Confidential Print: Latin America includes the following file classes from The National Archives, Kew in their entirety:
FO 420/1-294: Central and South America general, 1833-1941
FO 467/1-5: Brazil, 1947-1951
FO 486/1-10: Mexico, 1947-1956
FO 495/1-10: River Plate countries (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), 1947-1956
FO 497/1-10: South America general, 1947-1956
FO 533/1-11: Central America and Caribbean general, 1946-1957
The following selected files are also included:
FO 118/276, 281, 287, 305, 317, 331: South and Central America general, 1906-1913
FO 177/297: Chilean Revolution, 1891
FO 461/14-22: Americas general, 1958-1969
FO 508/8: South and Central America general, 1908-1909
For a downloadable list of all documents in the resource, please click here.
"Historians of South and Central America will particularly welcome the addition of Confidential Print: Latin America to Adam Matthew Digital’s suite of resources. Beginning with the economics and politics of state-building in the turbulent aftermath of independence, the collection addresses key themes in domestic politics and external relations during the nineteenth century as Latin Americans sought to establish constitutional order and their place in a rapidly expanding global commercial and financial system. Social change, notably early experiments with democracy and the rise of the labour movement, are reflected in comments produced around the beginning of the twentieth century as London became exercised by perceived challenges to Britain’s leading trading and investment interests associated with the rise of nationalism and increasing competition from Germany, the USA and later Japan, and the impact of two world wars. Fascism, communism and structural developments such as urbanisation and industrialisation are amongst the topics addressed from the 1950s onward. Invariably pithy, often opinionated and sometimes scurrilous or highly prejudiced, the files in Confidential Print: Latin America offer invaluable, accessible material to researchers engaged in the study of the region."
Professor Colin Lewis, London School of Economics
Nature of the material
- Profiles of leading political, military, diplomatic and economic figures
- Incoming and outgoing diplomatic dispatches
- Statistical charts and tables
- Descriptions of leading personalities
- Accounts of tours
- Minutes of meetings and conferences
- Texts of treaties
- Political summaries
- Economic analyses
- Annual reports and calendars of events, by country
Scope of the collection
The files in this collection extend from the 1830s to the 1960s and cover all countries of mainland South and Central America, plus Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
FO 118/276-331 South and Central America and Caribbean general (selected files) covers the period 1906 to 1913. These documents consist of extracts from volumes that have worldwide coverage, and consist of often lengthy annual reports by country. Topics covered include:
- The death of President Bartolomé Mitre of Argentina (1906)
- A review of the Brazilian press (1907)
- Profiles of the various presidents of Central America (1908)
- The history and geography of Cuba (1908)
- Boundary disputes between Brazil and Peru in the Amazon basin (1908)
- Railways in Argentina (1909)
- British claims on the governments of Central America (1911)
- German military influence in Argentina (1912)
- Bubonic plague in Peru (1913)
FO 177/297 Chilean Revolution provides detailed coverage of the 1891 civil war in Chile between forces supporting the president, José Manuel Balmaceda, and those supporting Congress. After nine months of fighting the Congressional forces emerged victorious, and Balmaceda committed suicide. Topics covered include:
- The initial declaration of deposition of the president by the navy
- The prospect of sending British vessels to Chilean waters to protect British interests there
- Blockades of ports by the Congressional fleet
- Requests from other governments, including Germany and China, for Britain to protect their subjects’ interests in Chile
- Status of warships being built for Chile in France
- Recognition of naval officer Jorge Montt as provisional president
FO 420/1-294 Central and South America general is by far the largest run of files in this resource, covering the whole of the continent from the 1830s until 1941. There is a considerable focus on British economic and financial interests, but a whole spectrum of other topics are covered. These include:
- Protestant schools in the Mosquito Reserve (1900)
Finance and commerce:
- British financial and business interests of the late nineteenth century, particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina (1850s-90s)
- Monetary claims by British subjects with Latin American financial interests in the wake of political upheaval (1850s-90s)
- Proposals for a South American customs union (1931)
Governmental changes and political movements:
- The self-cession of the Dominican Republic to Spain (1861)
- Anti-Spanish wars and insurrections in Cuba (1870s-90s)
- Upheavals in Colombia, including the dissolution of New Granada and the foundation of the modern Republic of Colombia (1885-7)
- Revolutionary attempts in Venezuela and British involvement (1885)
- The ‘Revolution of the Park’ in Argentina (1890)
- Revolution and civil war in Chile (1891) (see also FO 177/297 above)
- Panama’s independence from Colombia (1903)
- Proposals for a confederation of Central American states (1907)
Industrial and infrastructural development:
- Gold-mining in Venezuela and British Guiana (1887)
- The development of railways in Brazil (1880s-90s) and British involvement, including the Rio Grande do Sul, Dom Pedro I and Minas concessions
