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

No. 211


  • Conversation With President Perón

There is enclosed an account of my interview with President Perón on September 3, 1953. It will be noted that by far the most important part of this interview involves the presentation by President Perón of several matters with regard to which Argentina hopes it can have the assistance of the United States. We have, of course, during the entire process of contacts leading to an improvement of relations with Argentina, expected that at some time or other Perón would indicate certain concrete expectations of Argentina, in spite of his protestations to the contrary up to now. These have now been received, although not yet in detailed form so that the exact desires of Argentina are yet unclear.

Nevertheless, the subjects introduced by Perón appear to bear very careful scrutiny and analysis in the Department in terms of their potential advantage to us in Hemispheric defense, and in the opportunity to which they might lead us of developing the anti-communist disposition which Perón seems to reveal. It will be noted that some of these proposals have a marked potential for private capital attraction. Any [Page 442] government to government cooperation with respect to them, which presumably enters into Argentine thinking, might be utilized as a catalyst to this end. It might not be too much to imagine, in fact, that these proposals could lead to negotiations for the establishment of conditions here attractive for further private capital investment, coupled with agreements on military cooperation in defense against communism.

An interesting insight on the thinking that may now be going on in the Casa Rosada appears in a remark Ambassador Margueirat2 (who was present at my interview with Peron) made to an officer of this Embassy: “Did you notice that all Peron’s points were related to Hemispheric defense against Communism?”

While Perón’s motivations may not be so completely altruistic as he himself presents them, they carry with them the possibility of aligning him formally with U.S. policy for defense against communist aggression.

Albert F. Nufer


Meeting of Ambassador Nufer With President Perón September 3, 19533

I saw President Perón this morning at my request to present him with a personal letter4 and a collection of trout flies from Dr. Milton Eisenhower and to take leave from him in view of my impending trip to Washington.5 Our meeting, at which the Foreign Minister, Dr. Remorino, and the Chief of Ceremonial, Ambassador Margueirat, were present, lasted from 10:15 a.m. to 12 noon.

The President was delighted with the trout flies and asked me to translate Dr. Eisenhower’s letter for him.

[Page 443]

He requested me to listen to a recording of an interview which he gave yesterday to the representative of the National Broadcasting Company, and which is to be televised in the United States. The President said that the interview had taken over twenty minutes and would have to be cut in order to bring it within the proposed ten minute limit. He asked for suggestions as to what parts of the interview might best be eliminated as of only marginal interest to the Amerian audience. After listening to the recording, he then offered to furnish me with a copy of the text so that I could go over it with my associates. He also instructed Sr. Apold,6 Sub-Secretario de Informaciones to furnish me a copy and asked that we be good enough to let him have our ideas today if possible.

I then took up with the President certain items of interest to several local American enterprises. I requested a meeting with him on behalf of the American meat packers who are facing a difficult situation, and also discussed the American & Foreign Power Company’s difficulties with the provincial authorities in Mendoza. The President agreed to see the meat packers on his return from Cordoba and promised to look into the problems of the American & Foreign Power Company; also to let me know whether the discussions looking toward the acquisition of the company’s properties by the government—such negotiations having been suspended early in 1952 because of the then difficult local economic situation—might be resumed at this time.

I also mentioned the interest of Mr. Herman Metzger, head of the local ESSO branch, in meeting with him again to discuss further the possibility of ESSO cooperating in the development of Argentina’s oil resources. The President agreed to see Mr. Metzger as soon as possible.7

I also mentioned the fact that several issues of the New York Times had been confiscated by the customs authorities during July and August, and Peron promised to take steps to prevent future incidents of this kind.

The desire of Panagra to invite six Argentine boys to visit the United States at its expense (as part of Panagra’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration) was also mentioned, and the President said he would designate the six youngsters before September 13, the date on which Panagra wishes to make the corresponding announcement.

[Page 444]

The President referred to the hearings now being held in Washington with regard to a possible increase in U.S. wool import duties. He asked me to express to my government his grave concern over the possibility the increase might affect carpet wool; if so, he said, it would deprive Argentina of one of its few remaining sources of dollar exchange which Argentina urgently needed to acquire certain American products indispensable for its economic well-being. I said it was my impression that carpet wool was on the free list but that I would telegraph8 the Department immediately.

The President said that he would like to enlist our assistance in several other matters of great interest to his government. He prefaced his remarks by saying that although many people did not believe that there would be a third world war, he personally was convinced that such a war was inevitable; it was therefore imperative that every effort be made by the countries of the Western Hemisphere to utilize to the utmost the present breathing spell to prepare for such an emergency.

He was deeply concerned over the fact that Argentina was producing only about 45 percent of its oil requirements. This was all the more serious because of Argentina’s commitments under the Hemisphere Defense Plan.9 It was, he thought, vitally important that Argentina become self-sufficient in so far as its oil requirements were concerned in order that it might contribute effectively to the defense of the South Atlantic. An emergency program to bring this about was therefore needed.

