Coordenação de Raul Mendes Silva






     In Argentina, Julio Argentino Roca took office as President of the Republic for the second time on 12 October 1898, when he was fifty-five years old. The young thirty-seven year old General of his first office was now a mature statesman.

     The conflicts between Argentina and Chile, which during the government of José E. Uriburu (1895-1898) unleashed an armaments race with risk of a war, were the political reason for his election to office. Carlos Pellegrini, also preliminary Presidential candidate for the nationalautonomistparty [Partido Autonomista Nacional], decided to back Roca because he considered him to be the best suited politician to govern the nation at a time when the risk of war with Chile was imminent.

     Roca began his government with the core idea of preventing the conflict, while at the same time implementing a policy to upgrade and prepare the Armed Forces to ensure peace. That was why one of his first acts as president was to travel to the South, in late January 1899, to meet the President of Chile, Federico Errázuriz, and reach an agreement with him.

     Peaceful relations with Brazil were a constant for Roca. Even when he was president for the first time, he signed an agreement on 28 September 1885 which established the formalisation, with the support of a mixed commission of specialists, of the reconnaissance and classification of the rivers in dispute in the Missions region. This agreement was to be the preliminary act of the final treaty on boundaries signed in 1889, which decided that arbitration was to be conducted by President Cleveland of the United States, whose decision was to resolve the question of boundaries once and for all some years later.

     At first, Roca addressed the subject informally, as was customary in diplomatic procedures, and formalised his response once he was assured that he would be welcome in Brazil. In May, the Brazilian diplomat in Buenos Aires, Henrique de Barros Calvancanti de Lacerda, in a confidential letter addressed to the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, informed that, in his opinion, Roca's visit was related to "the plan for a League of three nations, as protection against possible aggressions" and, two days later, again informs his government that both Roca and the Argentine diplomat Enrique Moreno consider that the visit would be useful not only for bilateral relations but also for the other nations in the southern hemisphere.

     Barros Calvancanti was beginning to like the idea that was emerging in the southern hemisphere that an agreement between Argentina, Brazil and Chile was necessary, and which could create stability in that region of America. Clodoaldo Bueno believes that, for the Brazilians, the intention of Roca's journey was "to have a closer relationship between Argentina and Brazil, so that this would have repercussion abroad, since there would no longer be an issue to separate us after settling the Missions dispute". He adds that "these were the arguments used by the Argentine government to express their desire to be invited on the presidential visit".

     On 29 May in Petrópolis, the Argentine representative with the Brazilian government, Manuel Gorostiaga, writes to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Amancio Alcorta, telling him of his concern about a certain noticeable strain in the relationship of Brazil with the United States. In a confidential letter, he says he wrote to him "to transmit the concern, already embodied, that is upsetting the men of this Republic on the matter of a potential conflict with the United States of North America". Gorostiaga informed the Argentine government that "some time ago, the distinguished gentleman Senator Ruy Barbosa had been publishing in his newspaper A Imprensa,the danger faced by the American nations, as an mandatory outcome of the policy of (Imperialist) expansion so openly initiated and developed by the United States after the war with Spain, to encourage the Brazilian government to acquire especially maritime armaments which it totally lacked".

     After careful investigations, the final decision on the Brazilian journey was made at the end of June and communicated to Manuel Gorostiaga in a communiqué signed by Amancio Alcorta himself, in which he says "on taking this decision, Mr. President has responded to your concerns, on behalf of President Campos Salles, and has (expressed) his most firm conviction that such an act is undoubtedly to improve the existing cordial trade and political relations in benefit of both countries".

     Alcorta concludes his communiqué with the following: “His Excellency will inform this government of the President’s resolution, in the hope that at a near opportunity this act is reciprocated by the President of that Republic (Brazil); and with regard to the ceremonial to be adopted, will seek to be informed with the Chancellery (Brazilian), sending an immediate reply to this Ministry".

     On 18 July, in a telegram addressed to Gorostiaga, Alcorta informs him how many people will be in the official delegation and asks for the Argentine legation (in Rio de Janeiro) to be in charge of finding accommodation. The next day, through the same channel, he advances that the likely date of Roca's departure was to be 31 July.

     Roca landed in Rio de Janeiro at four o'clock on Thursday afternoon, 3rd August. He travelled with his entourage aboard the San Martín – the most modern ship in the Argentine Navy – directly commanded by the Minister of the Navy, fleet commander Martín Rivadavia who, ten years earlier, had commanded the corvette Argentina, the first foreign ship to recognise the Brazilian Republic in 1889.

     The official reason for the visit was to congratulate Dr. Manuel F. de Campos Salles for his recent electoral triumph, voted President of the Republic of the United States of Brazil on 1st May 1898. In fact, the purpose was not only to form a closer relationship with Brazil, with which Argentina had already settled all boundary disputes, but also to send a warning to Chile, with which it still had to settle certain boundary disputes.