- The building of the Panama Canal (and alternative proposals, such as a canal through Nicaragua): the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty; the abortive French canal project (1881-9) and the later, successful US project (1904-14); British and US disagreements over any canal’s neutral status
- The conflicts within and between Argentina and Uruguay of the 1830s-60s, including the nine-year siege of Montevideo (1843-52) and the heavy involvement of Britain and France
- The War of the Triple Alliance between Paraguay and the allied armies of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay (1864-70)
- War between Chile and Spain (1866-7)
- British filibustering expeditions against Cuba (1884-5)
- The ‘Leticia’ dispute (war between Peru and Colombia) (1932-3)
- The Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932-5)
Patterns of settlement and colonisation:
- British claims on El Salvador (1840s)
- The establishment of the Welsh colony in Patagonia (1865) and the hardships suffered by the new communities
- Further British emigration to Argentina and Brazil (1890s), detailing the socio-economic conditions of the settlers
Relations with indigenous peoples:
- The British protectorate over the Miskito (Mosquito) Indians (1870s-90s), and resultant conflicts with Nicaragua
- Sale of arms to Indian nations (1894)
Slavery and the slave trade:
- Sugar and slavery in Cuba (1840s)
- The Brazilian slave trade and new legislation (1850s)
- The status of ‘guano islands’ off the coast of Peru (1830s-50s)
- Border disputes between British Honduras (Belize), Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico (1880s)
- Border disputes between British Guiana, Brazil and Venezuela, including translations of Spanish documents dating to 1597 (1880s)
FO 461/14-22 Americas general covers the period from 1958 to 1969. Topics covered include:
- Relations between Latin American countries and the United States (1958)
- Proposals for a free-trade area in Latin America (1959)
- The Treaty of Montevideo, establishing the Latin American Free Trade Association (1960)
- Influence in Latin America of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 (1960)
- The exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (1962)
- Latin American politics and the Roman Catholic Church (1962)
- Meeting of President John F. Kennedy with Central American presidents (1963)
- Prospects for relations between Venezuela and newly independent Guyana (1966)
- Territorial disputes in Latin America (1966)
- The development of Central American integration (1967)
- Economic integration amongst the countries of the Andes (1969)
FO 467/1-5 Brazil covers the period from 1947 to 1951. After the deposition of the authoritarian Getúlio Vargas in 1945, Brazil saw a return to democracy under the presidency of Eurico Gaspar Dutra. In 1950, Vargas returned to power through the ballot box. Many items in these files consist of biographical information on leading personalities in Brazil and on the foreign ambassadors stationed there. Other topics covered include:
- Attitudes in Brazil towards communism and fascism, and anti-communist rhetoric and actions from the government (1947)
- Severance of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (1947)
- Ex-President Vargas’s return to political activity (1948)
- Restrictions on trade with the United States caused by a dollar shortage (1949)
- The government’s hostility towards Vargas’s candidature for the presidency and his likelihood of success (1950)
- US technical assistance to Brazil (1951)
- Brazilian attitudes to the Korean War (1951)
FO 486/1-10 Mexico covers the years 1947 to 1956. By this time the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had built a stable, though effectively single-party rule out of the upheavals of the early decades of the twentieth century and achieved a consistent rate of economic growth through import-substitution and spending on infrastructure. Many items in these files consist of biographical information on leading personalities in Mexico and on the foreign ambassadors stationed there. Other topics covered include:
- Six-year plans for economic development (1947)
- Anti-communist measures of the PRI (1947-50)
- US financial assistance to Mexico (1947)
- Mexican-British relations (1947)
- Relations between the Mexican state and the Roman Catholic church, and the decline of popular anti-clericalism (1949)
- The conduct of the 1952 presidential election, won by the PRI’s Adolfo Ruiz Cortines
- An assessment of the influence of the Mexican Communist Party (1954)
- Linguistic and cultural bonds between Mexico and Spain (1954)
- President Ruiz Cortines’s attempts to fight governmental corruption (1955)
FO 495/1-10 River Plate countries covers affairs in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay from 1947 to 1956. In Argentina this was the era of Juan Perón, who pursued a populist and authoritarian programme of international isolation, economic nationalism and state co-optation of trade unions. His rule also saw the fostering of a popular cult of his wife, Eva. Overthrown in 1955, he settled in exile in Spain, though would later return to the presidency in 1973. With a brief civil war in Paraguay in 1947 leading to the crushing of democrats’ hopes, the stage was set for General Alfredo Stroessner to seize power in 1954, ushering in a dictatorship that would last until the 1980s. Uruguay was more stable in this period, though shortly afterwards, in 1959, a presidential election would be won by a candidate from outside the Colorado Party for the first time since 1860.
