Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State1



a. objectives

US objectives in relations with Argentina are: 1) realization by Argentina that its traditional neutralism is not feasible in the world of today and that in US-Argentine relations Argentina needs the US more than the US needs Argentina; 2) Argentine collaboration in the maintenance of international security, especially in the western hemisphere; 3) Argentine adoption of policies which will strengthen those forces striving for peace and a democratic way of life; 4) creation and maintenance of a favorable climate of opinion among the Argentine people toward the US and its policies; and 5) encouragement of healthy bilateral economic relations and protection of US enterprise carrying on Argentine operations.

b. policies

Argentina’s aspirations to be the dominant power in South America, its intense national pride, its competition with the US for agricultural markets, and its current interpretation of the functions of the state, all combine to bring it into conflict with the US on a number of basic issues. Furthermore, Argentina traditionally has preferred to lead or to play a lone hand in international relations, an attitude caused in large part by its ambition and pride and manifested in its lack of enthusiasm for inter-American and world organizations when they are likely to limit in some way its own freedom of action. Argentina’s characteristic tendency toward neutrality is yet another obstacle to closer harmony with the US and will probably prevent it from rendering military assistance against Communist aggression outside the hemisphere. On the other hand, Argentina has participated actively in the work of the UN and in the last few years has shown an interest in the political activities of the Organization of American States. Argentina’s desire for imports from and exports to the US is also a linking force. The opposition of both Governments to Communism serves as a basis for common action in various respects, especially in UN and OAS political activities. The general US policy believed best fitted to cope with the special problems of US-Argentine relations is that now being followed—namely carrying on friendly but firm and frank relations. Within the scope of this broad policy we allow ourselves leeway between a liberally friendly approach and an approach which may be [Page 1113] described as “correct”, depending on the temper of relations in general. As this Statement is written the US is limiting itself to being “correct”, among other lesser factors, because of the strain put upon our relations by the Argentine Government’s expropriation of the independent newspaper La Prensa, by severe attacks on the US by Argentine officials and the Peronista press, and by US press and labor attacks on Argentina. While it seems likely that the conflicting forces named will continue in varying degrees into the foreseeable future, and will prevent the two countries from achieving a close friendship, it also seems likely that mutual interests will cause them to remain on moderately-friendly-to-cool terms and to work together in practical ways.

Internal Political Background. The internal political situation in Argentina has an important bearing on US-Argentine relations, and we cannot carry on these relations with hope of success without taking cognizance of that situation. During the Peron administration the Peronista Party has completely controlled the political life of Argentina. It has won all elections and has 100 per cent representation in the Senate and more than a two-thirds majority in the Chamber of Deputies. It also has controlled the provincial governorships and legislatures. The cohesive force which has held the party together has been the combined personalities of President Peron and his wife. While Peron is unquestionably the most powerful man in Argentina, he is not an absolute dictator and we would be mistaken if we should conduct our relations on that erroneous concept. He was put into office by labor, which continues to constitute his strongest following. To keep this support he must favor policies popular with labor and this is both a limitation on his power (as well as the source of it) and a possible explanation of why many of his public acts and speeches do not coincide with his privately expressed opinions. Another limitation on his power is the extreme nationalist group within his own party which regards him as too internationalist minded and too friendly with the US. Still another is the still-to-be-reckoned-with autonomous sentiment of the provinces.

Since he became President, Peron has been rather more favorable to cooperation with the US than many of his followers and often more favorable than the Radical Party which constitutes his principal opposition. The Peronista nationalists and the Radicals favor nationalization of the petroleum industry, but Peron, supported by more moderate Peronistas, has not expanded the nationally-owned petroleum organization to exclude private interests. The Radical Party strongly opposed the ratification of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance which Argentina signed at Rio de Janeiro on Peron’s direction and later ratified as a result of his initiative. Industrialization, mechanization of agriculture and economic development are of prime importance in Peron’s program and he is believed to feel that these [Page 1114] objectives can most readily be achieved if the US, with its industrial exports and its technical knowledge, cooperates. He is known to have in mind the difficulties Argentina encountered in two world wars in obtaining essential supplies abroad and to desire ultimately to make Argentina as free from dependence on foreign sources of supply as possible.

A unique phenomenon in Argentine politics is Mrs. Peron. She holds no political office but so closely approaches her husband in political power that there is serious discussion as to whether she has less, the same or more than he. The importance of Mrs. Peron’s views to US-Argentine relations is therefore obvious. While a year ago she was believed to be bitterly anti-US, more recently she has privately expressed herself in a conciliatory manner. Mrs. Peron’s emotional attitudes on small matters are likely to be reflected in Government decisions on important issues. Her vindictiveness has been manifested on numerous occasions and her retaliatory measures have reflected both ruthlessness and a long memory.

Argentine Neutralism. By a judicious amount of inaction and by a minimum amount of special consideration, we are attempting to bring home to Argentina the realization that extreme nationalist policies are not in its interest and that, far from being independent, it is in fact quite dependent upon the free world, especially on the US. It is important to disabuse Argentina of its false sense of self-sufficiency because this attitude stands in the way of the realization of our other objectives. US tactics at present, therefore, are to make the minimum number of requests possible of Argentina for collaboration in international action. We have withheld a number of requests for Argentine cooperation in international organizations, for example, in order to puncture the inflated Argentine sense of indispensability. On the rare occasions when we do attempt to induce that Government to act, it is our intention to base our reason on Argentina’s own interests and obligations rather than on aspects which might suggest any US need for Argentine cooperation. On the other hand, our operations in allocating scarce materials are making Argentina’s dependence upon the US more and more obvious. The Department is receiving an increasing number of requests from the Argentine Embassy for assistance in obtaining articles in short supply. While normal attention is being given to these requests, no special consideration is being accorded. We have not permitted our tactics of inaction to stand in the way of US representations on behalf of US business, though in these representations we have emphasized Argentine obligations and interests rather than any favorable results for the US. This was our position during our recent assistance to US shipping firms in their negotiations with the Argentine Government.