     Félix Luna, in Soy Roca, has Roca himself recount the start of the voyage to Brazil and his intentions: “The next step in this subtle diplomatic game was to visit Brazil. Even if we were to achieve nothing, the Chileans would presume that some understanding with the Campos Salles government had been established, and this suspicion would contribute to moderating their desire to go to war. The more we deny that some kind of alliance had been negotiated, the less our neighbours across the Andes would believe it. On the other hand, it is advisable to tighten our ties with the Brazilians, with whom we have clashed because of the sequels of the Paraguay War and border disputes. Now that Brazil is a Republic, affinities between Argentineans and Brazilians have increased. It would be a good opportunity to evidence this fact".

     Félix Luna describes Roca's voyage as follows: “On 6th August, we boarded the battleship San Martín. I had been to Rio de Janeiro on my brief stops on my journey to Europe, but this time I spent a week in that city. I visited Petrópolis and strolled along its avenues, whenever I was able to escape the ceremonial obligations that were imposed upon me. I was amazed at the opulence of its nature and astonished by the respect with which it was preserved, with the beauty of its scenery and the Imperial style of its public buildings. There were receptions, balls – I myself had to dance a quadrille - banquets, excursions, and even a "Venetian festival" on my last evening, with fireworks over the bay... everything had the sumptuous solemnity peculiar to an Imperial court, attenuated by the cordial solicitude of our hosts".

     The correspondent of Caras e Caretas who travelled with the delegation described his arrival in Rio de Janeiro as follows: "A Brazilian division commanded by Bento Gonçalves came to meet us in the open sea and, under its escort, we arrived in the harbour at mid-day in this order: San Martin, Buenos Aires, Patria, Aquidaban, Barroso and Tupy. Campos Salles was waiting on the battleship Riachuelo, and Roca went to meet him in magnificent uniform. They greeted each other. At this time of day, the Bay was  breathtakingly beautiful, something incredible and unforgettable. The Presidents stepped down from the Don João VI, a galliot of archaic beauty,amidstsalutes from the boats and forts, thousands of loud acclamations vibrating with surprising purity in the clear air, and with repeated echoes from the mountains, like distant thunder".

     On the evening of 9 August, Roca gives a thank-you speech for the banquet at which he was guest of honour. In his speech he briefly says what he is thinking: "I  joined the allied forces when I was very young, fought for a common cause, and this blood bond and sacrifice is not easily erased from my life. Later as governor, I did my best to develop peace and benefits between the countries. It was up to me then to sign the preliminary treaty to end our old colonial dispute. I have returned to power in time to preside the latest suggested demarcation. It is my duty to say here frankly that we accept almost with satisfaction the decision of the arbiter, because we have thereby gained much more than a piece of land, we have gained the sympathy and friendship of the Brazilian people".

     One of the main events of the reception offered to Roca was the military parade on 11 August. Nine thousand men from the three Armed Forces paraded. The troops passed to the command of General Cantuária, in whose General Staff was Lieutenant Shipton, military attaché of the US Embassy in Rio, a detail of minor importance but which to some extent revealed the relationship that existed at that moment between Brazil and Washington.

     That same evening, the Brazilian Minister of War offered a banquet to the Argentine delegation and on that occasion, the Argentine Minister, General Luis María Campos - like Roca, a combatant in the armies of the Triple Alliance – in his toast lets slip the idea of an alliance of South American nations.

     The festivities also included a horseracing event when the "Argentina Republic Grand Prix" was run; a lunch given by the Brazilian president aboard the Brazilian battleship Riachuelo – the name given to the vessel in tribute to the naval victory of the Brazilian over the Paraguayan fleet in the Triple Alliance War; the inauguration of a statue of the Duke of Caxias and a "Venetian" festival aboard the vessels of the two countries anchored in the harbour.

     The Senate, in turn, welcomed an Argentine parliamentary delegation of senators Virasoro, Anadón and Maciá and congressman Balestra. The Brazilian senator Quintino Bocayuva pays the following tribute: "To the illustrious President of the Argentine Senate: receiving the honourable visit of the distinguished members of the Argentine Congress, the Senate of the Republic of the United States of Brazil informs the Senate of the Argentine Republic of its satisfaction on behalf of the Brazilian States of the Union and respectfully greets the Argentine nation with the most sincere regards for its prosperity and grandeur".

     The ten-day visit also caused some criticism in Argentina. A Buenos Aires newspaper wrote on 13 August that "one of the mistakes undoubtedly committed in the details of General Roca's visit to the capital of Brazil is the length of the visit of our delegation in that city.  One thing is certain: while the Argentine president is there, all official life is suspended amidst a constant succession of festivities".


     The return of the Argentine delegation was on 18 August. On the eve of its departure, the last reception of thanks was offered by the Argentine president aboard the battleship San Martin. Roca donated his sword – which was given to the Museum of Rio – and in his last toast said that the reception given by the Brazilians "is an expression of genuine moral alliance, founded on feelings that are in the conscience of both nations alike". His Brazilian counterpart responded more cautiously with "the sympathy and respect that the Federal Government owes his person will never be forgotten".