Many items in these files consist of biographical information on leading personalities in the three countries and on the foreign ambassadors stationed there. There are also annual reviews by country. Other topics covered include:
- Labour organisations in Argentina (1947)
- Eva Perón: her character and role in Argentinian politics (1947)
- Argentinian claims in the Falkland Islands and Antarctica (1947)
- Corruption in the Perónist regime (1947)
- The introduction of women’s suffrage in Argentina (1947)
- Introduction of a state of siege in Paraguay by President Higinio Moríñigo (1947)
- Civil war in Paraguay (1947)
- Presidential elections in Uruguay, and the death soon after of President Tomás Berreta (1947)
- Argentinian-Chilean relations and Chilean government hostility to the Perón regime (1948)
- Immigration into Argentina (1948)
- Sale of British-owned railways in Argentina (1948)
- The dangers of inflation in Argentina (1948)
- The forced resignation of President Moríñigo of Paraguay (1948)
- Relations between Uruguay and Argentina (1948)
- Changes to the Argentinian constitution (1949)
- Government influence in Argentinian courts (1949)
- The advent to power in Paraguay, after a succession of short-lived governments, of Federico Chávez (1949)
- The end of political collaboration in Uruguay between the ‘Batllista’ faction of the Colorado Party and the ‘Herrerista’ faction of the Blanco Party (1949)
- Church-state relations in Argentina (1950)
- Labour unrest in Argentina (1950-1)
- Press censorship and suppression in Argentina (1951)
- Opposition in the Argentinian government to Eva Perón’s ambitions to be vice-president (1951)
- An abortive revolt by the Argentinian military (1951)
- Death of Eva Perón (1952)
- Communism in Paraguay (1952)
- Perón’s efforts to push Argentina towards syndicalism (1953)
- Argentinian trespass onto lands of the Falkland Islands Dependencies (1953)
- The election victory of Luis Batlle in Uruguay (1954)
- Religious strife in Argentina, two military revolts and Perón’s overthrow (1955)
- An assessment of the new Argentinian government of General Eduardo Lonardi (1955)
- Devaluation and monetary reform in Argentina (1955)
- President Lonardi’s rapid replacement by General Pedro Aramburu (1955)
- Prospects for Uruguayan-Argentinian relations following the fall of Perón (1955)
- Reversion of Argentina to its 1853 constitution (1956)
FO 497/1-10 South America general spans the years 1947 to 1956, and concentrates on Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, with some coverage of Brazil. Many items in these files consist of biographical information on leading personalities in these countries and on the foreign ambassadors stationed there. There are also annual reviews by country. Other topics covered include:
- Unrest amongst indigenous peoples in Bolivia (1947)
- Commercial agreements between Bolivia and Argentina (1947)
- Commercial agreements between Chile and Argentina (1947)
- Chilean territorial claims in Antarctica and the British position towards these (1947-8)
- Political assassinations in Peru (1947)
- Armed risings in Venezuela (1947)
- Coup in Peru by General Manuel Odría (1948)
- Attempted seizure of power in Bolivia by the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) (1949)
- The assassination of Venezuelan president Colonel Carlos Chalbaud (1950)
- Election victory in Bolivia by the MNR and the turning over of power by President Mamerto Urriolagoitía to a military junta (1951)
- The Venezuelan oil industry (1951)
- Seizure of power in Bolivia by the MNR, headed by Víctor Paz Estenssoro; likely fate of British-owned assets there (1952)
- Agrarian reform in Bolivia (1953)
- Chilean trespass into territories of the Falkland Island Dependencies and British protests (1953)
- The Chilean copper industry (1953)
- The suicide of President Getúlio Vargas of Brazil (1954)
- The election as president of Brazil of Juscelino Kubitschek (1955)
- Reactions in Chile to the downfall of Juan Perón in Argentina (1955)
- Granting of new oil concessions in Venezuela (1956)
FO 508/8 South and Central America general covers affairs in Latin America in 1908. Topics covered include:
- The chronic dispute over the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela, and also uncertainty over the lines of the boundaries between British Guiana and Brazil and Suriname and Brazil
- Reactions in Brazil to the assassination of King Charles of Portugal