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Collaboration in Hemisphere Defense. Argentina is politically, economically and militarily one of the most powerful of the American Republics. It is strategically situated with respect to South Atlantic shipping routes and the Straits of Magellan and would be in wartime a much needed supplier of food and raw materials to the US and its allies. It would be, therefore, in the US interest to have Argentina on our side in case of an outside attack on the other American republics or on ourselves. Our policies to achieve this objective are principally to encourage Argentine participation in hemisphere defense arrangements, to foster good relations between the armed services of our two countries, to obtain Argentine cooperation against Communist penetration, and to obtain Argentine economic collaboration in the present emergency.

In June 1950 Argentina took the most important step it has ever taken toward collaboration in hemisphere defense when it ratified the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. This was an encouraging development since it represented a radical departure from traditional Argentine policy and since its accomplishment required the Peron Government to proceed against strong opposition both within and outside the Peronista Party. It is likely that Peron’s decision was influenced in large measure by his desire to qualify for US military assistance under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 19492 and that he believed the outbreak of war in Korea gave him a strategic moment for action.

In the implementation of its arms policy, the US has permitted the export to Argentina of reasonable amounts of arms. Reasonable amounts have been interpreted to mean quantities not in excess of Argentina’s normal defense requirements and not exceeding those exported to Latin American republics of comparable size. These arms have been obtained partly from commercial sources and partly from US Government stocks. The most recent significant US Government sale to Argentina was two cruisers3 similar to those offered simultaneously to Brazil and Chile under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act. A condition of sale was that the vessels would be used to further the policies and purposes of the Act and especially in support of the obligations undertaken in the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. Argentina found it necessary in August 1950 to turn down one sizeable offer of US Army equipment owing to lack of dollars, and financial limitations on Argentine arms purchases are still operating. The US is not at present considering Argentina for grant military aid but would reconsider if US-Argentine relations [Page 1116] should improve and if Argentina by its actions and attitude shows itself to be politically in step with the concept of collective defense of the hemisphere and will agree to undertake those military tasks which we consider it capable of performing. At present the US will not permit the exportation to Argentina of any military equipment which is considered above Argentina’s minimum requirements for maintaining internal order and self-defense.

In fostering collaboration between the armed services, the US has encouraged the exchange of visits by high-ranking personnel and by the naval vessels. Another implementation of this policy is found in our furnishing naval and military ground advisers to Argentina.

Argentina has shown itself disposed to collaborate against Communist penetration in the hemisphere. Though the Communist Party is legal, it finds even more difficulty than other opposition parties in expressing itself due to the obstacles set up by the Government. Having between 35,000 and 50,000 members and having polled only approximately 80,000 votes in the most recent national election, the Party’s numerical strength is not threatening. The Government has in the past found it a convenient scapegoat. In recent months, however, there has been evidence that the Communists actually contributed clandestinely to the unrest in some labor circles brought about in the first instance by economic grievances. The Argentine Communists are not sufficiently strong to create much unrest by themselves but it may be assumed that they will continue to take advantage of strife derived from other causes. The more fertile the ground for discontent, the more readily their seeds of dissension will take root. In general, labor has supported the Perons because it believes they are its champions. While this is still true, recent indications of labor unrest, of which the most outstanding example is a series of strikes and incidents among railway workers, point to what may become a serious weakening of this support. If the Perons or their successors should be unable to keep the now politically conscious Argentine worker reasonably satisfied, it is a possibility that this worker, with his new-found power, might turn to a Communist leader, always provided that that leader were shrewd enough not to promote international communism at the expense of Argentine nationalism. It will be well for the US to remember, in case of a war with the USSR, that there is a large Slav colony in Argentina numbering between 500,000 and 600,000. It is considered that the USSR might receive substantial support from this group in a crisis. Communists and sympathizers among them are at present estimated at perhaps 90,000. Anti-American propaganda is in general favorably received in Argentina and rapidly gains popular support. Communists appreciate its value and utilize it to the fullest extent.

In October 1948 Peron informally recommended to our Ambassador a secret inter-American conference to stamp out Communism in the [Page 1117] western hemisphere. He repeated the suggestion in December 1949, saying he thought commonly agreed objectives and a program against Communism would be desirable and mentioning the possibility of some sort of meeting among the most interested countries to lay out objectives and agreements. The US did not encourage him either time. While Peron indicates he would like to sponsor an international step against Communism and while Argentina went along with the resolution directed against international Communism voted by the Fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (1951), he apparently feels that Argentina itself can take care of the home front. The inconsistency between Peron’s proposals to the US and his famous “third position” is obvious.

Argentina and World Peace. Our basic policy in attempting to induce Argentina to support our objectives of peace and democracy is to carry on friendly relations with its Government. This policy was not followed during the last war when the Argentine Government did not support the US cause. From the time we entered the war until 1947 we attempted to obtain our objectives by moderately forceful rather than friendly measures and we purposefully discriminated against Argentina in various ways. With President Truman’s decision in June 1947 that Argentina had substantially complied with its inter-American commitments, the US returned to its former basic policy.

The Peron Government since its inauguration has been independently active in promoting peace and it is general knowledge that Peron covets the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1947 he attempted a peace offensive which received wide attention. While no one knows whether Argentina has, as Peron says, effected a controlled liberation of atomic energy “on a technical scale”, the stress which he placed in his announcement on his intention to use atomic power solely for peaceful purposes has its importance. Such a policy would be entirely consistent with the “third position” which is advertised by Peron as a force for peace. The US, however, does not look upon this “third position” as a force for permanent peace. When first publicized in mid-1947, the concept appeared to be an indication that Argentina did not wish to follow in the wake of either the capitalistic US or the communistic USSR in world affairs but preferred an independent course. Other nations were invited to join Argentina in a third group which would strive for peace and counteract the trend toward war between the other two camps. President Peron, however, subsequently assured us that the “third position” was a peacetime policy and a “political device” which would have no effect if the US and the USSR went to war, in which case Argentina would declare war immediately on the side of the US. Whatever President Peron’s intention, Argentine propagandists for the “third position” have injured US-Argentine relations and to a minor extent have embarrassed the US in its relations with the other American Republics. [Page 1118] At home and abroad they have vilified Moscow and its international influence; but they have with equal and perhaps more severity attacked “Yankee imperialism” and “Wall Street” for various alleged activities in the western hemisphere, It is our policy to counteract this propaganda whenever possible. Through diplomatic channels we point out to Peron and his representatives that if the Argentine Government is sincere in its professed desire to collaborate with the US against Communism, it should cease to weaken the cause of the democracies by attacking the US.