     Argentine historian Gustavo Ferrari assessed Roca's journey to Brazil as follows: “The official reception was magnificent, although a certain cool attitude of the public was noticeable, which witnesses to the acts attributed to some Argentine attitudes, but more so to the Brazilian concerns of the possibility of a pact that would link their country to Argentina, with little room for movement".

     A certain concern was also noticed in the Brazilian Chancellery by the repercussion on the Brazil-Argentina alliance, in opposition to the North American influence. So much so that, on 24 August, six days after Roca's departure, the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olynto de Magalhães, instructed the legation in Washington to erase any possible doubts that Argentina and Brazil, or other South American countries, could form a supposed alliance to "defend themselves against the United States".

     Few concrete agreements were signed. But the political gesture was important and, without a shadow of a doubt, represented a significant historic event in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

     The following year, Campos Salles returned the visit by travelling to Buenos Aires, thereby giving continuity to Roca's visit and closing the circle of an event that showed, first and foremost, the political willingness that existed in the last year of the 19th century to strengthen the good relations between both countries.

     The exchange of visits should be interpreted in a broader context that, in the opinion of Argentine historian Gustavo Ferrari, is explained by the fact that "at the dawn of the 20th century, three South American countries showed different traits in relation to the confused mass of the others: Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The last two had been a rare example of political stability and prosperity during the second half of the preceding century and, more recently, had overcome the traumas troubling them with the fall of the Empire (1889). In turn, Argentina, now far from the 1890 crisis, appeared as a paradigm of the theory of linear and indefinite progress” .

     Roca ended his second presidency in October 1904, having succeeded in consolidating expansion in the Southern Cone and raising relations with Brazil to a degree of harmony and co-operation never before seen in the previous decades. He consequently thwarted the war with Chile, solving it by diplomatic means based on the importance of the ABC triangle as a zone of international  projection of the Southern Cone of America.

     During the next ten years, until his death in 1914, Roca's influence was to gradually decline, but the good relations policy between Argentina and Brazil continued to thrive in their public work.

     Roca was regarded in Brazil as the symbol of good relations with Argentina. Eight years had gone by since his official visit to Rio, but the former Argentine president was still regarded by the Brazilian political class as the figure representing understanding with our country (Argentina).

     The following year, the next Argentine president Roque Sáenz Peña decided to invite his old political adversary General Roca to perform one last service for his country: represent him as Plenipotentiary Minister and Special Envoy in Brazil.    In the opinion of Félix Luna, Roca received this offer as follows: "In the middle of May 1912, I was at home chatting to some friends about the sinking of the Titanic, when they phoned me to ask if it wouldn't be inconvenient to receive the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Bosch told me that the President was asking me to travel to Brazil as Plenipotentiary Minister and Special Envoy in order to finally overcome the disputes occurred at the time of Zeballos. He explained to me that Ramón Cárcano, as personal representative of Sáenz Peña, had reached an agreement months earlier for both countries to buy new battleships. Both Brazil and Argentina had agreed not to acquire new naval units. To sign and seal this agreement, the Brazilian government had sent my old friend the ex-president Campos Salles as Minister to Buenos Aires for a time, and he was waiting in Rio de Janeiro for our government to do the same with a figure of equal standing. I had already been numerous times with Campos Salles, accompanying him when he was staying here, and we had even visited Simón Pereyra's "San Juan” ranch together... As he had insinuated, he craftily affirmed that the President would offer me this mission, which consisted in negotiating nothing but rather to make it clear that the relations between the two countries were once again excellent, as had occurred during my Administration. On the other hand, I was asked to stay there for only two or three months".

     On the subject of the diplomatic role itself, the book Soy Roca said: “It wasn't all festivities. There was also work to do. In the Argentine Consulate, we talked to Brazilian public servants to reduce import duties on yerba maté, coffee and tobacco from Brazil in exchange for them to lower the duties on our meat and flour. Since the subject of armaments was no longer relevant, that topic was not raised but we - myself and Minister Mauro Müller, born of German parents, successor to Rio Branco – who had passed away that year – talked about the solution we had reached, that had released the two nations from a heavy burden in terms of military expenditure. My mission ended half way through September. A new round of farewell banquets and balls ensued and at last, on the 24th of that same month, we left on Cap Arcona” .


     Two key Brazilian personalities in relation to Argentina had died in 1912: Quintino Bocayuva and José Maria da Silva Paranhos, Baron Rio Branco. Roca was to die two years later, on 14 October 1914. His work towards peace and harmony in the region had been a core idea in his policy until his dying days, as we can see. Historian Gustavo Ferrari believes, with regard to the situation crystallised at the time in the region, that "since the factors of disturbance no longer existed and spirits had been pacified, Argentina, Brazil and Chile resumed the lines of a joint policy that was soon to give its best known outcome: mediating the conflict between Mexico and the United States, and the so-called pacifist treaty, namely the ABC Treaty.