The President was not clear just how he thought the United States could assist him in expediting the development of Argentina’s oil resources, but I got the impression that he thought it was mainly a job for private U.S. capital. He said the problem, as far as Argentina was concerned, was largely political because YPF, despite its evident shortcomings, was strongly entrenched. There were, moreover, certain laws which he could not ignore and which made it impossible for him to turn over Argentina’s oil resources to foreign enterprises. He thought, however, that some way could be found for foreign companies to cooperate with the Argentine Government in their exploration and exploitation. The President was somewhat vague on this point; he did say that it would not be possible to give the foreign companies title to the [Page 445] land, but that they would presumably have to operate under what he described as a contrato de locación de obra (project lease), and to agree to turn over part of their production to YPF. In any event, the President said something had to be done in the immediate future in view of the strategic importance of the matter to Hemispheric defense.

The President then discussed the possibility of obtaining some assistance from us in connection with the proposed development of Argentina’s shipyards and dry docks. The shipyards (astilleros) at Rio Santiago, he said, were already equipped for fairly large vessels, but additional equipment was needed not only for Rio Santiago but for the six dry docks now under construction in Tigre. These shipyards and dry docks, he said, would be of vital importance to the countries of the Western Hemisphere in the event of another world war. There were, he remarked, no other facilities in this part of the Hemisphere where large vessels could be overhauled and repaired. World War III, he said, would be characterized by an attempt on the part of our enemies to destroy the free world’s industrial potential, and Argentina was outside of the range of Russian bombers.

The President then discussed the possibility of obtaining help from the United States in building a plant for the large-scale production of fighter planes, such as the Pulqui II which the Argentine Government has been constructing on an experimental basis. He said that such a plant would, as in the case of the shipyards and dry docks, be beyond the range of Russian bombers and would constitute an important contribution to Hemispheric defense. The plant he had in mind would be equipped to produce complete planes, including motors, etc., and in return for our assistance Argentina would agree to place the entire production thereof at our disposal in the event of an emergency.

The President also hoped the United States might find it possible to assist Argentina in the construction of a steel mill. Argentina was already producing ordnance and ammunition, including guided missiles, and was currently experimenting with guided torpedoes. It was likewise producing small amounts of recoilless guns. Production of all this material could be tremendously stepped up if Argentina had a modern integrated steel mill, and Argentina’s contribution to the defense of the Hemisphere could thereby be immeasurably increased.

The President also discussed the need for greatly expediting the production of uranium ore and beryl. Argentina, he said, had large undeveloped uranium and beryl deposits but it needed technical help if large-scale production was to be forthcoming within any presently measurable period. Such production, he said, would be sold to the United States.

In connection with all projects he spoke of the need of assistance from the United States but at no time did he mention the possibility of [Page 446] public credits except indirectly when he remarked that if these projects could be carried out by private capital it would, of course, be preferable.

I told the President that while I was, of course, unable to venture an opinion on the questions he raised, I would be glad to make a memorandum of our conversation and submit it to my government for its consideration. I suggested, however, that it would be extremely helpful if he could let me have a brief memorandum on each of the subjects mentioned, giving me in more detailed form just what he had in mind and exactly what, in his opinion, the nature of our contribution to the several projects might consist of. The President promised that he would have his technical advisers furnish me with such memoranda before my departure for the United States.

When I took my leave Peron asked me to give President Eisenhower an “abrazo” from him. “Tell the President”, he said, “that he is the senior General and that I will carry out his orders.”

Albert F. Nufer
  1. Drafted by the First Secretary of the Embassy Robert C. Martindale and Second Secretary of the Embassy Ernest V. Siracusa.
  2. Raúl A. Margueirat.
  3. Drafted by Ambassador Nufer.
  4. No copy of the referenced letter was found in Department of State files. Subsequent to Dr. Eisenhower’s visit to Buenos Aires, he exchanged a series of letters with President Perón; Dr. Eisenhower’s letters, dated Aug. 3,5, and Sept. 30, 1953, were transmitted to the Embassy at Buenos Aires for delivery to President Perón under cover, respectively, of instructions A–26, dated Aug. 6, 1953 (735.11/8–653), A–28, dated Aug. 11, 1953 (711.11 Ei/8–1153), and A–63, dated Oct. 1, 1953 (735.11/10–153). Copies of a later exchange of letters between the two men, dated June 27 and Aug. 4, 1954, are in Holland files, lot 52 D 295, “1954–1956.”
  5. Ambassador Nufer departed Argentina on Sept. 10, 1953, for consultations in Washington and returned to Buenos Aires on Oct. 19.
  6. Raúl A. Apold.
  7. Documents pertaining to negotiations between Argentine officials and representatives of U.S. oil companies are in file 835.2553 for late 1953 and 1954.
  8. In telegram 138, from Buenos Aires, dated Sept. 3, 1953, Ambassador Nufer reported that President Perón had requested him to express the Argentine Government’s “grave concern” with respect to the possibility of increased import duties on wool (411.356/9–353).
  9. Apparent reference to the General Military Plan for the Defense of the American Continent, approved by the Inter-American Defense Board, Nov. 15, 1951; for information, see the editorial note, Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. ii, p. 1028.