Argentina has in many respects played an active and constructive role in the affairs of the UN, the Organization of American States and related organizations. Its policy in these organizations has, however, tended to be somewhat individualistic, and heavily dependent upon the personalities of its representatives at any given time. It is US policy to encourage Argentine participation in those spheres of UN and OAS activities where it is now playing a constructive role. In the present state of US-Argentine relations, however, US tactics are neither to play a leading role in proposing Argentina for slates on international bodies nor in urging Argentina to take any given action. At the same time we are friendly to the Argentines at international meetings, give them our opinion when asked and vote for their candidates when they are the obvious choice of those voting or of the Latin American caucus.

Argentine delegates to UN meetings are as a rule cooperative and friendly with our delegates, even withdrawing their own proposals at times in deference to our policies. Ex-Foreign Minister Bramuglia,4 as president of the Security Council in the fall of 1948, guided it through the difficult days of the Berlin crisis in an able and intelligent manner. Argentine delegations to the ICAO Council have attained high prestige and this has been recognized by the members. Despite the obvious inconsistency with its “third position”, Argentina has supported the US on the questions of seating the Chinese Communists in the UN and of declaring Communist China an aggressor. At the Cairo meeting of the Universal Postal Union in January 1951,5 Argentine collaboration with the US was so outstanding on the issue of seating the Chinese Communists6 that we instructed our Embassy in Buenos Aires formally to expres our appreciation.

The matter of Argentine collaboration with the UN in Korea against Communist aggression requires some explanation. Immediately following the attack on Korea in June 1950, Argentina sent a message [Page 1119] to the UN in support of the UN resolutions pertaining to the conflict. Peron showed indications of planning to play a more active role in the implementation of the resolutions than he ultimately did. Following a particularly severe popular reaction at home against Argentine involvement, and especially against any contribution of troops, Peron withdrew closer to the line of traditional Argentine policy and ever since he has been intermittently reassuring the Argentine public that no troops will be sent abroad unless the people are consulted. Peron’s “third position” propaganda over the previous three years had doubtless made even more firm their resolve to resist any such radical departure from neutralism as sending troops abroad. Peron has himself to blame if it was suspected by some that he welcomed and secretly abetted public resistance so that he might hold it responsible before the free nations for withholding substantial assistance to the UN in Korea. The extent of Argentine collaboration in Korea since its message of support of the UN in June 1950 has been an offer, accepted by the Unified Command, of 14,000 cases of canned meat for Korean relief.

While the Argentine Government opposes Communism as a doctrine, and tends to vote with the US on important international political issues, somewhat to its embarrassment its own attitude on civil liberties causes it on occasion to vote with the USSR in conferences having to do with these matters. In world labor conferences Argentina has been embarrassed by the heckling of nations which object to its domestic control of organized labor and to the assumption by its delegates that Argentine labor conditions are Utopian.

Argentina has for many years had an active interest in increasing its population through the admission of selected immigrants and maintains a permanent commission in Europe for selection and promotion purposes. Immigrants now number about 200,000 annually. While Argentina has since 1947 accepted over 30,000 persons classified by the International Refugee Organization as displaced persons it has shown a preference for handling its immigration problems independently rather than in cooperation with the IRO. Argentina encourages Italian and Spanish immigration more than any other.

An illustration of Argentine action to promote peace is that country’s effort to maintain calm in the Antarctic region by signing an agreement with the UK and Chile not to send warships to the area except for routine purposes. It has been US policy to issue a statement when this agreement is renewed annually to the effect that the US does not contemplate sending warships to the area.7

Argentina has not for the most part favored US objectives in the multilateral economic sphere. This is explained principally by Argentina’s traditional aversion to multilateral economic agreements as [Page 1120] derogations of its sovereignty, by the prevalent feeling in Argentina that the present world crisis is ours, not hers, and by that Government’s desire to derive as much economic advantage as possible from the world situation. It is our policy to attempt by tactics already described to convince Argentina that this is its fight as much as ours and that the cooperation of all free nations is essential if the principles which we have both espoused in the UN and OAS are to prevail.

Argentina has held back on a number of UN or affiliated economic activities. Specific examples are its failure to associate itself with the International Bank for Reconstruction, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In the light of Argentina’s historical position on these matters, it was somewhat surprising and encouraging when, after several years of urging by the US, it recently applied for membership in the Food and Agriculture Organization. With specific reference to the present emergency, Argentina has after long delay accepted an invitation to participate in the work of the international materials committees which have been set up to represent major consuming and producing countries in considering problems of world shortages. She is now a member of the Wool Committee and desires membership in others. Argentina probably made this decision to participate after observing that non-participation was working against its interests. On the other hand she has shown no interest in cooperating with us in cutting off trade with the Soviet bloc. While Argentina has not refused to furnish us with strategic materials such as beryl and tungsten, it has indicated that it expects in return assistance in securing mining machinery and other scarce goods. We have yet to obtain any beryl and unless Argentina is granted at least a part of what it wants, we shall probably not get any. US policy is still in a formative stage regarding prospective action on this matter.

Historically Argentina has been the most reluctant member of the inter-American system. This has been a matter of serious concern to the US because of the importance of this system in US foreign policy. We have therefore welcomed the indications occurring during the past four years that Argentina is adopting a more active and cooperative inter-American attitude. At the major conferences at Rio de Janeiro in September 1947,8 at Bogota in April 1948 and at Washington in the spring of 1951 Argentina was generally cooperative rather than obstructive. As in the UN Argentina has often been slow to incur multilateral economic commitments in the OAS. It has also been quick to oppose any assumption of political powers by the COAS.

