The Ambassador in Argentina ( Nufer ) to the Department of State 1

No. 1003


  • Conversation With President Peron

There is attached a memorandum of a conversation which I had with President Peron on February 3, 1953 at his request.

Our discussion of one hour and thirty-five minutes touched on various subjects which, in Peron’s opinion, had contributed to tensions in U.S.-Argentine relations during “the past ten years”. The burden of the President’s remarks was that those tensions should come to an end.

It is difficult to say what motivated the President in taking this initiative. Perhaps he felt that Argentina’s anti-U.S. campaign had overreached itself, and that the new administration in the United States affords him an opportunity to embark on a policy of closer relations with us. Whatever his motives, he impressed me as being genuinely desirous of seeking rapprochement.

I realize there are many obstacles in the way of improved Argentine-U.S. relations. Among them are the probability that the critical attitude of the U.S. press toward Argentina would not readily be modified (even assuming that Peron continues to restrain his own press), and the probable restiveness of Peron in the event his approach, unprecedented in recent years, is ignored by us. In the latter [Page 428] event, it would probably be some time before a similar overture by the Argentine Government could be expected.

I therefore urge that this development be given careful consideration in formulating our Latin American policy. There can be no doubt that any appreciable improvement in U.S.-Argentine relations would contribute to hemispheric solidarity and strengthen the defense of the free world against communist aggression.

Albert F. Nufer


Memorandum of Conversation With President Peron

Late on Friday evening, January 30th, the Foreign Minister, Sr. Remorino, telephoned me to say that he had told the President of our talk on January 26 (see my memorandum of January 27, 19532) and that the President had expressed a wish to see me on Tuesday, February 3. I told Remorino that I would be glad to call on the President and he said he had been asked to accompany me.

Peron received me Tuesday at 4 p.m. in his home on Avenida Libertador General San Martin. He was extremely affable, even more so than on the occasion of the presentation of my credentials. Our meeting, which lasted 95 minutes, was cordial throughout.

He reminded me that when I last saw him he had suggested that we get together for a heart-to-heart talk with “all our cards on the table”. He had, he said, purposely delayed seeing me because he wanted me to have a chance to familiarize myself with the local scene, but he felt the time for the meeting had now come and he had, therefore, asked me to call.

I told the President that I welcomed the opportunity to have a chat with him inasmuch as over five months had elapsed since our last conversation. I said I felt it was especially opportune for me to have some indication of what was in his mind in view of the recent change of administration in the United States.

Peron thereupon launched into a lengthy dissertation on what he considered to be the main causes for the state of tension between our two countries which, he said, had now existed for about ten years.

He first dwelt upon Argentina’s geographic position. He compared Argentina’s position in the far south to that of Sweden in the far north [Page 429] which, he said, explained why both countries had for many years been traditionally neutral and isolationist. Being so far removed from the center of the conflict, the Argentine people had been inclined to view the two world wars with a certain detachment and had been strongly opposed to any participation therein. This explained Argentina’s position with regard thereto and why it would be practically impossible, politically speaking, for Argentina to send troops to Korea. The United States itself, he added, had not entered World War I until after it had been in progress for three years, and its entry into World War II had been delayed for over two years even though the U.S. interests were deeply involved. He implied that it had taken us a long time to get away from isolationism, and that it would take Argentina even longer due to its remote geographic position.

As might have been expected, Peron then took up the subject of Ambassador Braden.3 Braden, he said, was mainly responsible for the friction which had so long existed between Argentina and the United States. His attitude here had been more like a member of the opposition party than an Ambassador of a friendly country. Peron said that he, nevertheless, owed Braden a debt of gratitude because Braden’s attacks on his candidacy served to unite behind him the Argentine electorate, many of whom deeply resented the interference of a foreign diplomat in Argentina’s domestic affairs. Even though Mr. Messersmith and the other ambassadors who succeeded Braden were men of tact and discretion who scrupulously refrained from interfering in the country’s internal affairs, the bad effects of Mr. Braden’s actions were never entirely erased from the minds of the people and the government of Argentina.

Another cause of discontent in Argentina had been, Peron said, the blocking of Argentine exchange balances and gold in the United States during World War II which, together with Britain’s suspension of sterling convertibility, had at the time caused Argentina serious economic difficulties. When Argentina was finally able to avail itself of its holdings in the United States, in 1946–47, their purchasing power had decreased by almost 50%. (Peron made a similar statement in November, 1951—see despatch 896 of December 4, 1951,4 entitled “Peron’s Statement to Visiting Congressmen”.)