- The naval arms race between Brazil and Argentina
- Relations between Brazil and Germany
FO 533/1-11 Central America and Caribbean general spans the years 1946 to 1957. Many items in these files consist of biographical information on leading personalities in the countries covered and on the foreign ambassadors stationed there. There are also annual reviews by country. Other topics covered include:
- The (unopposed) re-election of Rafael Trujillo as president of the Dominican Republic (1946)
- The advent to power in Costa Rica of José Figueres after a 44-day civil war (1948)
- Disputes between Britain and Guatemala over the status of Belize (1948)
- US military bases in Panama (1948)
- The election as president of Guatemala of Jacobo Árbenz (1951)
- Communism in Guatemala (1951)
- Fulgencio Batista’s coup in Cuba (1952)
- The transfer of nominal control in the Dominican Republic to Héctor Trujillo (1952)
- President Árbenz’s land reform in Guatemala (1954)
- President Árbenz’s overthrow (1954)
- Famine in Haiti (1955)
- The assassination of President José Remón of Panama (1955)
- The position of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala (1956)
- Military clashes between Nicaragua and Honduras (1957)
- The contrasts between the theory and practice of democracy in El Salvador (1957)
Highlights from the collection
There follow a few interesting selections from the documents, which help to illustrate the varied and fascinating nature of the material.
The continuance of the slave trade to Spanish-ruled Cuba:
"From the first list […] your Lordship will perceive that the fears expressed in the Report of the 1st January, 1844, respecting an active continuance of the trade to be expected, have been confirmed; one list of arrivals in the year 1843, showing only 19 vessels, while that of 1844 enumerates 25. But of the 19 in 1843, it should be further observed, that we could only point out 16 as having brought cargoes; while of those in 1844 there are accounts of 21. Thus, then, in the year 1843, we estimated that about 8000 unfortunate Africans had been introduced into this island as slaves, including a supposed addition of one-third to our numbers reported, on account of those that had not come to our knowledge; whereas the inclosed list gives in round numbers, a total of 7,280 of cargoes actually known, together with three other arrivals, of which the numbers were not given, and a remaining conviction that several vessels have come to the other parts of the island, of which the particulars could not be ascertained. Adding, therefore, one-third to our numbers, as before, on these accounts, I have, with much regret, to express an opinion that about 10,000 unhappy beings have been brought here into slavery during the last year.
"Great, however, as this number may be considered, I regret to have to state, that if it has not amounted to the average of the importations in the years previous to the administration of General Valdes, the cause must be ascribed to the smaller demand for slaves rather than to the diminished activity of the dealers or prohibitory measures of the Government. It is true that the vessels that have been lately sent have been fitted out in some of the smaller outports in the neighbourhood rather than in this harbour, but it is impossible that this could have been done without the full knowledge of the Government; and it is equally impossible to discredit the statements, universally believed here, of the Captain-General having renewed the system of receiving the payments per head for the negroes introduced."
Despatch from J. Kennedy, HM Commissary Judge, Havana, to the Earl of Aberdeen, Foreign Secretary, 1st January 1845, in FO 420/4
Contests regarding sovereignty over Patagonia and the effect this might have on intending British settlers there:
"A party of emigrants proposed to form a settlement at New Bay, on the north-east coast of Patagonia. Previous, however, to preceding to that country they desired to be informed whether the sovereignty of Buenos Ayres over that territory was recognized by Great Britain, and also whether the emigrants might expect British protection in the event of an attack from Buenos Ayres?
"In reply, Mr. Southern stated that the Argentine Government claimed the sovereignty of the whole Continent lying south of Buenos Ayres to Cape Horn, and regarded with the greatest jealousy, even the temporary establishments occasionally set up on those shores by the seal fishers and the gatherers of guano.