During Peron’s presidency there have been numerous charges from other American republics of Argentine Government support of attempts [Page 1121] to overthrow their existing regimes. Peron has reiterated again and again that Argentine policy is non-intervention in the affairs of other states. It is US policy to encourage Argentina’s adherence to this principle. We remind that Government on appropriate occasions that the US is vitally concerned in the maintenance of the non-intervention principle9 and we show ourselves to be constantly vigilant to detect any intervention. Despite many charges of interference leveled against the Peron Government, there has not been any substantial confirmation of them. It is US policy not to point an accusing finger at Argentina or any other American republic as long as substantial evidence is lacking.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands which have been held and administered by the British since 1833. The question of determining to whom the islands legally belong is at best a difficult one. The US is in no way a party to this dispute. However, we have used our influence to prevent the problem from being made an issue which would create friction on the question of European possessions in the western hemisphere at a time when solidarity among the world’s anti-communist forces is sorely needed. When the Argentine Foreign Minister asked the US to support the Argentine claim at the Bogota conference of 1948, we informed him that the US did not support either the British or the Argentine claims and that in the opinion of the US the dispute should be settled by peaceful means under the recognized procedures of international law. While Argentina did bring up the Falklands at Bogota in connection with its support of a general resolution regarding colonies and occupied territories, it is believed that Argentina made less of an issue of the question at Bogota as a result of our pre-conference talks with the Foreign Minister.

Argentine, British, Chilean and potential US claims in the Antarctic are in conflict. In an effort to prevent that continent from becoming a sore spot in world politics, the US in 1948 presented a proposal to these nations and to others with official claims there suggesting that all agree to solve the territorial problem by establishing a condominium.10 Few of the claimants showed enthusiasm for the idea, and Argentina flatly refused to accept it even as a basis for discussion. The US considers that the most promising approach at present is a modified version of a counter-proposal offered by Chile—namely the freezing of the legal status for a period of five or more years. Though the US has not discussed this plan, except informally with Chile and the UK, it will be our policy if it is put forward formally to endeavor through diplomatic channels to obtain Argentina’s support on the basis [Page 1122] that it would be an Argentine contribution to peaceful settlement. Before entering into the proposed arrangement, the US would announce its own Antarctic claims. By the timing of the announcement in relation to the signing of the modus vivendi and the political situation, we would seek to minimize the inevitable Argentine criticism and to ward off a major demonstration of anti-US feeling.

Attitude Toward Democratic Institutions. No objective in our relations with Argentina is more difficult, more frustrating to implement, than the adoption in Argentina of policies which will strengthen democratic institutions. The Peron Government has in one way or another almost completely stifled criticism of itself by the press, and there is little doubt but that it intends eventually to permit no criticism. Radio in Argentina is without exception subservient to the Government. The right to free expression is further curtailed by a law establishing a prison sentence for writing or speaking disrespectfully of Government officials and by severe limitations on the right of assembly. While elections have remained free at the polls, the opposition finds it almost impossible to reach an audience of any size and there are legal restrictions making it difficult to form new political parties. Organized labor is for the most part under the thrumb of the Peronista party through Peronista control of the leadership of the General Confederation of Labor and its affiliates. The few labor groups which have attempted to guard their independence have been arbitrarily and forcefully dealt with. The judiciary and the educational life of the nation have been made instruments of Peronismo. Letters passing through the Argentine mail system are likely to be opened, telegrams and cables are monitored and telephone lines are tapped.

The Argentine Government’s attitude toward civil liberties is of concern to the US, not only because of our desire to strengthen democratic institutions in the world, but also because it is unlikely that there can ever be any warm friendship between the two countries as long as this attitude persists. While it is our policy to attempt in every appropriate way to persuade the Argentine Government to abandon its restrictions on civil liberties, the measures which the US can take to achieve these purposes are limited by the fact that Argentina is a sovereign country which, as shown by experience, reacts in exactly the opposite way to any suggestions from the outside as to how it should conduct its affairs. Through diplomatic channels we have attempted to point out to Peron the detrimental effect of his press restrictions on US-Argentine relations and we have sought to convince him of the advantages of a free press. Our arguments have not deterred him in his course. Nothing could have proved this more conclusively than the expropriation in April 1951 of the celebrated Argentine independent newspaper La Prensa, which the Argentine Government pushed through in the face of the severest criticism throughout the western hemisphere and western [Page 1123] Europe. Nothing could have confirmed more conclusively the determination of the Peron regime to make all major Argentine institutions subservient to its purposes. The La Prensa affair was the hardest blow dealt to US-Argentine relations since World War II and the fact that the Argentine Government went ahead with expropriation in spite of US sentiments is significant. The vindictiveness of Mrs. Peron against La Prensa’s editor is believed to have been an important factor in the Government’s decision to stop the independent paper, and the incident furnishes an outstanding example of her importance in US-Argentine affairs. The US has protested several instances of Argentine censorship of despatches prepared by American press correspondents and has taken immediate and successful action to have American correspondents released from jail when arrested while performing their normal reporting activities11 but it has never received assurances that there would be no recurrences. The US has also protested the inability of its radio correspondents to broadcast from Argentina. In reply we have been informed that radio in Argentina is under private control and that the Government cannot interfere in questions of allotments of time on the air. Another incident in the general field of civil liberties which perturbed US-Argentine relations was the failure of the Argentine CGT to obtain admission to the ICFTU at its meeting in Mexico City in January 1951. The US delegation to the conference, composed of leaders of the CIO and AFofL, took a leading role in the refusal of the conference to seat the Argentines, their position being based upon the fact that the Argentine labor movement was not free but controlled by the Government. Efforts of the Argentines to save face naturally resulted in violent attacks on the US in the Peronista press.