     On 25th May 1915 in Buenos Aires, the Chancellors of Brazil, Chile and Argentina, and later including Uruguay, signed the ABC treaty for a peaceful dispute settlement. Roca had died eight months earlier... He did not live to see what was the finishing touch to his foreign policy of the previous thirty-five years.
     The relationship with Brazilian officers in the War of the Triple Alliance in his youth, the 1885 Treaty when Roca was first President to find a diplomatic solution to the Missions dispute, his visit to Rio de Janeiro in 1899, the return the following year of President Campos Salles, his visit to Brazil in 1907 when relations between the two countries were especially sensitive and the conclusive diplomatic mission to its neighbour in 1912 two years before his death, show that Roca’s negotiations in Argentina-Brazil relations continued for another fifty years.

     Compared to Roca, three figures in Brazil symbolised the policy of good relations and harmony with Argentina at that time: Manuel Ferraz de Campos Salles, Quintino Bocayuva and the Baron of Rio Branco. The first as president and diplomat; the second in politics, literature and diplomacy; and the last in Itamaraty, all Roca's counterparts in the late 19th and early 20th century to adapt the policies and work to prevent disputes and promote peace.

     It was in this context that Roca's visit to Rio de Janeiro not only was the first official visit of an Argentine president to Brazil and was significant as a relevant historic event in bilateral relations, but was also a milestone in a policy of co-operation between both countries, perfectly represented by Roca in Argentina.

     Recalling this visit, its circumstances, meaning and consequences more than a century later helps understand that the exceptional relationship existing today between Argentina and Brazil is not only a corollary of the needs to integrate deriving from globalisation, but also of a gradual evolution of a solid relationship of understanding between the two peoples.

     Today presidential meetings are quite frequent and a normal practice in the foreign relations between the states. The Presidents of Brazil and Argentina meet often during the year and communication technology permits an immediate instantaneous dialogue whenever this is necessary. But the spirit of the first meeting between the leaders of Brazil and Argentina survives until today, more than a hundred years after, and is a source of inspiration for a bilateral relationship that, undoubtedly, tends to consolidate the dreams and aspirations of those statesmen who governed us at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. They outlined this present and to them we owe the exceptional Argentine-Brazilian relationship in the early years of the 21st century.



     Manuel Ferraz de Campos Salles governed Brazil from 1898 to 1902. He was the fourth President of Brazil and the second civilian to head the Executive after the Proclamation of the Republic on 15 November 1889. He was born in Campinas in the State of São Paulo on 13 February 1841. He began his life as a political militant when he was 23 years old, as a contributor to the ultra-liberal newspaper A Razão. When he was 28, and still a law student, he was elected congressman for the Liberal Party to the São Paulo Provincial Assembly.  His constant criticism of the Crown and vehement republicanism caused him to be expelled from the Party. Together with other ultra-liberals he founded a Republican nucleus in São Paulo, around which he would then focus his political work.

     Campos Salles played an active role in the campaign caused by the publication of the Republican Manifesto on 3 December 1870. The Brazilian monarchy, shaken by the prolonged effort of the War of Paraguay, then began its slow decline that would lead to its extinction nineteen years later. At the time of the Proclamation of the Republic, Campos Salles was chairman of the Permanent Committee of the Republican Party. He figured among the leading politicians and intellectuals that gave ideological support to the military responsible for the institutional change of Brazil.

     He occupied the portfolio of Justice in the interim government of Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca. In 1891, after the decree of the Republic Constitution, he was elected senator. He went unscathed through the political and military whirlpool in the early years of the Republic. He adopted, in his own words, "a systematically tolerant, moderate and prudent behaviour before the acts of the government, because I was afraid that anarchy could arise from the clashes between the public authorities".

     As presidential candidate for the historic Republican Party, he was elected in  March 1898 to succeed another São Paulo native, Prudente de Moraes. He found himself immediately in the grasp of the most serious financial crisis Brazil had ever suffered. The coffers were empty and inflation threatened the foundations of the fragile Brazilian economy. The political power disintegrated amidst the changes in the relations between the centre and periphery of the country. The sequels of the end of the servile system was still felt in the countryside and, in the cities, production was being disorganised given financial speculation. Brazil was on the edge of bankruptcy. Access to international lending markets was severely restricted. It was forced to reach an arrangement with creditors.


     Once elected, Campos Salles travelled to Europe. The Ambassador in Paris, Gabriel de Piza, urged him to personally present to creditors his financial plan and thus obtain the "restoration of our shaky credit". After tough negotiations in Paris and London, he concluded an instrument of consolidating the debt with the House of Rothschild, known as a funding loan. Through this instrument signed in June 1898, Brazil to assure the payment of its debts, was obliged to increase the external tariffs and charge to the same proportion as domestic production. The funding loanwas guaranteed by the security of the Rio de Janeiro customs revenue. From January 1899 on, the Federal Government now had to deposit in paper money in English and German banks in Rio de Janeiro, the sum corresponding to the external issues.

     Campos Salles religiously fulfilled his commitments with his creditors. He governed with rigorous austerity. The effects of the recessive policy did not wait. Countless bankruptcies paralysed trade and industry. Several banks went bust, including the State bank, controlled by the federal government. All public works were suspended. The money supply equal to the balances from taxation was incinerated to increase the value of the currency.