"With regard to the extent of the actual authority exercised by the Argentine Government in Patagonia, Mr. Southern stated that it certainly could not be said to exist beyond the River Negro, and that only on the coast. With respect to any scheme to establish a British colony in South Patagonia without British sovereignty, or rather under the sovereignty of the Confederation, Mr. Southern stated that it was not impossible, if undertaken with management and skill, the plan might be carried through with the sanction and under the protection of the Argentine Government.
"In 1851, a Mr. Colebrook suggested to the Foreign Office the foundation of a British settlement on the coast of Patagonia. In reply, Mr. Colebrook was informed that Patagonia was claimed by the Argentine Confederation, and that Great Britain was at peace and on friendly relations with that State; and, moreover, it was to be borne in mind that the colonies which Great Britain already possessed contained an extent of fertile, but unoccupied ground which the emigration from the British Islands would not, for many years to come, be sufficient to fill.
"In 1862 Mr. Thomson, Her Majesty’s Chargé d’Affaires in Chili, stated that in the 1st Article of the Chilean Constitution of 1837, the territory of Chile was described as extending from the desert of Ataeama [sic] to Cape Horn. Up to 1843 the actual domain of Chile, he stated, extended no farther than the province of Valdiria, but that in that year it took solemn possession of the Straits of Magellan by establishing therein a fort and colony.
"Now, however, continued Mr. Thompson, the pretensions of Chile extended to the whole of the Patagonia, that is to say, to the whole of the territory lying east of the Andes, and to the south of the River Negro; and he had reason to believe that it was the intention of the Government of Chile to establish a right to that immense territory by planting three colonies on the coast of the Atlantic,—one at the embouchure of the Rio Negro, a second at Port Desire, and the third at some other point.
"Should this latter statement be correct, the proposed British Settlement at New Bay would come within the district claimed by Chile, it being situated about 140 miles south of Rio Negro."
‘Memorandum respecting Patagonia’, by Alfred S. Green, Foreign Office, 2nd August 1865, in FO 420/23
The hardships faced by British emigrants to Brazil in the 1890s:
"A man from Bradford was shot at by one of the Brazilians, because he interfered when one of the officials was insulting a Bradford woman. The shot struck him in the jaw, but did not prove fatal. Well, they then packed us off to Santos. When we got there, we were put into an old circus amongst Italians, Germans, Russians, Turks, French, Spaniards, and Portuguese. There would be about 900 in the building. Here we were kept two days, when about 150 Bradford people were shipped to Parana, which is about two days' sail up the river. Before we left Santos we went to the British Consul at that place, and wanted to speak to him, but he told us to go away, or he would fetch the police to us. He said he did not tell us to go out there, and could not help us, as we were under the Brazilian Government. Many more would have gone to Parana, but wretched accounts were given by many we met who had returned from that part of the country. We were then turned out of the so-called home, and there we were, men, women, and children, lying in the streets. I may add that at the home at Santos we found writing on the walls from top to bottom, warning emigrants not to go to the coffee plantations. We found people that had been working two or three months, and at the end of that time, when they went for an advance, were told that they were 100 milreis in debt. There is no work for Bradford people in the parts I went to. It was a pitiable sight to see little English children begging in the streets for food. You must understand that no food is given for any child under 8 years of age. The parents must share their small lot with them. We were constantly told that English people out there were no good; and the overlookers at the homes used to draw their hands across their throats, meaning they would like to finish us off."
The testimony of one of a group of emigrants to Brazil from Bradford, from an article in the Bradford Evening Telegraph, 25th June 1891, reproduced in FO 420/130
An appeal by a British businessman active in Venezuela to secure the payment of debts owed to him there:
"DURING the last thirty-three years I have been in correspondence with the Foreign Office, and with the various Ministers Resident and Consuls at Caracas, regarding my claim on the Venezuelan Government, and some years ago forwarded to the Foreign Office a friendly letter (an autograph) from the then President of Venezuela, General Falcon, to me on the subject.
"Five years ago I retired from Trinidad and came here [to London] to reside entirely; since then, having learnt that some money had been paid on account of this claim, I applied for it. Though I am the only person who has ever been communicated with in this matter, I was informed that as, somehow, the sum stood in “the books” in the name of Mr. Truxillo, I would have to produce a joint receipt. On this I wrote to the Foreign Office regarding a form for Mr. Truxillo to sign relinquishing. Your predecessor and I wrote to Caracas to Mr. Andral on the subject, and a form was arranged. I sent it to Trinidad for Mr. Truxillo to sign. Mr. Truxillo seeing money in prospect, and that evidently his name was required, demanded 50l. for his signature.
