After three years of indecisive but bloody war, guns lay silent in the Chaco Boreal in June 1935. Fifty years of bickering between Bolivia, a landlocked country seeking a river exit to the sea, and Paraguay, a land-hungry country seeking territorial aggrandizement and supposed mineral wealth, had culminated in open warfare in June 1932. By 1935 the antagonists, near exhaustion, finally agreed to discuss their differences.
Leslie B. Rout, Jr., examines three facets of the dispute and the inter-American peace conference that settled it. He analyzes the futile diplomatic efforts to prevent the outbreak of hostilities, discusses the diplomatic initiatives that culminated in the June cease-fire, and describes the frustrating but ultimately successful diplomatic struggle that produced a definitive settlement.
By enumerating the problems and progress of the peace conference, Rout demonstrates that, despite occasions of open diplomacy, it was through secret negotiation that agreement was finally attained. He concludes that, although the negotiators betrayed unabashed cynicism, violated stated Pan-American ideals, and disregarded the "troublesome" terms of the June 1935 cease-fire, they deserve praise.
Had the mediators failed to produce a viable solution in July 1938, the peace conference would have collapsed, renewed warfare would have resulted—and the neighboring powers inevitably would have become involved. Given this potential catastrophe, the mediators had to solve the diplomatic problems by the means available.
Leslie B. Rout, Jr. (1935–1987) was not only a historian, teaching for many years at Michigan State University, but also a jazz musician. He became interested in the Chaco War and its subsequent settlement while traveling in Latin America as a member of a United States government-sponsored musical group. Informed that unpublished documents could be made available, Rout returned to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia in 1965 to prepare this study.