     Campos Salles had to preserve his ability to govern in the situation of social unrest following the adopting of the austerity policy, but decided not to resort to military coercion, and eventually established a new style of government. He provided solid control of the country through the oligarchies that succeeded the monarchic system. He was responsible for implementing the models of political and institutional organisation that characterise the period today called the Old Republic, which lasted until the 1930 Revolution. His government was based on an interactive reciprocal support between the centre and periphery of the command:  Rio de Janeiro was blind to the tricks used by the governors to elect their docile benches of congressmen and senators and the state leaders, in turn, reciprocated, assuring the legislative support required for the Draconian measures adopted by the government to mitigate the financial crisis. In the history of Brazil, this model of government was known as The Policy of the Governors.

     Like every federalist Republican, Campos Salles could expect anything from the States; politics, in his view, should come from the periphery towards the centre and not from the centre out to the periphery. In a message to Congress, he clearly summarised his view of the political system, with words that elucidated some of the still prevailing fundamental characteristics of the institutional foundations of the Brazilian decision-making process: "In this regime, I am utterly convinced that the real political force, which in the tight Unitarianism of the Empire lay in the central power, has moved to the States. The policy of the States, that is, the policy that strengthens the bonds of harmony between the States and the central government is, then, essentially, the national policy.  That is where, when summing up those autonomous units, the real sovereignty of opinion is to be found. The central government thinks what the States think".

     These were bitter and stormy times in Brazil. Social problems worsened with the recessive measures. The Government was target for the most violent recriminations. Based on a solid control of the Legislative, thanks to the benches made by the Governors loyal to him, Campos Salles was able to assure the strict financial policy of his Minister of Finance Joaquim Murtinho, against the entire public opposition.

     He was strongly in favour of Presidentialism. He understood that the presidentialist system was able to provide an ongoing personal control of the  holding power by the Head of State and Government. He was a stern disciplined man who held a vertical concept of the presidential institution. He was against collective decisions. He would ultimately act by delegating authority to his Ministers, with whom he would come to an agreement individually. He explained in his memoirs: “The person who formulates the programme and gives the administration its characteristic nature in the President. That is why it seems to me ridiculous to come to a decision in a Council of Ministers”.

     Not everything, however, came to a standstill in his Administration. He opened up some fronts of modernisation in the country; railroads were built and the telegraph networks were expanded. Nor did he neglect to satisfy the military: he enhanced the operational conditions of the Army, concluded the works of the forts on the Rio de Janeiro Bay, recovered the defences of the port of Santos, and bought two new battleships for the Navy.

     Sensitive to the reality that he found in Europe when he was President-elect, Campos Salles noticed the importance of the international context for the stability of Brazil and sought to make the necessary changes to include the country in the changing world. Having settled the problems with the European creditors, he worked towards cultivating the relationship with the USA, which was now ready to demonstrate in Brazil, as in all Latin America, the supremacy that it was to have throughout the 20th century. A supremacy that, in the case of Brazil, was founded on very concrete situations: at the end of the 19th century, the USA had already become the biggest buyer of the three main exports from Brazil: coffee, rubber and cocoa. The decision in favour of Brazil by President Grover Cleveland on the issue of boundaries with Argentina in 1895 and Brazil's support to the United States in 1898, on occasion of the War of Cuba, also materialised in the assignment of two battleships, predicting the alliance that was to become explicitly stronger since 1902 in the light of the policies of Baron Rio Branco.

     The foreign policy adopted by the Republic had immediately distinguished itself from what the Monarchy had done. There was talk of republicanising the foreign policy, an expressive statement that came before a tendency to attenuate the traditional ties of Brazil with the European system and benefit the Pan-American area. The 1870 Republican Manifesto had been expressed: “We are from America and we want to be American. The monarchy is, in essence and practice, hostile to the right and interests of the American States. The continuation (of the monarchy) is a constant source of hostility and wars with the peoples around us".

     Internal political unrest prevailing until Campos had nevertheless prevented clear consistent changes in direction from happening. Between the Proclamation of the Republic and the end of the Campos Salles period, that is, in the 13 years before the administration of Rio Branco, eleven Ministers had been through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not including some interim periods.

     Despite this element of instability and discontinuities caused by the changes in the Chancellery, since the start of the Republic a clear tendency to benefit the relationship with Argentina was visible. As a dramatic example of this focus, the first Republican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Quintino Bocayuva, took the initiative of travelling to Buenos Aires to negotiate with the Argentine government a Solomon-like solution for the border territories in dispute in the region of Palmas (Missions), an issue that, in mutual agreement, had been put to the arbitration in 1888 of the President of the United States of America. The Treaty signed in  Montevideo on 25 January 1890, which halved the territory under dispute, would later be rejected by the Legislative, at the request of Quintino himself, and the question would be eventually settled in favour of Brazil thanks to the advocacy of Baron Rio Branco jointly with the North American arbiter. But the impetuous and significant gesture of the Republican leaders was a sign of a clear change in the dynamics by which an attempt was made to transform the relation with Argentina into a factor of balance and co-operation in the La Plata region, which had undergone so much unrest and so many disputes during the colonial period and the entire monarchy.