"Though the whole claim is only a little over 200l. in all, I do not see why I should be victimized by Mr. Truxillo after thirty-three years’ labour to recover this money. Mr. Truxillo has lived at Trinidad from his birth to the present time, and I was there up to 1887, and during the whole of these thirty-three years, it is only now (taking advantage of my absence), and the prospect of converting some coin to his sole use, that he now wakes up for once in his life to lay claim to this money."
Letter from F. R. Hart, Bayswater, to the Earl of Rosebery, Foreign Secretary, 26th September 1892, in FO 420/134
An assessment of the history and character of Uruguayan politics:
"Generally speaking, Uruguayan politics are not influenced by any particular school of thought on political philosophy but are quite simply directed towards obtaining power and retaining it, not so much for the exercise of power itself as for the material benefits deriving therefrom. In the same way, the Uruguayan voter does not support one party or another because of its political principles but because he considers that, through the influence of the political leader whom he follows and for whom he votes, he can best obtain material security. The personal element, dating back to the old days of caudillismo, is also still present, as is shown by the fact that the various political groups in Uruguay are named after their respective leaders (“Batllistas,” “Baldomiristas,” &c). In many cases—and this is particularly true of the older men—adherence to a particular leader arises from a sense of personal loyalty to one who embodies the traditional faith, or, rather, colour, of the voter’s family, and until quite recent times it could be said that the two main parties had become largely hereditary: a child was born a “Blanco” or a “Colorado” and thenceforward voted for the Whites or the Reds. This element of personal loyalty, undimmed by any materialism, could be seen at its best, up to the year 1933, in the supporters of the Nationalist Party, who, notwithstanding the fact that their party had been out of power since 1864 and that they could expect few, if any, public posts under Colorado Governments, never wavered in faithful allegiance to their leaders. (From 1933 onwards, the exigencies of domestic politics—or, more bluntly, the need for political “deals” owing to the lack of a decisive Colorado majority in Parliament—have led on several occasions to co-operation by Nationalists with the Government and, during the “Terrista” dictatorship, to participation in the Government.) Against a background of inter-party, and often petty, personal intrigue, only two groups in Uruguay are swayed by ideological considerations: the Catholic Church and the Communists."
Despatch, ‘Uruguay: Ideological report’, from Gordon Vereker, Montevideo, to Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary, 3rd October 1947, in FO 495/1
The nationalisation of British-owned railways by the Perónist government in Argentina:
"I have the honour to send to you annexed to this despatch a translation in English of a note […] from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs dated 26th February, stating that the Argentine Institute for the Promotion of Trade (I.A.P.I.) had ratified the Agreement of Sale of the British-owned railways in Argentina. The property changed hands on 1st March, when the Argentine Central Bank paid over to the Bank of England the sum of £150 million, made up of £110 million advanced by the Ministry of Food in accordance with the “Andes” Agreement, and of £40 million of Argentina’s existing balance.
"Accordingly, 1st March in Buenos Aires was a day of planned rejoicing. The Programme was published in detail in the previous day’s press; and the tested and tuned Perónista machine for the generation of public enthusiasm began to revolve. The occasion was presented to the public as unique in the modern history of Argentina, and an analogy was drawn between General Perón at this stage of his battle for economic independence and General San Martín at the time when he had assured the political independence of his country. The city was decorated, even the still unregenerate British tramways wearing a generous number of flags and posters. Stands were erected in front of the Retiro Station from which the leaders of the régime were to speak; and a massive official audience of Ministers, Deputies, Senators, trade unionists, soldiers, civil servants, teachers and pupils was assembled in the spacious Plaza Británica and Plaza San Martín. This assembly was matched by a multitude of banners; and dominated by a large-scale illuminated text of the Declaration of Economic Independence, and by huge portraits of the President framed in the words: “Perón Cumple” (Peron delivers the goods”). The scene promised a variety of attractions and a colour which conventional carnival in this materialistic city has long since lost; and by 6 p.m. the largest crowd ever seen in Buenos Aires had collected. It contained provincials as well as porteños [inhabitants of Buenos Aires], and must have numbered some hundreds of thousands, and transcended any figure that party pressure or loyalty could have mustered. But they had come to see the two leading actors, the President and his wife."