Climate of Argentine Opinion Toward the US. It is our policy to attempt to create and maintain a favorable climate of opinion among the Argentine people toward the United States so that we may realize our foremost objectives: the end of Argentine neutralism, and encouragement of hemisphere defense, peace and democracy. This is a formidable task. Argentina’s close commercial and cultural ties with Europe have tended to prevent the diffusion of accurate knowledge about the US among Argentines. This situation has created a fertile field of ignorance in which extreme nationalism and demagoguery have easily been able to plant anti-US seeds. The Argentine people have traditionally resented US leadership when it extends to South America, seeing it as an obstruction to their own. In addition many Argentines have long tended to think of the US as a materialistic, money-grubbing, imperialistic nation with little appreciation of cultural values. Exclusion of Argentine meat from the US and other economic measures regarded by Argentina as discriminatory have tended to [Page 1124] strengthen this unsympathetic attitude. These impressions have been modified somewhat through normal trade relations, tourist travel, and our USIE programs. In recent years some notable changes have been effected in the attitudes of high-ranking Argentines during official visits to the US and they have returned to their country with pro-US views. Nevertheless the dominant Argentine feeling about the US is still critical and suspicious. The USIE programs are a principal weapon with which to counteract these views, but their effectiveness is dulled and often rendered useless by the Argentine limitations on freedom of expression and, in fact, by the official Argentine policy of playing upon anti-US sentiments for the Government’s own ends. US policy is to diffuse throughout Argentina as much information as possible about the US and the principles for which it stands but to proceed with sufficient caution not to provoke the Argentine Government into prohibiting our operations. At present this is a serious limitation. We are following a foot-in-the-door policy ready to seize upon any relaxation of Argentine restrictions as a sign to enter into full-scale informational and cultural programs.

We should continue our already beneficial policy of inviting influential Argentines to the US when the opportunity offers itself, but at present, while we are following our “correct” tactics, persons of cabinet rank should not be invited to make courtesy visits. The question of inviting the Perons constitutes a special public relations problem even when relations are better. Mrs. Peron is known to have attempted to inspire invitations and it is reliably reported that President Peron was personally offended by President Truman’s invitation to the Chilean Chief Executive.12 Our policy is not to invite the Argentine President nor his wife as long as there is the present amount of ill feeling in the US toward the Perons. The press, organized labor, various intellectual groups and many other vocal elements could be expected to give either or both of them such an inhospitable reception that it might take US-Argentine relations years to recover from the repercussions. We would, if necessary, officially explain the lack of an invitation on this basis.

US-Argentine Economic Relations. The US endeavors to encourage healthy bilateral economic relations with Argentina. One purpose is to improve our overall relations with that country. Another goal, which is especially significant at this time, is to maintain a practical friendly situation in the economic field which will serve to mitigate periods of strain in other fields for the sake of hemisphere security. The hard work devoted to economic matters during the past two years and the friendly frank personal contacts established between representatives [Page 1125] of the two Governments in the process have helped to sustain the shock to relations from the lack of harmony on civil liberties matters.

During 1950 we engaged in extended conversations with Argentine officials which looked toward an improvement in US Argentine trade and financial relations, and which included talks on a supplement to the US-Argentine Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty of 1853,13 a double taxation treaty,14 a bilateral air transport agreement, and encouragement of tourism. Within this same framework we supported an Export–Import Bank credit of $125,000,000 to enable Argentina to pay US creditors amounts overdue on commercial shipments faster than it had been able to pay on its own account. It was believed that this would improve Argentina’s position in relation to US traders and that restored confidence would stimulate commerce. Among the favorable developments following these steps were an increase in US-Argentine trade, the liquidation of most of Argentina’s commercial dollar arrears and Argentine relaxation of restrictions on tourism. On the other hand Argentina has yet to show any serious effort to liquidate its financial dollar debt. The supplementary trade treaty lies inactive with the next move up to Argentina. We do not plan to urge action on it at this time. The US is holding up action on the double taxation treaty. Talks in 1950 concerning a route annex to the bilateral air transport agreement of 194715 failed to materialize owing to a legitimate difference of opinion which could not be reconciled.

The US and Argentina have a bilateral Trade Agreement signed in 1941.16 The one clear Argentine violation of this Agreement lies in the failure of the Argentine Government to put into effect reduced duty rates on certain concession articles. These lower rates were to become effective when total Argentine customs revenues should exceed 270 million paper pesos and this occurred in 1947. Two US notes of protest, one in 1948 and another in 1949, have not been definitively answered and consideration is being given to what further steps should be taken to obtain observation of the Agreement.

Another subject in connection with the Agreement on which it may soon be necessary to approach Argentina is that of bringing the “escape clause” into conformity with the pertinent provisions of the [Page 1126] Trade Agreement Extension Act of 1951.17 The latter requires the President to take “escape clause action” on any Trade Agreement concession which is causing or threatens serious injury to the domestic industry producing like or directly competitive products. While Argentine adherence to the GATT,18 which contains a more satisfactory “escape clause”, would be a solution, that country has shown no interest in acceding to the GATT. An approach to Argentina now concerning the “escape clause” might jeopardize the bilateral Trade Agreement by precipitating an Argentine request for a general revision and should therefore only be taken after thorough consideration. It is US policy to negotiate or revise trade agreements only within the framework of the GATT.

We have formally acquainted Argentina with our Point IV program and the procedure by which that country could participate but have never received more than individual expressions of interest from a limited number of Argentine officials. If Argentina should desire to participate, we would consider its requests in the light of relations at the time. Under present conditions we shall not make another approach on the matter. Being fully aware of the Argentine propensity to capitalize to the fullest any advantages which “terms of trade” may give it, it is our policy to avoid, insofar as possible, engaging in specific quid pro quo conversations or negotiations. Accordingly, we successfully opposed the Argentine desire to discuss specific quid pro quos in the Fourth Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers. This policy would not prevent us, however, from bargaining with the Argentines on a specific matter of vital interest to the US if we were certain that we could pay off. In conformity with the “correct” tactics we are now employing toward Argentina we have not supported its desires to obtain additional government credits and we are opposed to Argentina being allowed to utilize for other purposes any unused portion of the Export-Import Bank credit.

