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However, peace will still not be altered this time, despite the fact that the year 1874 begins full of peril. Caballero (1) again invades Paraguay, to whose capital our troops and ships lend protection. In Brazil they attribute this revolution to Argentine machinations.
El Nacional, of Buenos Aires, uses the same language as always: “On the day following the declaration of war there will not be a single Mitrist, Alsinist, nor Avellanedist (2). There will be only Argentines.”
In turn, the Jornal do Commercio, almost always pacifist and prudent, seems inclined to war. “The United States of the South,” it says in an annual review, “are, in their schemes, more audacious and ambitious than the United States of the North, without respect to any foreign right nor care for self-responsibility. Yesterday they robbed the weak and defenseless Eastern State of Martín García Island, key to the navigation of the rivers Paraná, Uruguay, and Paraguay; today they take control of another position no less important on these rivers, the island of Cerrito; and not satisfied with that, they wish to conquer all of Paraguay with our indirect support. Tomorrow they will not be content with these major annexations, and the victim chosen will be the Republic of Uruguay. Refusing, intentionally up to now, to set its borders with the empire, and considering themselves to be much stronger the more we are acquiescent and tolerant, they will aspire later to have claim to Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, and perhaps Santa Catarina, because at one point Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca disembarked on this island … We have been the most ardent apostles of peace, but we are beginning to feel the conviction that in the end it will be incompatible with dignity, having a neighbor who stirs up alliances against the empire, and who, despite its disorganization, does not cease to provoke conflicts over border disputes of American powers, which it calls dear brothers, such as Chile, Bolivia, and poor Paraguay. It seems to us that in South America one sees the Franco-Prussian drama reproduced. Brazil, which demolished Humaitá close to three hundred leagues from the mouth of the Río de la Plata to ensure the free navigation of its rivers, and to have free access to its province of Mato Grosso, sacrificing a hundred thousand of its sons in the inhospitable fields of Paraguay and jeopardizing the public fortune, should it see with indifference that, as rearguard, only 50 leagues from that delta, other threatening fortifications are raised on Martín García?”
But the presidential election must take place in this year. It will not end, as such, with a Brazilian war, but rather a civil war. Alsinists and Avellanedists join together against Mitre. Mitre rises up, armed against them, and is defeated at La Verde and Santa Rosa by the new federal Remingtons. In Junín, Mitre, the commander-in-chief of the allied armies, surrenders to an official still obscure, beginning his career, Commander Arias.
Mitre’s defeat left Brazil’s enemies in Argentina as owners of the field; but a revolution made at the cost of sacrificing the country’s greatest man always suffers a great weakening of force internally, and a weakening of prestige externally. Avellaneda’s election meant the vanquishing of the old Porteño party, that is, the conquest of Buenos Aires by the province. The resistance by the aristocracy, by the great capital’s culture, against the invasion of provincial elements began. In such conditions, it did not matter that Alsina was Minister of War and that Tejedor continued in his post. The new government could give a great boost to the national life, undertake and realize the “Conquest of the Desert”, complete, through emigration, the foundations of the new United States, which Sarmiento began to outline in the schools; but the very first condition of this work was to withdraw itself from foreign affairs, in the way of the United States of America. In times of activity, expansion, and internal reconstruction, the policy of foreign relations comes to be secondary. As well, the political crisis of Buenos Aires’s dominance brought with it an economic and financial crisis.
Following the first impression produced by Mitre’s fall and the national government’s transformation, Tejedor and Rio Branco returned to their negotiations on the Chaco. When Tejedor believed the terrain sufficiently prepared, he came to Rio de Janeiro in person.Read More »