as is well known, been recently established. These agencies are proceeding with their organization studies, planning and action. The Department of State in its determination of its attitudes on economic items which may arise during the Conference [Page 1084] and which can or should be discussed in the interest of all, must coordinate its planning with that of existing and new agencies having primary responsibilities in these matters. By the time that the Conference meets, or beforehand, it will have been possible for the State Department to more clearly define the position of the United States Government.

13. The United States Government believes that one objective under the economic points of the agenda should be to provide for the maximizing of the utilization and the most effective distribution for the defense effort of critical materials. With regard to price policies, it is hoped that whatever price control policy is worked out within the United States Government will take into account the need of consideration of the views of other countries in trying to operate on the basis of agreement. The United States Government has in mind very much the procedures during the last war and certain frictions and wishes to avoid such unnecessary frictions.

14. In the economic aspects of the agenda a point of special interest to us as to the other American countries will be the administration of the allocations and priorities programs in the United States, which necessarily have to be set up to meet the imperative needs of defense effort and production. In planning for the Conference in this respect, the United States Government and the Department of State have very much in mind the experience and the problems of the last world war. It is a hope of the United States Government to be able to work out a fair and equitable administration of our allocations and priorities programs and to have its allocations programs so administered as to recognize the need, not only for maintaining a fair level of economic activity in the American states, but also so far as the imperative exigencies of the situation permit, a reasonable level of economic expansion.

I informed President Perón that I considered it a privilege on the part of the Department of State and Assistant Secretary of State Miller to convey the foregoing to him. It would be appreciated by him that these were preliminary thoughts of the Department of State and that its final plans for the meeting had not yet been made, as this was obviously impossible because of the time-consuming nature of the consideration and discussions which had to take place within the Government in order to prepare for this important meeting. I said that I believed, however, that the foregoing represented the thinking of the Department of State at this time, I said that Assistant Secretary of State Miller, as he knew, was planning to make a short visit to several of the American countries before the meeting, and around the end of February, and that he would undoubtedly, when he arrived in Buenos Aires, and where the President had been so kind as to indicate he would be glad to see him, be able to elucidate on the foregoing [Page 1085] points and to discuss with the President further thinking of the United States Government and the Department of State with respect to the Conference, as it had developed in the interval.

George S. Messersmith
  1. Juan Domingo Perón, President of Argentina.
  2. Mr. Messersmith had served as Ambassador to Argentina, 1946–1947. Shortly after his retirement from the Foreign Service in August 1947, he had accepted a position as Chairman of the Board, Mexico Power and Light Company, an affiliate of a large public utility in Buenos Aires known as CADE (Compañía Argentina de Electricidad).
  3. Reference is to the Fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of American States, held in Washington, March 26–April 7, 1951; documentation on the meeting may be found on pp. 925 ff.
  4. Edward G. Miller, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  5. Mr. Messersmith was in Buenos Aires from January 29 to March 2. During that time he had several conversations with President Perón. Extensive memoranda of his discussions with the President were transmitted to the Department of State under cover of this despatch, and also despatch 1320, from Buenos Aires, March 6, 1951 (611.35/3–651).
  6. Enclosures 1 and 2 are not printed.
  7. Mr. Messersmith’s conversation with President Perón on February 9, which took place at the President’s home in Olivos and is reported in enclosure 2, covered a wide range of topics in addition to the Foreign Ministers Conference, including Argentina’s economic problems and the necessity for the nations of the Western Hemisphere to collaborate in the interests of hemisphere defense.
  8. Ricardo Balbín, a political opponent of President Perón, had been arrested while campaigning as a candidate for the governorship of Buenos Aires during the provincial elections in March 1950, subsequently sentenced to 5 years in prison, but pardoned and released in early January 1951.
  9. For the Department of State’s view of President Perón’s doctrine of the Third Position, see the Policy Statement for Argentina, p. 1112.
  10. For text of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro, September 2, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, December 3, 1948, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) No. 1838, or 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.
  11. For text, see Department of State Treaty Series (TS) No. 993, or 59 Stat. 1031.
  12. For previous documentation on this subject see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 95100.