Having in mind the difficulties encountered in the conduct of certain private US enterprises in Argentina, it is a US objective to defend the legitimate rights of US firms doing business in or with that country. In the past eighteen months we have made successful representations in connection with international airline rate structures, permission for Braniff Airlines to fly into Argentina, remittance of 1949 blocked airline pesos at pre-devaluation rates, reciprocal exemption of transport companies from income taxes, transfer of the headquarters of Swift International to the US and the reentry of US [Page 1127] motion pictures into Argentina.19 Our representations are continuing with some hope of success with respect to the petroleum companies’ efforts to sign a long-term importation and distribution agreement with Argentina20 and the American and Foreign Power Company’s efforts to sell out to the Argentine Government on reasonable terms. There seems to be little or no likelihood that the Argentine Government will resolve the problem of discriminations against US shipping companies in favor of the latter in view of its firm intention to favor Argentine lines as a means toward building up a large modern merchant fleet.21 The US intermittently discusses the problems of the US meatpackers with Argentine officials with a view to ensuring their continued operation on a reasonably profitable basis.22 Our current tactics in making representations On behalf of US business include emphasizing the damage which Argentina does to its credit by pursuing nationalistic economic policies which discourage new capital from entering the country and cause foreign enterprise now in the country to operate on a frightened wait-and-see basis.

c. relations with other states

Argentina’s relations with neighboring states, while friendly on the surface, are ruffled by an undercurrent of distrust on the part of the [Page 1128] latter because of what they suspect may be Argentina’s political and economic ambitions. While we believe that much of this distrust is voiced to the US to prevent it from becoming too friendly with Argentina and in order too gain for themselves further considerations from the US, especially in arms matters, we also believe that there is sincere apprehension as to Argentine intentions.

Peron’s relations with the present Government of Bolivia have been continuous but troubled. The latter feels certain that Bolivian revolutionaries in Argentina are plotting to overthrow it and from time to time it has believed that they were receiving assistance from Peron. It is true that individual Argentines have aided the Bolivian revolutionaries, but we have no evidence to substantiate that the Peron Government was involved. Argentina and Bolivia have a long, common border, difficult to patrol, and a certain amount of illicit activity must be expected from private parties and venal officials.

Brazil and Argentina are jealous of each other’s prestige in the western hemisphere and in the world. US–Brazilian relations have traditionally been more friendly than US–Argentine relations and Brazil tends to resent any manifestation of closer collaboration between the US and Argentina. US policy is to endeavor so to conduct its relations with the two countries that feelings of rivalry will be kept at a minimum.

A basic policy of both Argentina and Chile is believed to be friendship toward each other. As a result, the minor unfriendly incidents which occur from time to time reach reasonably quick conciliations. The present Chilean Government distrusts the Peron regime, feels it to be inherently dangerous, and has so informed us. The US has indicated to Chile that it has received no convincing evidence supporting the rumors concerning Argentine aggressive designs and Chile has not offered this substantiation. General Ibañez23 not long ago announced in Argentina his candidacy for the Chilean presidency and prophesied that he and President Peron would be elected in 1952. The Department is following closely reports that Peron has offered or has contributed funds for the Ibañez campaign.

The US is interested in Argentine-Paraguayan relations primarily because they are a potential sore spot in the western hemisphere. Argentina’s preferred geographic and historical position in relation to Paraguay might under certain conditions lead to an attempt at political domination. This, combined with Argentine-Brazilian rivalry for influence in Paraguay, might lead to serious friction between Brazil and Argentina. Finally, the tendency of Paraguayan political factions to take advantage of this rivalry for their own immediate ends tends to draw in the neighboring countries, willing or not. At present none of these potentially disturbing forces is believed to be seriously [Page 1129] threatening. US policy is to mitigate them whenever possible and appropriate.

Argentine-Uruguayan relations are of special interest to the US because of the frequently expressed fear of the Uruguayan Government that Peron is attempting to infiltrate and dominate Uruguay. The US has felt that these fears are exaggerated. The obvious incompatibility between the Argentine and Uruguayan concepts of democracy and the friendly attitude toward Peron of the principal opposition party in Uruguay exacerbates the underlying distrust of Argentina which Uruguay has in common with all of Argentina’s neighbors. US policy is to calm Uruguayan fears since we believe them unjustified and to remind that Government that the US stands fully behind the Rio Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance in case Argentine aggression does occur. A likely source of embarrassment in Argentine-Uruguayan relations, especially prior to the November 1951 Argentine elections, will be the free Uruguayan press and radio. The Peron Government, as it restricts ever further Argentine outlets of public expression, will be increasingly angered by the free Uruguayan radio which Argentines can hear and the free Uruguayan press which they will probably see clandestinely. The US would be gravely concerned if Argentina were able to exert pressure to curb freedom of expression in Uruguay.

Argentina and the United Kingdom have for many years maintained a business relationship under the aegis of which British influence has also penetrated Argentina in cultural and other ways. There are developments, however, that indicate Argentine economic dependence on the UK may be declining. Argentine purchases of British public utilities in Argentina have wiped out the sterling debt attached to those utilities. Furthermore, Argentina is consuming more beef at home and is finding other markets for its exports, circumstances which have been hastened by stubborn British reluctance to pay what the Argentine, and many British, believe a fair price for beef. If Anglo-Argentine trade continues to decline, British prestige and influence may be expected to suffer. A consequence of this might be that the substantial US meat packing interests in Argentina which profit from a healthy Anglo-Argentine trade would suffer. There are significant unknowns in the picture. The effect of the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.24 upon UK–Argentina trade relations is still too early to judge. US policy is to play no direct part in Anglo-Argentine trade negotiations, though we must follow the situation closely because of its possible discriminatory or other effect on US [Page 1130] interests in Argentina and its effect on our overall interest in world petroleum and food conditions.25