He also mentioned the assurances allegedly given him by former Ambassador Bruce 5 that Argentina had nothing to worry about, since purchases under the Marshall Plan would take care of all its exportable [Page 430] surpluses. Argentina, he said, went to the extent of cancelling sales that had already been made to Russia and other countries, but Mr. Bruce’s assurances never materialized. Fortunately, he added, export prices rose at about that time so that Argentina suffered no economic losses.

As another reason for Argentina’s attitude, Peron mentioned the Export–Import Bank’s refusal last year to permit Argentina to apply the unused portion of the 125 million dollar credit (granted in 1950)6 to the purchase in the United States of agricultural equipment and other capital goods.

I interrupted the President to say that I was familiar with this transaction having, as he knew, been a member of the Joint United States-Argentine Economic Commission which met in Washington during the latter part of 1949 and early part of 1950. I had also been in Washington when the Argentine request regarding the unused portion of the credit (about 28 million dollars) had been received and had discussed it with the Export–Import Bank. The bank’s refusal, I said, did not reflect on Argentina’s economic solvency, with regard to which the bank had a high regard. The fact was that under the terms of the agreement, the credit could be used only to cover dollar arrears owed U.S. exporters for shipments to Argentina made before the agreement was signed. It would not have been possible, therefore, to agree to Argentina’s request without entering into an entirely new agreement and this, I said, was impracticable at the time in view of the state of public opinion in the United States as a result of the anti-U.S. propaganda which Argentina had unleashed.

The President also mentioned the visit to Argentina of Mr. Miller,7 then Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs. He had hoped that Mr. Miller’s visit would bring about an improvement in relations between the two countries, and in order to help bring this about he had granted a number of requests which Mr. Miller made. These included:

Settlement of the problems confronting the American meat packers in Argentina;
The transfer of the head office of Swift International (now known as International Packers) from Buenos Aires to the United States. He [Page 431] said this was against the advice of members of his Cabinet and had resulted in a loss to Argentina of “250 million dollars”;
Permission for the entry of Braniff International Airways into Argentina;
Permission for the American motion picture companies to resume importation of their films; and
An improvement in the situation of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (ESSO).

All this, the President added, had been to no avail, inasmuch as the American press had continued attacking him, his wife and his government.

He then repeated all he had told me during our previous meeting8 about how he refused for several years to permit Argentine newspapers to retaliate and that it was not until 1950, when pressure by Argentine newsmen became very strong that he authorized them to reply to attacks against him in the United States press. He admitted that Argentina had not limited itself to refuting anti-Argentine statements which appeared in the United States, but had taken the offensive on the theory that offense was often the best defense. In any event, he said, United States press attacks had shown no signs of abatement and this, together with Argentine attacks on the United States, had been largely responsible for maintaining the present unsatisfactory situation.*

At this point I told the President that I would like to speak very frankly. I showed him the article by Edward Tomlinson which appeared in the January 27 issue of Look, entitled “Peron’s War on the United States”. This article carried two of the more vicious anti-U.S. cartoons distributed throughout the Hemisphere by Argentine labor attachés. I told him that he could readily see why propaganda of the kind published in the local papers and distributed by Argentine labor attachés must inevitably lead to unfavorable articles in the United States press, including such articles as the one by Mr. Tomlinson.

I said one of the things about Argentine propaganda which had created considerable concern in the minds of the American people was its similarity to the communist line. As examples, I mentioned the articles by Josephine Baker which had been head-lined in all the local papers; the constant references to “Yankee Imperialism” and “Yankee Capitalism”; and the consistent efforts to drive a wedge between the United States and Latin America. Moreover, for every article in the local press attacking Communism there had been at least a dozen articles [Page 432] attacking the United States. It was only natural, therefore, that our people should wonder whether Argentina was really anti-Communist or whether it might not be playing Russia’s game.

The President reacted strongly to this. He said I doubtless knew that Argentina was strongly anti-Communist. There were in Argentina relatively few Communists and all of them were well known to the Government and under constant police surveillance. As a matter of fact, his Government not only had full records of all Communists in Argentina but also of those in other countries, including the United States. These records were at our disposition should we wish to use them.

