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Bolivia and Paraguay" 724.3415/182

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Bolivia (McGurk)

No. 333

WASHINGTON, February 4, 1928. SIR: In connection with recent despatches regarding the boundary dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay, the Department desires you to know for your confidential information and guidance that while the Government of the United States is of course always willing to lend its good offices in the cause of international harmony it does not wish at the present time, while the Tacna-Arica controversy is still pending, 43 to be placed in the position of undertaking to settle the boundary dispute between Bolivia and Paraguay, either by arbitration or other procedure. It would therefore be somewhat embarrassing if either party should formally request this Government to act, as a refusal would probably be seized upon by the elements anxious to lessen the prestige of the United States.

Since it seems possible that the President of Bolivia or the Minister for Foreign Affairs may mention this matter to you, the Department feels that you should keep its attitude in mind and be guided accordingly, without conveying the impression that you have any definite instructions on the subject. I am [etc.]



The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru (Poindexter)

No. 412

WASHINGTON, February 6, 1928. Sir: The Department has received and read with interest your despatch, No. 883 of January 3 last,44 reporting upon the interest shown by President Leguía in a friendly settlement of the existing boundary difficulties between Bolivia and Paraguay. It appears from this despatch that President Leguía has suggested to the Bolivian and Paraguayan Governments that they should seek the assistance of the United States in bringing the dispute to a peaceable conclusion.

[Here follow two paragraphs in the sense of the Department's instruction No. 333, February 4, 1928, to the Chargé in Bolivia, printed supra.] I am [etc.]


Continued from Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. 1, pp. 315-322. * The same, mutatis mutandis, on the same date to the Minister in Paraguay, as instruction No. 406.

See pp. 660 ff. * Not printed.



724.3415/195 The Ambassador in Argentina (Bliss) to the Secretary of State No. 285

BUENOS AIRES, May 28, 1928.

[Received June 21.] SIR: I have the honor to report that the Paraguayan and Bolivian Boundary Commissions have resumed the negotiations which as the Department was informed in my Despatch No. 114, of December 28, 1927,45 were suspended in order that the Delegates might consult with their respective Governments respecting the suggestions made by the Argentine Government with a view to furthering a friendly settlement of this controversy. (See my telegram No. 109, December 19,7 p. m.)“

The Paraguayan and Bolivian Delegations are presided over by Dr. Eusebio Ayala and Dr. Sanchez Bustamante, respectively. Dr. Isidoro Ruiz Moreno, the legal counselor of the Argentine Ministry for Foreign Affairs, will continue to act as friendly observer.

The first meeting, which occurred on May 7, was purely ceremonial in character, a tribute being paid to the memory of the late Dr. Diaz Leon, one of the authors of the protocol of April 22, 1927, (see Embassy's despatch No. 275, of April 29, 1927), 47 who died recently in Paris. The subsequent ones, however, are reported to have been devoted to lengthy discussions of the Argentine proposals, especially the suggestion that the dispute be submitted to arbitration. Although it seems that both delegations are in principle in accord with these suggestions, there have arisen, nevertheless, differences of opinion respecting the old question of the "modus vivendi” or the determination of the "status quo” that must prevail until the arbitral decision has been given. According to the Nación of May 19, the Bolivians consider that the first clause of the Argentine proposal (arbitration) means that the basic question of the delimitation of the frontier must be immediately settled, once and for all. The Paraguayans, on the other hand, interpret this suggestion as an invitation to proceed simultaneously with the arbitral settlement and the agreement respecting the “modus vivendi” that must prevail during the course of the arbitration. It is said that this “modus vivendi” would imply a temporary boundary quite different from the line of actual occupation. The other two Argentine suggestions have also given rise to certain divergences of opinion.

During the last ten days only the briefest and most non-committal reports of the conferences have appeared in the press, although it is known that active negotiations are still in progress.

* Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. I, p. 322. Ibid., p. 321. Ibid., p. 316.

A member of the Embassy was recently informed by Dr. Ruiz Moreno that it is most important for both countries to withdraw their troops from the forts in the disputed zone, as their presence there tends to excite and inflame popular feeling in both countries. The question must be settled peaceably, he said, for a war between Bolivia and Paraguay would be a long affair, consisting of guerilla fighting, Bolivia's superior strength over her opponent being neutralized by her greater distance from the field of war.

Dr. Moreno vigorously denied that Argentina would ever assume the role of mediator in the controversy, and added that she would confine herself to the giving of good offices and friendly advice. I have [etc.]



The Ambassador in Argentina (Bliss) to the Secretary of State No. 339

BUENOS AIRES, July 19, 1928.

[Received August 16.] SIR: Supplementing my despatches No. 285 of May 28th and No. 327-G of June 27, 1928 (page 3) 48 I now have the honor to inform the Department that the negotiations that have been in progress in Buenos Aires to define the boundary between Bolivia and Paraguay have been suspended, as the two delegations have been completely unable to reach any definite agreement.49

The final session was held on July 12th at the Argentine Foreign Office. At this meeting a statement was drawn up announcing the suspension of the conference until the Governments of both interested countries shall have reached a new understanding and setting forth the viewpoints of each delegation. The penultimate paragraph declares that only peaceful means will be used to settle this question, "except in case of legitimate defense".

