824.20111/1–2245: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Bolivia ( Thurston )

65. General Brett’s statements to President Villarroel as reported in your no. 91, January 22, 11 a.m., are at once disturbing and at variance with the facts. While we do not wish to cause General Brett unnecessary embarrassment, the issue is such an important one that we cannot fail to correct the statements made.

Lend-Lease equipment has been supplied to promote hemisphere defense from aggression. No equipment shall be supplied for the local military or political convenience of any republic and no government should expect to receive Lend-Lease equipment to strengthen its political position vis-à-vis its neighbors. General Brett’s statements concerning the military aspects of the conference at Mexico City are not relative to the agenda. The staff conferences such as the one now in process at Santiago do not go beyond the purport of the basic instructions on this subject of which you have received copies. Although at some later time there may be discussions concerning military equipment to be supplied by this government in one way or another, the General’s statement that one of the objectives of the staff conferences is to correct disequilibrium in Lend-Lease deliveries is indiscreet and statements of this kind may lead to serious trouble for us and give countenance to rumors that we are building up certain key countries in the American republics at the expense of their neighbors.

Owing to the fact that you are on the ground and were present at the interview, the Department prefers to leave to your judgment how best to estimate and if necessary correct impressions made on President Villarroel. Nevertheless, the Department does desire you to seek an early interview with the President to make it clear to him (and in doing so with the minimum of embarrassment to General Brett) that the General was speaking entirely personally in the matter and not on the basis of complete information. An important point which we are certain you will bear in mind is that we do not wish to undermine the utility of the forthcoming staff conversations which will be held with Bolivia.