The Tacna-Arica Plebiscite Problem

March 15, 1926

Report Outline
Past Efforts at Settlement
President Coolidge's Opinion and Award
Conditions of Tacna-Arica Plebiscite
Peruvian and Chilean Protests

On March 4, 1925, a little more than a year ago, President Coolidge as Arbitrator handed down an opinion and award for the settlement of the dispute between Chile and Peru as to the future destiny of the provinces of Tacna and Arica. This question has been a cause of serious disagreement between the two countries continuously since the close of the War of the Pacific in 1883. By the Treaty of Ancon which concluded that war it was agreed that a plebiscite should be held in the disputed provinces after ten years. Although frequent and protracted negotiations were carried on between 1892 and 1922, no agreement could be reached as to the terms of the plebiscite. These abortive negotiations kept alive the strong feelings of hostility which had been aroused during the long and bloody struggle from 1879 to 1883. During the period of negotiation, the provinces remained under Chilean administration. The Peruvian Government throughout inveighed against the unjust treatment of Peruvians and complained that every means was being employed by Chile to make a fair plebiscite impossible.

Arbitration by the President

In 1922 at the suggestion of Chile and Peru, President Harding invited representatives of those countries to meet in Washington. During this meeting better feeling prevailed, with the result that the President of the United States was asked to act as arbitrator in the dispute. This the President consented to do and, after an examination of all the evidence presented by Chile and Peru, an Opinion and Award was handed down on March 4, 1925.

In this award the Arbitrator - now President Coolidge-decided that a plebiscite should be held and laid down the rules for its supervision by a Plebiscitary Commission with one Chilean, one Peruvian, and one American member as president. The award was unpopular at the outset in Peru where it was felt that insufficient guarantees of fairness were offered the Peruvians, but in Chile it was well received, Peru, although protesting, nevertheless agreed to join, and the members of the Plebiscitary Commission provided for in the award met at Arica on August 2, 1925 under the presidency of General Pershing.

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