A copy of this document, as published by La Prensa, and a translation thereof are transmitted herewith.

During the course of this session, which was also attended by the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs and several other officials of the Foreign Office, Dr. Gallardo 50 expressed the opinion that although the Conference had not achieved a definite solution of this old problem, it left the road open for subsequent settlement and that this settlement would be aided by the exchanges of views that had taken place. He added that he hoped the two Governments would find it



Latter not printed.

See “Minutes and Documents of the Conferences of Paraguayan and Bolivian Plenipotentiaries held in Buenos Aires under the auspices of the Argentine Gopernment” in Proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry and Conciliation, Bolivia and Paraguay, March 13, 1929-September 13, 1929 (Washington [, 1929?]), pp. 265 ff.

Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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convenient to renew the negotiations in Buenos Aires, although Argentina would view with equal satisfaction any adjustment reached in another country.

Drs. Zubizarreta boa and Sanchez Bustamante, the Presidents of the Paraguayan and Bolivian Commissions, replied to Dr. Gallardo and expressed their thanks for the hospitality accorded by the Argentine Government.

The text of the Argentine proposals that have formed the subject of the recent deliberations, have been made public by the Argentine authorities. A copy and translation of these suggestions, as published in La Prensa of July 13th, accompany this despatch.

At the regular weekly diplomatic reception on July 18th I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he would tell me the significance of the suspension of these negotiations. As is frequently the case, the Minister was noncommittal and confined his remarks to generalities. Nevertheless, I inferred that he was disappointed at the failure of the plenipotentiaries to reach an agreement-a failure reflecting on the efficacy of the good offices offered by the Argentine Government causing some little chagrin in official and press circles.

The visit to Buenos Aires at this time of the president-elect of Paraguay has given rise to speculation as to the effect it will ultimately leave upon this boundary question and whether the visits made by Dr. Guggiari to Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile will result in these four countries showing partiality to the Paraguayan claims. As yet there is only vague rumor on this hypothesis on which reliance cannot be placed but I shall report any reliable information I may be able to obtain. I have [etc.]


[Enclosure 1-Translation 51]

Statement Issued July 12, 1928, by the Bolivian and Paraguayan Pleni

potentiaries Suspending the Conference To Define Boundaries

At a meeting held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the purpose of agreeing upon the Act of Suspension of the Conference on Boundaries between the two countries, the Plenipotentiaries of Bolivia and Paraguay hereby declare:

That it has not been possible for them to reach an agreement regarding the questions considered at the Conference.


Except from minutes of session of May 24, 1928: "Dr. Ayala then stated that he is leaving for Paraguay on Sunday, May 27, and that Dr. Gerónimo Zubizarreta will act as Chairman of the Paraguayan Delegation, of which he is now a member.”—Proceedings of the Commission, p. 359.

Translation from Proceedings of the Commission, p. 403, is substituted for the file translation.

Consequently, they are of the opinion, in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol signed in Buenos Aires on April 22, 1927, that the moment has arrived to inform the Government of the Argentine Republic concerning the reasons for their dissension; they do therefore RESOLVE:

To suspend the Conference until a new agreement is reached by the Foreign Offices of both countries, and they leave on record their recognition of the high impartiality with which the Argentine Government has attended the deliberations held until now.

The Commission of Plenipotentiaries of Bolivia states:

I. That it fully accepts the terms of the final act proposed by the Argentine Observer, Dr. Isidoro Ruiz Moreno, under authority from his Government, and reaffirms the four points embodied in said act:

1. That the settlement of the controversy should be based upon the uti possidetis of 1810;

2. That, in the event that it proves impossible to arrive at a direct understanding, it will be necessary to determine the bases of legal arbitration;

3. That the advances that have been made by either country have created a de facto situation that confers no right and that cannot be submitted to the arbitrator in order to support their respective contentions;

4. That in view of the present state of the negotiations it refers their continuation to the Foreign Offices. II. That since the Paraguayan Delegation did not accept the proposal for demilitarization, selected by the Bolivian Commission of Ministers Plenipotentiary from the two optional terms of the second point of the friendly suggestion made by the Argentine Government, nor the third point of said suggestion, the Government of Bolivia maintains unalterable its opinion as regards the arbitral zones abolished by mutual agreement in 1913, and with regard to the status quo of possessions agreed upon in 1907, reserving its right to present claims for any advances which may have overstepped the bounds of those possessions.

III. That since the conditions under which said status quo was agreed upon have changed, it deems it necessary that new formulae be considered which shall

meet the present situation and the legitimate interests of both countries.

IV. That in compliance with the agreement entered into by Bolivia and Paraguay in the Gutiérrez-Díaz León Protocol, the arbitration cannot be an indeterminate one, but should devolve upon zones fixed by mutual agreement, and that since both parties have declared themselves in favor of a juridical arbitration, no possession, regardless of the time that has elapsed, can prevail against legitimate rights founded upon titles and acts emanating from the Spanish Crown, in determining the jurisdiction of the Audiencia of Charcas and the territory of the Province of Paraguay.

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