I ventured to remark that there were Communists who were very close to the Argentine Government and mentioned the names of Puiggros and Libenson 9 (so-called “dissident Communists” who have been closely identified with the Argentine Government). Peron replied that they were Comunistas domesticados. “We use them” he said “for our purpose”, to which I replied that “leopards did not change their spots”. Peron agreed but said that they would not dare to fall out of step with his government. There was, he added, no real threat of Communism in Argentina but Communism was a very real menace in other Latin American countries such as Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil and even Cuba. “Those are the countries” he said “that are the Communist danger spots of the Hemisphere—not Argentina”.

I next remarked that I had noticed with satisfaction a definite decline in anti-U.S. propaganda in the controlled Argentine press and that I had been gratified over the favorable press which President Eisenhower had received here.

Peron said that he had ordered the press to temper its attacks against the United States shortly after my arrival because he considered me to be a “man of good will”. (As a matter of fact there was no substantial let-up in the anti-U.S. press campaign until after the elections at home.) He added that while the press was amenable to suggestions from him, he could not entirely control its editorial policy, as he was not a dictator. In any event he was glad that there had been such a marked improvement in its attitude; it was his considered judgment that the discontinuance of press attacks on both sides was a prerequisite to the establishment of the type of climate which would have to be created if our two countries were to forget the past and reach an understanding. He felt it was essential that the tension that had existed between our countries for a decade come to an end.

I suggested that if existing tensions could be eliminated it would help the cause of Hemispheric solidarity and added that I had seen the editorials [Page 433] in the January 30 issues of Critica and La Prensa which said that friction between our two countries had only helped the enemy (see Embtel 566, January 30, 195310). I asked whether the “enemy” referred to was Communism, and the President said, “Naturally”.

I asked the President whether Argentine labor attachés had also been instructed to discontinue anti-U.S. propaganda. These officials, as he knew, had been distributing such propaganda in Argentine Embassy envelopes and under diplomatic frank. He said, “Yes, we have put a stop to all that”.

Remorino said at this point that Argentine labor attachés were really “laborers” with the mentality of “laborers”, who had merely taken a course in a local school for labor attachés. Most of them were not particularly bright and had considered it their duty to circulate in the country to which they were accredited any and all propaganda material received from the Argentine General Confederation of Workers (CGT) regardless of its nature. He himself had been instrumental in bringing about the recall of several of them, including one in the United States. They had not acted under instructions from the Argentine Government. Peron interrupted to say that if his government had been responsible for the distribution of the propaganda, it would have used more subtle methods.

I said I was gratified to learn that Argentina had initiated action by instructing the press and the Argentine labor attachés to discontinue attacks on the United States. At this point Remorino said he hoped that the United States press would also cease its attacks on Argentina. I said that this would be up to the United States press over which, as he and the President knew only too well, our government had no control whatsoever. In fact, any attempt on its part to induce our newspapers to discontinue their attacks on Argentina might well have the opposite effect. I could only hope, I said, that the improvement in the press here would eventually be reflected in the press in the United States, and that they could not expect a change over night. The President said he realized this and that he would have to be patient.

Remorino interrupted to say that while he knew the press in the United States was free, it was also true that Tito,11 a Communist dictator, and Franco,12 a Fascist dictator, were receiving friendly treatment and that there was little or no adverse comment on the dictatorships of Somoza and Trujillo. He thought this indicated that our press was amenable to friendly suggestions and remarked that any action taken in this respect might be facilitated by the fact that the great majority of U.S. newspapers were well disposed toward President Eisenhower.

[Page 434]

I replied that if there had been a change in the attitude of the U.S. press toward Tito and Franco the change had doubtless been a very gradual one and that I thought his statement to the effect that Franco’s treatment in the United States press was a friendly one, at best somewhat exaggerated.

As an example of positive acts which might produce a favorable reaction in the U.S. press I mentioned Peron’s recent statement to local Jewish leaders deploring Soviet anti-Semitism. Peron seemed pleased at my mention of this and I enquired why the full statement had not appeared in the Argentine press. He said that it had been published by the Jewish language papers. I remarked that their circulation must be very limited; whereupon he said the story had been given to the wire services. (The official release issued by the Secretaria de Informaciones had considerably tempered the force of the anti-Soviet remarks Peron made in the presence of the Jewish community leaders.)

I said that I had also noticed with interest the recent statements by Ambassador Paz and by the President himself with regard to foreign investments. I said that there was an investment in Argentina of some 400 million dollars in U.S. capital and that I was sure he would agree that it had made a very substantial contribution to the economic progress of the country.

