Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1878-1959) was an Argentine scholar, statesman, and diplomat who achieved world recognition for international reconciliation efforts during the 1930s.
Carlos Saavedra Lamas was born in Buenos Aires on Nov. 1, 1878, to a family of the porteño aristocracy. In 1903 he earned a doctorate of laws at the National University. His career in public service began with appointments as director of public credit (1906-1907) and as secretary of the Buenos Aires municipality (1907). He spent two terms in the National Congress, where he promoted the "Saavedra Lamas Law" of 1912, which protected domestic sugar producers from foreign competition. In 1915 he headed the Ministries of Justice and Public Education.
Saavedra Lamas presided over the International Labor Conference in Geneva in 1928. He served as minister of foreign affairs (1932-1938) and represented Argentina at several international conferences. He presided over the League of Nations Assembly in 1936, which Argentina had recently rejoined in an effort to engage in world affairs.
An ardent nationalist, Saavedra Lamas sought to increase his country's prestige by increasing ties with Europe and by assuming leadership of Spanish American nations. These policies intensified a long-standing United States-Argentina polarization in hemispheric affairs, countered the traditional United States Pan-American policies based upon the Monroe Doctrine, and hampered the Roosevelt administration's efforts to increase hemispheric solidarity by the new "good-neighbor" policy, which promised to treat all Latin American countries on a basis of equality. Nevertheless, Saavedra Lamas and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull reconciled some of their countries' basic differences at the 1933 Inter-American Conference held in Montevideo.
A long-smoldering Bolivian-Paraguayan boundary dispute led to the Gran Chaco War (1932-1935), which defied the peacemaking efforts of Latin American nations and the United States and enabled Saavedra Lamas to assert Argentina's influence in hemispheric affairs. After failing to terminate the conflict by relying upon the League of Nations conciliation machinery, he engineered a permanent truce in 1935. Although the United States-Argentina rivalry probably prolonged the settlement, Saavedra Lamas, with Secretary Hull's support, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Several European and Latin American governments also honored him for contributions to peace.
At the 1936 Inter-American Conference in Buenos Aires, Saavedra Lamas sought to safeguard hemispheric security through the League of Nations, thereby opposing the United States efforts to strengthen the inter-American system. Although President Franklin Roosevelt attended the conference and made many concessions in the interests of promoting inter-American cooperation, Foreign Minister Saavedra Lamas remained basically unmoved. Apparently he foresaw little danger to Argentina in the rise of European dictators, although later he became friendlier toward the United States and supported the Allies after the outbreak of World War II. Still, his policies helped to perpetuate the United States-Argentina estrangement.
After leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1938, Saavedra Lamas served at the National University as president (1941-1943) and as a professor of economics (1943-1946). He produced many books and articles on public education, economics, and international law. He died in Buenos Aires on May 5, 1959.
Further Reading on Carlos Saavedra Lamas
Saavedra Lamas's diplomatic involvement with the United States is thoroughly recounted by Harold F. Peterson in Argentina and the United States, 1810-1960 (1964). For a briefer account see Arthur Preston Whitaker, The United States and Argentina (1954). The Chaco War settlement is described in David H. Zook, Jr., The Conduct of the Chaco War (1961); William R. Garner, The Chaco Dispute: A Study of Prestige Diplomacy (1966); and Leslie B. Rout, Politics of the Chaco Peace Conference, 1935-1939 (1970).