On 29 September 1870 the São Vicente ministry was formed. Paranhos, granted the title of Viscount of Rio Branco upon his return from Paraguay, was sent again on special mission to the Plata to negotiate the peace treaty and the rest of the agreements we had to complete with Paraguay. He would find the Argentine legation animated by a new spirit. Mariano Varela had been replaced by Doctor Carlos Tejedor, who resolved to demand the border clause in the treaty be fulfilled, a clause almost abandoned in the protocol of 20 June 1870, in the note regarding the Villa Occidental occupation, and in the debates of May 1869. The new adversary that Rio Branco would now find was not a spirit imbued with idealism, like the Varelas of the world, full of humanitarian sentiment, inspired by grand phrases, people who, in order to guard a principle or compose a beautiful sentence, would potentially abandon a territory. Tejedor was a fanatical, bellicose politician, whose notes arrived in the hands of the negotiating diplomats still red-hot; a patriot inspired by ambition, pride, and irritability more than reason, generosity, and impartiality; a burgrave of the pen who all by himself produced a code and a diplomatic style which, although at times it excused him from obligations imposed on everyone else, later forced him to make explanations that others knew well to spare.
One cannot read a page of the memoir (1) Tejedor presented to the Argentine Congress without seeing in it the reflection of a polemic, fighting, libelous spirit; but at the same time it is clear that his diplomacy lacks solidity, a fixity of purpose and cunning to match the energy, the audacity, the fearlessness on display; a diplomacy that wastes, in time and terrain, what its aggressiveness and gallantry seem to gain; put another way, not a diplomacy of results, but of effects.
Tejedor’s Brazilian antagonist in these negotiations and this doctrine is Cotegipe. In this fight, the preferred weapon of both is the sword; but the sword of Alexander which would hope to cut the Gordian knot without having first triumphed at Granicus. Both show the same impatience, the same inability to conceal the same anxious desire to unleash, on their own and at their own risk, a well-aimed blow (which only seems well-aimed to them.) The difference lies in that Cotegipe combined his aggressiveness with a certain transactional spirit and an approachable, jovial spirit, while Tejedor took everything serious, lacked humor, and was by nature intransigent.
There came a moment in which the efficient and imperious Cotegipe went to meet with Tejedor, and from the clash between these two diplomats, of equal liveliness and vigor, the unexpected coup d’état of Asunción resulted, a kind of Herculean blow with which Cotegipe split Tejedor’s policy from top to bottom, and the treaty of May 1st along with it. Mitre, São Vicente, Rio Branco, and Tejedor himself had the greatest difficulty soldering the rupture Cotegipe made back together; until Tejedor returned to open it in Rio de Janeiro, paying back Cotegipe’s slash with another to equal it.Read More »