Argentina maintains diplomatic relations with the USSR and its satellites but political relations are not particularly good. Argentine diplomats have been treated poorly in Moscow and Russian diplomats are treated coolly in Buenos Aires. Having trade agreements with a number of the satellites, Argentina maintains that it must sell a small amount of its production to them in order to obtain goods which it vitally needs. It remains to be seen how this trade can be reconciled if at all with present US views and laws regarding commerce with iron curtain countries.

d. evaluation

It is not believed that any general policy toward Argentina would obtain better results in achieving US objectives than the present one of carrying on friendly, firm and frank relations. Less friendliness or more aggressive tactics on the part of the US would result in a resentment in Argentina which would make the conduct of relations more difficult and would stop the degree of collaboration we are now obtaining from that country. On some matters of great importance we receive no collaboration at all, but on some others we receive a considerable degree. It is believed that through our present policy we shall obtain at the very least a benevolent neutrality from Argentina if there should be another world war and this would be far better than the situation in the last war when Argentina was benevolently neutral toward our enemies.

While we are making progress in some respects in obtaining Argentine collaboration in hemisphere defense and toward world peace, in other ways we are not. Argentina has always taken its UN responsibilities seriously. In meetings of UN bodies Argentina has tended to vote with us and has not in practice adhered strictly to its “third position”. Argentine cooperation in the OAS has been good on paper but we have yet to see how that country will carry out the resolutions of the 1951 Fourth Inter-American Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers and other recent obligations. As in all spheres of our Argentine relations, we have never obtained what we wanted by critical or aggressive tactics. It is a certainty that Argentina would never have ratified the Rio Pact if we had employed such tactics on that subject.

President and Mrs. Peron, ex-Foreign Minister Bramuglia, and Minister of Defense Sosa Molina26 have all stated on various occasions that Argentina would immediately declare war on the side of the US in case of war with the USSR. This is a stronger expression of solidarity [Page 1131] than the US has received in the past from high-ranking Argentines and Argentine action in the UN and OAS lend it weight. How much Peron would contribute to our cause in the event of armed conflict with the USSR will in all probability vary in direct proportion to the degree to which the Argentine homeland is in danger and it is highly doubtful that any Argentine Government would in the foreseeable future any more than in the past offer troops unless that nation itself were threatened. This probably means that Argentina will not send troops outside the Western Hemisphere in the implementation of UN action, but it may well assist the UN in other ways and we should not jeopardize non-military assistance unless the cost is beyond reason.

A successful operation of our present policy was evidenced in March and April 1951 at the Fourth Inter-American Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers. We now know that the Argentines came to the Meeting in an extremely sensitive mood and that on their arrival the tension was such that the principal determination to be made by the Argentine Government was whether it should walk out or stay and sabotage the meeting. The friendly attitude which Secretary Acheson and his staff showed the Argentine Foreign Minister and the courteous correct treatment accorded the Argentines from the start brought about a visible change in them. They were cooperative at the Meeting and were not obstructionist even in matters where we might have expected them to be. If we had had a critical or aggressive policy toward Argentina, that delegation would, we believe, have acted on its initial instructions and have walked out or resorted to sabotage. As in many prior instances, friendly personal contacts with high Argentine officials proved highly important to us and it should be our policy to continue to use this effective medium. Argentina’s application for membership in the Food and Agriculture Organization may possibly be credited to US diplomacy. At least it was an action which we had for a long time urged Argentina to take and was a remarkable decision for Argentina in view of its past practice in the field of multilateral economic cooperation.

The US objective looking toward the strengthening of democratic institutions in Argentina has not been realized. Our policies to achieve this have been ineffective. It is believed that the US cannot immediately realize this objective without either running counter to its policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of another state or with its policy of conducting relations with Argentina in a friendly, firm and frank manner. We should not abandon our friendly policy since we would then jeopardize such cooperation as we are receiving from Argentina and any chance of improving our present relations. It has been fairly conclusively proven that democracy cannot be exported and it is a safe assumption that democracy will come to Argentina principally as a result of the efforts of the Argentine people. The [Page 1132] farthest we should go unilaterally is to point out on appropriate occasions that the Argentine Government’s attitude on civil liberties is a main deterrent to real US friendship and cooperation.

It is most difficult to know to what degree our objective of creating and maintaining a favorable climate of opinion in Argentina toward the US and its policies is being realized. This is principally because of the limitation on freedom of expression and because newspapers, radios and orators speaking the Government line follow the anti-US pattern that has been laid down. We know high level government officials who would lose their jobs if their anti-Peron and pro-US views were reported. How many hold such views whom we do not know? One cannot assume that only persons of anti-US sentiments will vote for Peron since we know Peronistas who are pro-US. There is substantial demand for USIE material and services in Argentina and this in itself is of some signficance. Furthermore we are aware that most Argentines who visit the US return favorably impressed. Many of these show themselves individually and on their own initiative most sympathetic to the US. Our cultural centers are active and there is a continuing demand for US artists and lecturers.

The USIE program functions under obvious limitations in the face of adverse propaganda inspired by the Argentine Government, but it has so far been able to operate through all media of information with the toleration, and in some instances effective cooperation, of the authorities. It is in fact remarkable that under present conditions our press and radio operations have been interfered with so little. We should not be surprised if as the fever increases prior to the November 11, 1951 election our USIE activities are curbed or perhaps even stopped altogether by the authorities. This would probably be done on the ground that the program is intervening in Argentine internal affairs or that it is misleading the Argentine people. There would not need to be any evidence for such charges. Under present circumstances the most promising and feasible policies are to continue our USIE activities at the highest level likely to be allowed by the Argentine Government but within that difficult limitation to so gauge the program that it will be as influential as possible especially among Peronistas.

