139. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Bolivia1

328053. Subject: Bolivia and the Beagle Channel Dispute. Refs: A) La Paz 10080; B) La Paz 102832

1. (C–Entire text)

2. Ambassador’s views on USG position concerning Bolivian neutrality expressed in para 4 of reftel A are correct. The US generally is disinclined to conclude bilateral defense agreements with other countries of the hemisphere. Since the Rio Treaty provides for collective security arrangements in the hemisphere. We would assume that in the event of aggression or threat of aggression involving Bolivian territory that the GOB would invoke the Rio Treaty. The US has traditionally supported action in that forum to prevent or end aggression.

3. Ambassador’s comments with regard to American military assistance were also correct. USG lacks legislative authority to provide emergency military assistance on grant basis. USG could, in principle, respond to GOB request to purchase defensive equipment on cash basis, or by utilizing any existing FMS credits. In either case, we could make no advance commitment on availability of defense articles requested, approval of their sale if available, or timing of delivery if approved for sale.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780540-0141. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information to Buenos Aires, Lima, Santiago and Brasilia. Drafted by E. Perez; cleared in ARA/RPP, L/ARA, USOAS, M, ARA/AND, and RA; approved by Vaky.
  2. In telegram 10080 from La Paz, December 13, Boeker reported that Botelho “demonstrated extreme concern over the Beagle Channel dispute and the possibility that Bolivian territory would be violated in the case of a generalized conflict in the region.” In response to Botelho’s question about “whether the U.S. would recognize and urge respect for Bolivia’s neutrality in case of a war,” Boeker replied: “I told him I thought the U.S. would urge full respect for Bolivia’s neutrality if the GOB made a clear public statement of neutrality on outbreak of any hostilities.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780516-0410) In telegram 10283 from La Paz, December 20, Boeker reported that Botelho had asked “for clarification of the US attitude on emergency military aid to Bolivia if its territory were violated.” Boeker replied that he “had no response beyond the one I gave him December 13.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780526-0551)
  3. Boeker also reported that Botelho “asked whether the U.S. would provide Bolivia ammunition and defensive arms if it were the victim of aggression.” Boeker replied “that decisions on military assistance in these circumstances would be made by the President, under the circumstances at the moment, and in consultation with Congress. There was no way I could predict those decisions in advance on the bases of hypothetical circumstances.”