     The contrasts between Brazil and Argentina were then very clear. At the end of the 19th century, while Brazil dealt with imbalances, shortages and a chronic lack of resources, Argentina developed fast under the so-called conservative regime, to eventually be stand out as the most materially and culturally advanced country in Latin America. Roca, who became president for the second time on 12 October 1898, one month before Campos Salles, understood perfectly the importance of assuring a pacific framework for Argentina's prosperity and stability. Hence his concern in promoting balanced relations of a co-operative nature with the two States which flanked Argentina, and could affect its security: Chile and Brazil. He was interested, first and foremost, in avoiding an arms race that might divert to the military forces the resources necessary for consolidating the development of Argentina. The boundary problems with Brazil had been settled, and consequently no other disputes existed. Yet with Chile there still was a major liability of territorial disputes. The tensions between the two countries was at a crucial point, as the preparations for supposed war and demands for armaments were escalating. Good relations with Brazil would certainly have contributed to set the dispute with Chile on a more balanced path.

     On the bilateral plane, the number of Roca-Campos Salles presidential visits was to represent, most of all, a foresight of the integration process, which only many decades later was to be instated in the relationship. The statement made by President Roca to a group of Brazilian legislators headed by Quintino Bocayuva on his second day in Rio de Janeiro was extremely significant in this sense: "Brazil and Argentina must join with ties of close friendship, because together they will be rich, strong, powerful and free”. Today these words may seem of little importance. In 1898, however, the idea that the countries could acquire their wealth, freedom and security together sounded extremely daring. The concept of integration did not exist. The countries related in terms of peace or war, friendly or hostile gestures. No one had ever imagined the possibility of integrating productive capacities. Few definitions would have been able to sum up with such accuracy and foresight the direction that the bilateral relations took many decades later, then almost at the end of the 20th century.


      When he reached Buenos Aires, on 24 October 1900, in return for President Roca's visit a year earlier, Campos Salles could now feel secure about the solid nature of his political subsistence device and about the prospects of economic-financial normalisation of the country. Having already made the first overseas visit of a Brazilian President-elect, Campos Salles was also, on arriving in Argentina, the first Brazilian Head of State to pay an official visit a foreign country, since the journeys of D. Pedro II to the USA and Europe were not official State visits.

     The President of Brazil was certainly not insensitive to the differences at that time between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Roca's Argentina was at the peak of an development never seen before in South America. Modernisation, begun in the 1870s, brought the expected results. Argentina had become one of the principal producers and exporters of cereals in the world; railways linked the port to the producing regions; cattle-raising stretched to the borders stretching south. Buenos Aires, with a population of 800,000, was now proud of being the biggest city in Latin America. It attracted large numbers of European immigrants. It modernised itself inspired along Parisian lines. Wide avenues burst upon the narrow streets of the original plans of the city. The aristocracy raised its palaces to the North, buildings that even today attest to the grandiose view of a generation of Argentineans who intended to repeat European civilisation at the southernmost tip of South America.

     Large international stores had set up in Buenos Aires. The cultural environment reflected the country's prosperity and a volume of seemingly endless wealth. In contrast, Rio de Janeiro kept the appearances of its colonial past.  It did not even begin to grow and incorporate the advances of urban planning. The city was still crowded in narrow alleys around the traditional city centre. Epidemics spread. A certain provincial air still prevailed. There was little advance in terms of public education. The cultural life developed in a tiny oasis around the Academy of Literature and a group of classicist or Francophile intellectuals, inspired by Comtean positivism, so much to the taste of the Republican military. Exceptions were few and notable. Machado de Assis grew old in a new world of Rio de Janeiro that he never fully understood, but which he would sceptically and good-humouredly accept with his sparkling creative wit. Joaquim Nabuco recovered, with his monumental Um Estadista do Império, published in 1897, the glories and visions of State of the great names in the Brazilian monarchy, tacitly contrasting them with the smallness of the policy of the early years of the Republic.


     The Argentina government did its best to provide the Brazilian visitors with a magnificent reception. The Minister of the Interior, Dr. Felipe Yofre and Mayor of Buenos Aires, Don Adolfo Bullrich, were in charge of co-ordinating all aspects of the programme. Both kept close to their mission, to the point that the corresponding foreigners in Buenos Aires commented that the festivities were on a par with those that had been held years before during the visit of Czar Alexandre to Paris.

     The landing of the Brazilian retinue, planned for the 24th, had to be postponed to the following day, because an unexpected storm hit Buenos Aires. When Campos Salles finally entered the harbour onboard the battleship Riachuelo, he beheld a breathtakingly marvellous reception. In order for the Buenos Aires population take part in the festivities, the 24th and 25th had been declared public holidays.

    President Campos Salles, together with the Ministers accompanying him, lodged in the Palace newly built by Mr. Tomás Devoto at the corner of Callao with Charcas, in front of Rodrigues Peña square. The other members of the Brazilian delegation were accommodated in the also newly-built Dorrego Palace, at the corner of Mayo and Peru avenues. The journal recorded that everything was comfortable and the visitors given every attention. Also installed in the Devoto Palace were a phone switch and post office.