There has been some improvement in economic relations between the US and Argentina in the last two years. As a result of the work of the Joint US-Argentine Committee on Commercial Studies (September–December, 1949),27 Argentine commercial practices were liberalized in certain respects and its trade balance with the US improved because of this and also because of higher commodity prices which have obtained since June 1950. Certain specific objectives have been attained [Page 1133] in regard to the treatment of US investments in Argentina although the record is far from being all that we desire. Most of the progress was obtained during the early part of 1950 when negotiations were: going on for an Export-Import Bank credit. However, there has been no appreciable change in the fundamental attitude of Argentina toward foreign investment, this attitude being to subordinate all to domestic political expediency. Under present circumstances the outlook for improvement in the economic field is not bright.

We can point to little success in the field of Argentine multilateral economic cooperation and it is probable that this situation will continue. Argentina has not associated itself with the International Bank for Reconstruction, the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or with the endeavor to cease trade with the Soviet bloc. On the other hand, after long delay Argentina has begun to participate in the committees set up to consider materials shortages resulting from the emergency. Argentina has its heart set on becoming a member of the UN Economic and Social Council at the next General Assembly and it may be that it will deviate from its usual aloofness from multilateral economic matters as a step in its ECOSOC election campaign. During the period that we continue to employ correct tactics toward Argentina, we shall not urge it to cooperate with our objectives in international economic bodies.

  1. Drafted by Mr. Dearborn.
  2. For text of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act (Public Law 329), approved October 6, 1949, see 63 Stat. 714.
  3. Documents relating to the refitting of these cruisers are in decimal files 735.56 and 735.5621 for 1951. For previous documentation on the negotiations leading to the sale of the cruisers, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, pp. 599 ff.
  4. Juan Atilio Bramuglia.
  5. A joint meeting of the Executive Committee of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) took place in Cairo, January 22–February 5, 1951.
  6. For documentation concerning United States policy with respect to this issue, see pp. 209 ff.
  7. For documentation on United States policy with regard to the Antarctic in 1951, see vol. i, pp. 1715 ff.
  8. Reference is to the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security (Rio Conference), held at Quitandinha, State of Rio de Janeiro, August 15–September 2, 1947. For documentation on the conference, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 1 ff.
  9. For a statement of the non-intervention principle, see the Department of State’s instruction 131, dated February 19, 1947, in Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 629631.
  10. For documentation on United States policy with respect to the Antarctic in 1948, see ibid., 1948, vol. i, Part 2, pp. 962 ff.
  11. Documents pertaining to this subject are in several decimal files, principally 935.61, 935.63, and 935.64.
  12. Gabriel González Videla. President González Videla had visited the United States during April and May 1950. For information concerning his visit and his discussions with President Truman, see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, p. 785.
  13. For text of the Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty, signed at San José, July 27, 1853, and entered into force December 20, 1854, see TS No. 4, or 10 Stat. 1005.
  14. For documentation relating to United States policy with respect to the negotiation of double taxation treaties, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. i, pp. 688 ff.
  15. An air transport agreement was signed on May 1, 1947, but it never entered into force. For documentation, see ibid., 1947, vol. viii, pp. 238 ff.
  16. For text of the agreement and related exchanges of notes, signed at Buenos Aires, October 14, 1941, and which entered into force definitively January 8, 1943, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series (EAS) No. 277, or 56 Stat. (pt.2) 1685.
  17. For text of the Trade Agreements Extension Act (Public Law 50), approved June 16, 1951, see 65 Stat. 72.
  18. For text of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), concluded at Geneva, October 30, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, January 1, 1948, see TIAS No. 1700, or 61 Stat. (pts. 5–6).
  19. An agreement between the Argentine Government and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had been reached in January 1951; it essentially pledged the Argentine Government to implement the so-called Cereijo-Johnston Agreement, signed May 12, 1950, which provided for the unrestricted entry of United States films into Argentina and confidentially for minimum remittances up to 1.1 million dollars per year of earnings on United States films already circulating in Argentina. The terms of the new agreement, not fully incorporated into any written document, are described in despatches 1116, from Buenos Aires, February 1, 1951, not printed (835.452/2–151), and 1219, from Buenos Aires, February 16, 1951, not. printed (835.452/2–1651). In telegram 37, from Buenos Aires, July 16, 1951, not printed, Ambassador Bunker had informed the Secretary of State that the Argentine Government had issued permits to the signatories of the Cereijo-Johnston Agreement, allowing them to import films from the United States (835.452/7–1651). For previous documentation with regard to the extended negotiations between representatives of the Argentine Government and the MPAA, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, pp. 691 ff.
  20. Documents relating to the efforts of the petroleum companies to negotiate a long-term petroleum agreement with the Argentine Government are in decimal files 811.05135 and 835.2553. No such agreement was reached in 1951. For previous documentation on this subject, see ibid.
  21. During 1951 intermittent and inconclusive discussions took place in Buenos Aires between representatives of the Argentine Government and United States shipping companies, concerning, inter alia, the alleged Argentine practice of granting prior exchange permits for merchandise designated for import in Argentine ships, and the requirement that imports and exports by official Argentine entities be carried by Argentine vessels. Pertinent documents are in decimal files 102.7971, 811.05135, and 935.537.
  22. United States meatpackers in Argentina contended that as a consequence of competition from rapidly proliferating government-owned packing houses, onerous controls on foreign packers, and the termination of the government’s subsidy program in August 1950, they were operating on a loss basis. In despatch 108, from Buenos Aires, July 20, 1951, not printed, the Embassy had informed the Department of State that the Argentine Government, by a decree dated July 13, had authorized the Ministry of Economy to compensate United States meat-packers for losses incurred between September 1, 1950, and June 30, 1951 (835.311/7–2051). For previous documentation on the problems of the meat-packers, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, pp. 691 ff.
  23. Carlos Ibáñez del Campo.
  24. For documentation concerning United States policy with respect to Iran, see volume v .
  25. Documents relating to United States interest in the negotiations between Argentina and Great Britain during 1951 concerning meat purchases and trade are in decimal files 435.4131 and 835.311.
  26. José Humberto Sosa Molina.
  27. For documentation on the formation and activities of the Joint Committee, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. ii, pp. 473 ff.