The President said he was, of course, interested in attracting foreign capital but on terms that were equitable both to Argentina and to the investors. He said that Argentina wanted no more investments like the Smithfield Packing House which was established in 1911 with a capital of 1 million pounds sterling. Up to the time that Argentina purchased the plant, it had sent annual profits to England equal to its entire initial capital. His government, he added, was working on new regulations governing foreign capital investments, which he thought would be equitable to all concerned and which he hoped would have a stimulating effect on its inflow into the country.

Remorino next called my attention to the statements made by Secretary Dulles before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and produced a copy of the Congressional Record. He said the President had been disturbed by the Secretary’s remark that there was fascism in Argentina which was spreading its tentacles elsewhere, but that he was reserving judgment until he had had a better opportunity to observe developments in Washington.

Remorino said that he was a friend and admirer of Secretary Dulles and that he had written him a letter13 in which he had refrained from any criticism of the Secretary’s remark, but had asked him to look into [Page 435] the Argentine situation objectively and after doing so to “let his conscience be his guide”.

Remorino also referred to statements against Argentina attributed to Mr. Braden at a recent forum at Tulane University which he claimed were unusually derogatory and inflammatory. He said that these statements had not been published here at the express instructions of the President who felt they would needlessly exacerbate Argentine public opinion and make an understanding more difficult.

As the meeting was drawing to a close I enquired whether they had anything else in mind I could tell my government. Remorino replied that they were not in a position to give me a bill of particulars. The President, however, interrupted to say very emphatically that Argentina wanted nothing whatsoever from the United States and that his only purpose in speaking so frankly to me was to express his desire that the friction which had so long existed between our two countries finally come to an end.

The meeting broke up at 5:35 p.m., and Peron escorted Remorino and me to my car. Remorino, whom I dropped off at the hotel, appeared highly pleased over the conversation. In repeatedly expressing his satisfaction over the President’s attitude, he implied that it was now up to me accurately to convey that attitude to my government.

Albert F. Nufer


The President said that he had reason to believe that the United States Government had itself contributed to a propaganda campaign against Argentina. He had, he said, copies of receipts and other documents showing payments by Cultural or Information Officers of our Embassy in Mexico to Mexican publishers and editors covering such propaganda. I interrupted to say that his information was completely erroneous, as the activities of our Cultural and Information officers were always conducted in an open, straightforward manner such as those of the USIE here in Argentina.

Some time ago, the President added, he had sent an emissary to Chateaubriand, who owns a chain of newspapers in Rio, with a view toward inducing him to adopt a more favorable attitude toward Argentina. Chateaubriand told his emissary that if Argentina would pay him more than the seven million pesos he was now receiving from the United States Government, he might talk business. When I questioned the veracity of this report, Peron admitted that he himself had not been inclined to attach too much weight to it and had suspected that it [Page 436] might be an attempt on the part of Chateaubriand to obtain a subsidy from him.

A. F. Nufer
  1. This despatch and attached memorandum of conversation were drafted by Ambassador Nufer.
  2. The referenced memorandum of conversation was transmitted to the Department of State under cover of despatch 970, from Buenos Aires, dated Jan. 29, 1953, not printed (611.35/1–2953).
  3. Spruille Braden, U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, 1945.
  4. Not printed (033.1100 CR/12–451).
  5. James Bruce, U.S. Ambassador to Argentina, 1947–1949.
  6. Export–Import Bank Credit No. 477, authorized May 17, 1950.
  7. Mr. Miller visited Buenos Aires, Feb. 19–24, 1950; for text of despatch 355, from Buenos Aires, dated Mar. 1, 1950, reporting on the results of his visit, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. ii, p. 696.
  8. Apparent reference to the conversation between Ambassador Nufer and President Perón which took place on Aug. 14, 1952, when the Ambassador presented his credentials; a memorandum of that conversation was transmitted to the Department of State under cover of despatch 185, from Buenos Aires, dated Aug. 18, 1952, not printed (123 Nufer, Albert F./8–1852).
  9. See Addendum on Page 16. [Footnote in the source text. The addendum is printed below.]
  10. Rudolfo Puiggros and Isaac Libenson.
  11. Not printed (611.35/1–3053).
  12. Marshal Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia.
  13. Generalissimo Francisco Franco y Bahamonde, Chief of State of Spain.
  14. Not found in Department of State files.