     The first official event after his arrival was at the banquet offered by President Roca in the Government Palace, followed by a ball at the Jockey Club. President Roca toasted the Brazilian mandatory and mentioned how the visit was the first of its kind: “These events do not belong to traditional American diplomacy; but, although new, they have the warm and unanimous consent of our two countries, penetrated with the considerable influence in their mutual interests and relations of the States that make up our continental family”.

     Campos Salles replied; “Our glories and sacrifices have been mutual (in the past); as were our efforts in favour of the grandeur and prosperity of our countries; and so also will be our joint efforts in benefit of peace and civilisation”.

     After several ceremonies and mutual tributes of each country's authorities, on Sunday 28, a visit was made to the shooting range and the evening races at the Palermo horse-racing track. In the evening, a sumptuous banquet was offered to President Campos Salles in the Theatre of the Opera by the Trade Commission of Argentina. The president of the commission, Vicente L. Casares, expressed the feeling of the top Argentine businessmen: “The sociable conservative communities of both States, which enrich production and national wealth, expect everything from the peaceful and harmonious work of interests of both peoples.”

     Campos Salles answered in the same tone, in agreement with the balanced relations: “You represent work, industrial production, economic fertility, in other words, the genuine organs of the conservative interests of the nation. (...)”

     In the Chamber, the Brazilian delegation was greeted by congressman Balestra, from Corrientes Province. After recounting in rich oratory the Argentine-Brazilian friendship and recalling Canning's words in which the South American independence had brought to life a new world destined to re-establish the balance of the old, the Congressman went on to reveal his view of the future: “Approximation between two great peoples on behalf of peaceful progress that arouses noble stimuli and erases sterile rivalries, (...) (called) to prefer the solid wide roads to peace, trade and work, marked by nature for growing nations that first and foremost need their moral and material credit... Everything calls us, everything unites us...”.

     In the Upper Chamber, the Senator for Santa Fé, Lorenzo Anadón, was chosen to receive him and his inspired words foresaw the institutional and juridical integration between Brazil and Argentina in a formulation notably before its time: “This parliamentary legation from people to people... is perhaps the most suggestive communication of the historic demonstrations in these days. In view of the two representations concerned in the presence of this scenario wherein political divisions are suppressed, I would say that the borders of both nations dilate respectively to their farthest boundaries and that the Senators for the Amazon or Rio Grande could discuss common laws with their colleagues for Tucumán and Santa Fé...”.

     Senator Serzedello Correia and Congressman Gastão da Cunha answered on behalf of the two Brazilian government bodies. When the latter embraced General Mitre, he exclaimed: “I embrace a page of my history!”.


     The 31st was devoted to farewells. On the way to a matinee offered by the Brazilian Navy aboard the Riachuelo, Campos Salles invited Roca to accompany  him on an informal visit to General Mitre. The newspapers at that time commented on the relevance of the initiative of Campos Salles to visit, with Roca, the distinguished Argentine who, at that moment, “was watching his own posterity”. The three, continued the chronicle, “embody the most pleasant and magnanimous thinking in international politics of America; the loyal union of Brazil and Argentina guarantees South American equilibrium”.

     In addition to the matinee, a series of events was organised on the eve of the departure of Campos Salles for closer military relations. These included a visit to the War Arsenal, mass at the Convent of San Domingos in memory of those who died in the War of Paraguay and, in the evening, the Minister of War of Argentina, Colonel Pablo Riccheri, offered a banquet to Marshal Cantuária, Head of the Brazilian Army General Staff.

     These events underscored the union born from the common struggle. Colonel Riccheri referred to the “bonds that resist the action of time and events: the bonds of blood spilled together on the battlefields for the noble cause of freedom". And Marshal Cantuária gave credit of the solidarity between Brazil and Argentina to their Armies, which fought fiercely “for the holy cause of freedom (and that) together suffered the hardships of the same military camps... defending the same causes and sharing the same victories”.


     President Campos Salles departed on 1 November, amidst official and public rejoicing. Campos Salles offered Roca a farewell lunch aboard the Riachuelo. When he went on board the battleship, according to some accounts at that time, with tears in his eyes his words of farewell to the people accompanying him on the dockside were: “Farewell!  My heart stays with you.”

     The banquet aboard the Riachuelo marked the end of the visit. It allowed Campos Salles, Roca and Mitre to talk at length, but was not recorded in writing. It also provided a new round of talks where the effusion of the reciprocal friendship was strengthened by the feelings arising from harmonious and festive co-existence of the recent days.

     Campos Salles was coherent in his message to the National Congress on 3 May 1901 of the results of the visit, in terms that, at the level of official and sentimental impressions, in fact revealed little about the substance of the basic themes of the bilateral relationship: “I am pleased to return the distinguished visit of His Excellency General Julio Roca, President of the Argentinean Republic last October. I truly say that the extraordinary demonstrations of affection with which I was welcomed to the heart of our close friendly nation could not have been more magnificent or more significant; where the people, deeply involved with their government and in the generous spontaneity of their feelings, offered the most honourable tributes to the Brazilian Republic in the person of its president.

