77. Telegram 27 From the Embassy in Bolivia to the Department of State1

27. Subject: Bolivia’s Outlet to the Sea.

1. President Banzer took me aside on January 1 at the traditional New Year’s day ceremony with the diplomatic corps to talk with me privately about Bolivia’s efforts to obtain an outlet to the sea. He said that matters were proceeding just about as he had explained to me a couple of months ago. While several important aspects will have to be negotiated carefully with Chile, nonetheless the Chilean response is very constructive and forms the basis for diplomatic negotiations which should lead to a successful resolution of the problem. The President said that the ball is now in Peru’s court. He volunteered his opinion that no country should apply overt or aggressive pressure on Peru to accept the creation of the corridor from former Peruvian territory. The President said that any overture to Peru should be low key (“muy suave”).

2. President Banzer told me that the GOB has received information confirming that the Soviet Union is meddling in this matter and has counseled Peru not to accept the Bolivia-Chile accord. Banzer said that it is his opinion that the Soviets wish to block what appears to be a successful initiative by non-Communist nations in the Southern Cone.

3. During the same ceremony at the Presidency the Papal Nuncio told me that he had just had a private talk with the Foreign Minister who told him that Bolivia has information that the Soviets are pressuring Peru to refuse the creation of the corridor.

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4. Although I have no idea whether there is any validity to this information, whether or not it is a ploy by the Bolivians to elicit support for Peru to come through, I am convinced that Bolivians could well believe this story. I note that the President did offer counsel that any overture should be low key with regard to Peru. I wonder now if this story does not provide us with another reason to make a formal but low-key presentation to the GOP. If so, perhaps the Department will authorize that the points made by Ambassador Dean reported in para 5 of Lima’s 10662 be repeated formally to the appropriate Peruvian authorities in the Foreign Ministry, but with a more positive tone about our future support.

5. I myself have known Julio Sanjines for a long time and have always considered him to be a very interesting Bolivian, well worth cultivating for his independent opinions and views. In the present situation he does not reflect present GOB policies or positions as set forth in statements to me by President Banzer and other GOB officials acting on his instructions. His view that Peru should not be “pressed” (Lima 10681) is not in accord with the Capriles démarche to Assistant Secretary Rogers. Nor is his view that Peru should be left alone for two or three months in accord with remarks made to me by Foreign Ministry Subsecretary Ostria on December 31 that Bolivia will not wait very long for a Peruvian reply.

6. The remarks of Chilean Foreign Ministry official Bernstein reported in Santiago 8720 are interesting but I would like to repeat that neither the GOB nor this Embassy has advocated US participation as a fourth party in the negotiations.

7. This matter, as far as we here in La Paz are concerned, is not a parochial one of supporting Bolivia’s request for an outlet to the sea but is an opportunity for the USG to contribute to the reduction of long-standing tensions between Chile and Peru which have arisen at times to serious levels and have led in part to a large arms build-up in the area.

  1. Summary: President Banzer informed Ambassador Stedman of Bolivia’s efforts to gain an outlet to the Pacific through negotiations with Chile. The Ambassador suggested to the Department that the matter presented the U.S. Government with an opportunity to contribute to the lowering of tensions in the region.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760001–0674. Confidential. Repeated to Lima and Santiago. Telegrams 10662 and 10681 from Lima, both December 30, 1975, are ibid., D750450–0326 and D750450–0592. Capriles’s démarche to Rogers in which he requested “U.S. sympathy and support” for a tentative agreement with Chile on Bolivian access to the Pacific is reported in telegram 301358, December 23, 1975. (Ibid., D750445–0598) On February 14, 1976, Banzer asked Stedman whether Kissinger could discuss Bolivia’s outlet to the Pacific with President Morales Bermúdez of Peru. (Telegram 1333 from La Paz, February 14; ibid., D760057–0659) In telegram 37667 to La Paz, February 16, the Department authorized Stedman to tell Banzer that the U.S. Government was following the matter with great interest. The Department also informed the Ambassador that Chilean Foreign Minister Carvajal and OAS Secretary General Orfila had advised against any U.S. initiative on the issue in talks with the Peruvian Government. (Ibid., D760058–0459)