Despatch, ‘Sale of British-owned railways in Argentina’, from Sir Reginald Leeper, British ambassador in Buenos Aires, to Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary, 5th March 1948, in FO 495/2
The re-entry of former dictator Getúlio Vargas onto the Brazilian political scene:
"For some months past Brazilian internal politics have been almost entirely centred on the Presidential elections due to take place in the winter of 1950-51. I have hitherto refrained from reporting on this subject, as the jockeying of the various candidates for position, though of absorbing interest to local politicians, is of little or none to His Majesty’s Government. In recent weeks there has, however, been one development of note, namely, the reappearance on the political scene of ex-President Vargas.
"Since his overthrow in October 1945 Vargas has lived in retirement on his farm in Rio Grande do Sul, and his repeated professions that he had abandoned public life were generally believed. Although it was assumed that he still engaged in occasional intrigue behind the scenes, it was not anticipated that he would attempt anything in the nature of a serious comeback. Such assumptions have proved false, and his recent pronouncements, to the effect that if the people want him he will respond to their call, make him a force to be reckoned with.
"Various factors have combined to make his reappearance possible. First and foremost, the country is suffering from a prolonged and apparently infinite period of economic crisis. His period of office coincided with the war-time era of prosperity, and the man in the street, who is interested neither in economic principles nor in political ideologies, inevitably compares his present hardships with the piping days of the dictatorship. Another factor is the obvious failure of the present Government to govern. The politicians bicker, legislation is lost in innumerable sub-committees, grandiose plans are made with little prospect of their being executed, crime and disorder are rife and there is a general atmosphere of drift. Such conditions are, of course, conducive to the production of either communism or some form of dictatorship. It is not surprising that an ex-dictator should sniff the air and decide that the time had come to emerge from hibernation."
Despatch, ‘Brazilian internal political situation: Reappearance of ex-President Vargas’, from Sir Nevile Butler, British ambassador in Rio de Janeiro, to Mr McNeil, Foreign Office, 9th November 1948, in FO 467/2
The popular and official response in Argentina to the death of Eva Perón:
"As reported in my telegram No. 171, Señora Perón died on the evening of 26th July.
"Her death occurred after a long and painful illness (apparently leukæmia followed by cancer of the internal organs) and had been inevitable for several weeks. Possibly for this reason the crowds in the streets at the moment of the announcement seemed relatively indifferent. Later, however, the remarkable demonstrations of the poorer classes made it plain that, however much regimentation by their labour unions and political bosses had contributed to these outward signs of popular emotion, Eva Perón had genuinely won the hearts of many humbler Argentines.
"On 9th August the coffin is to be taken to Congress to lie in state there for twenty-four hours and after that to the headquarters of the Confederación General del Trabajo (C.G.T.), the federation of Peronist trade unions, which has been built up by the Peróns into one of the dominant political forces in the country. All places of entertainment have been closed for eight days; organised sport has been cancelled for sixteen; and one month’s official mourning has been prescribed. The C.G.T. ordered all workers to stop work for two days and thereafter to stop for fifteen minutes (in some cases reduced to five) per shift, as a mark of respect; and have asked that Eva Perón’s birthplace shall be declared a national monument. The service ministries have decreed the funeral honours due to a president dying in office. The Chamber of Deputies has passed a law making 26th July a day of annual mourning; the Fundación Eva Perón will maintain a perpetual votive flame; and there is to be a special issue of stamps bearing Evita’s head. A candle of colossal dimensions is to be manufactured by the Ministry of Health. It will be lit each month for the hour corresponding to that before her death; and is to last for a hundred years. Finally the Chamber of Deputies have recommended that the provincial government shall change the name of the city of La Plata, capital of the province of Buenos Aires, to Eva Perón.
"According to the official announcements, Eva Perón’s body will remain at the headquarters of the C.G.T. for a year during which time no one will be able to see it, this being the minimum period required for “the work necessary to render the body absolutely permanent in accordance with the express wishes of the illustrious deceased.” At the end of this year her body will be finally transferred to the monument which is to be erected to her in the Capital. From all this it looks as if, in her final state, her remains are to be permanently visible, as in the case of Lenin."
Despatch, ‘Señora Perón: Her Career and Social Activities’, from Sir Henry Mack, British ambassador in Buenos Aires, to Anthony Eden, Foreign Secretary, 6th August 1952, in FO 495/6