     These very courteous acts, in exchanging cordial hospitality and return of friendly compliments, will have an influence on the life of the two friendly nations and on the solutions of international policy; from these regions emerges, under the supreme sponsorship of great powers,  the generous aspiration to general peace.

     When leaving the Argentine Republic taking with me lively impressions of the sumptuous festivities of a friendly nation in the honour of our homeland, I expressed to its illustrious President my lasting acknowledgement of the warm reception and refined hospitality with which I was received as president of my country.

     The Brazilian Nation has just reason for proudly writing on the best pages of the history of its foreign policy the impressive event that expresses, in its highest sentiments, a work of affectionate affinity – between two mutually admiring nations – in benefit of peace, justice and civilisation.”


The old President was still to give a lasting service to the cause of understanding between Brazil and Argentina. Baron Rio Branco died in February 1912, and his successor, Lauro Müller, appealed to Campos Salles to “sweeten the relations” between the two countries.

     Lauro Müller was confident that the prestige of Campos Salles in Buenos Aires, his personal links with the Argentine leaders, could contribute to restore to the bilateral conventions the atmosphere of cordiality and reciprocal confidence that were missing.

     Expectations again were that an official choreography and a certain positive tone of diplomatic rhetoric could positively qualify a relationship that seemed to come up against mistrust and was ending in adverse dynamics.

     Lauro Müller’s instructions to the new Minister on a special mission reveal with unusual expressiveness the characteristics of the diplomacy of that time and the nature of the mission delivered to Campos Salles. When the Chancellor was asked by the former President what he should say in Buenos Aires, he advised him to revive his old friendships and reassure them of the Brazilian desire to develop friendly relations.

     The portrait hanging on the main wall of the office of the Ambassador of Brazil in Buenos Aires is of Campos Salles.  His grey morning suit, austere physiognomy and sharp eyes contrast with the informal modern lines of the Embassy decoration. He symbolises the lasting relationship recognised to the men who, ahead of their time, were able to understand and advance the understanding that they enjoy today.

     Whatever the immediate motivations that then led them to agree, Roca and Campos Salles are now a symbol of the paradigm of integration in the Brazil-Argentina relations.  When associating wealth, strength and freedom destined for the two countries the situations that place them together and under reciprocal guarantees, Roca and Campos Salles advanced the modern concept of integration and left the imprint of an intuitive and voluntarist view - but not any the less valuable - of the current dynamics of understanding and co-operation.

      The strategic interests, economic motivations and perceptions deep-rooted in centuries of antagonism and disputes have prevented a genuine approximation, which became even more difficult later because of the cycle of dictatorships and military coups d’état occurring in South American between 1930, on the eve of the Second World War, and which extends practically until the beginning of the 1980s. Conflicting ideologies, suspicions, rivalries and all kinds of factors have contributed to keeping the barriers in place that, since colonial times and post-Independence years had separated Brazil from Argentina.  Clashes arising both from the way the two economies are engaged in the international production system and from the autarchic models of substituting the prevailing imports in both countries, as well as the asymmetrical views of the relevant military leaders, have for decades prevented the consolidation of a positive understanding between Brazil and Argentina.

     In fact, the paradigm of integration predicted by Campos Salles and Roca only fully prevailed when both countries returned to democracy. The overwhelming areas of friction and reciprocal mistrust, as in the case of the nuclear sector, as well as the gradual conformation of the bilateral integration process, was a significant component of the process to affirm the civil power and new democratisation of both countries. Democracy has permitted the policies of approximation and co-operation to move ahead and these in turn have facilitated mechanisms of political articulation and integration and given rise to the current process wherein Mercosur emerges as the most perfect expression of understanding and harmony. At last the framework of reciprocal interests predicted a century earlier has been consolidated. Prescient rhetoric has now become objective reality.

     The two great men in this process - Campos Salles and Roca – are rightfully the patron saints of Mercosur.  Nothing more just than to restore their historic legacy and update their significance.

(Translated by ELM)


Drawing by Stein, circa 1900, President Julio Argentino Roca, the Rosendo
Fraga Collection

President Campos Sales

8 August 1899. The public awaiting the two Presidents near the Navy Arsenal
in Rio de Janeiro. A procession of carriages took them to Catete Palace.

The two Presidents on top of Corcovado. At that time, where now stands the
statue of Christ, stood a small building called "The Sun Hat." The Rosendo
Fraga Collection.

Reception for Campos Sales in Buenos Aires. The Palace of the Municipal
Town Council was decorated with the coats-of-arms of the then 21 Brazilian
states and portraits of historical figures of Brazil.

The two Presidents on top of Corcovado. At that time, where now stands the
statue of Christ, stood a small building called "The Sun Hat." The Rosendo
Fraga Collection.

In tribute to Brazil, Argentinian troops commanded by Lieutenant-General
Levalle pass in front of the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.

Seven years later, in March 1907, Julio Roca (centre) returns to Brazil and
meets Campos Sales (left) and the Baron of Rio Branco.