History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter XIV

History of Paraguay contra its Falsifiers: Chapter XIV

The Porteñistas’ Gamble Fails.

During Dr. Francia’s two resignations from the Junta, the «Porteñistas» pushed hard to align themselves to Buenos Aires. On his first retirement, Fulgencio Yegros, Pedro Juan Cavallero and Fernando de la Mora also managed to get rid of Francia’s friend in the Junta, Father Francisco Xavier de Bogarín. The cabal of Buenos Aires knew this was the moment for an offensive and they quickly contacted the dismembered «Junta» of Porteñistas. Days later, it was announced that the «Junta of Buenos Aires» would send a diplomatic mission to Asunción, with the strong resolve of obtaining the anexation of Paraguay under the rule of the Porteños. [1]

Manuel Belgrano, the vanquished General of the 1810-1811 Expedition, was the leading diplomat in the Buenosairean mission to Asunción (not a very smart move from the Junta Porteña, one might add, but their insolence and unsurmountable arrogance blinded their eyes). His companion was Dr. Vicente Anastasio Echevarría. They had clear instructions from the Junta of Buenos Aires to «work carefully in order to subjugate the Province of Paraguay under the United Provinces of the River Plate, forcing Paraguay under the general will of the United Provinces». In the exchange between the «Junta of Asunción» and the «Junta of Buenos Aires» (while Francia was in his first absence), the Porteños played their gambles with finesse and skill, claiming that they would allow «the Province of Paraguay to rule itself and with independence of the Provisional Government (of Buenos Aires) as long as both remain united and operating in absolute conformity against any foreign aggression». [2]

The happiness of the Paraguayan Porteñistas knew no limits and they made a mistake: they openly bragged and celebrated the alleged «good will» of Buenos Aires towards Asunción. They circulated a «Bando» around the capital expressing that the «Citizens of Paraguay are now free and the Junta shares to the people this rejoicing news, congratulating everyone for their efforts and their courage; from now onwards, not other thing but liberty and union should be proclaimed… Now you have seen that the People of Buenos Aires doesn’t want to dominate or subjugate Paraguay… Rather, they want to live with us in a real fraternity of feelings for our mutual defense and general happiness, the same thing our Province had decreed…».[3]

But contrary to what they believed, this «Bando» left a very bad taste in the mouth of the Paraguayans. The «Buenosairean Plot» was denounced by the Cabildo of Asunción, that was presided by Spaniard Don Juan Valeriano de Zeballos. They protested against the resolutions of the «Junta Superior» but recieved no sensible answer to their claims. But the Cabildo continued its push writing extensive notes demanding the return of Francia and his friend Bogarín and they even threatened the Junta with a «vote of no confidence», openly declaring the «ineptitude» of the rule of Cavallero, de La Mora and Yegros. [4]

Despite the opposition of the Porteñista members of the Junta, Francia was reinstated in his position for the first time on 6 September 1811, just in time to prevent the Buenosairean Maneuver, thanks to the overwhelming pressure exerted by the Cabildo. Francia returned with popular acclamations but his first political measure, however, was demanding a better treatment of the Spaniards that were accused of treason and punished by the members of the Junta in his absence. [5]

On 4 October 1811, Belgrano and Echevarría reached Asunción, but they were recieved by Dr. Francia himself, something that was completely unexpected by them. After several days of negociations, they arrived to a Treaty between Buenos Aires and Paraguay, signed on 12 October 1811. According to Bartolomé Mitre, the conclusions of this agreement could be reduced to three points:

«1- The decentralization of all tariffs, that is, economic independence; 2- the demarcation of limits, that is, territorial independence; 3- the establishment of a Federation, that is, political independence». [6]

Its important to remark, once again, that Gen. Mitre confounds the words «Federation» with «Confederation». The Paraguayans, in the worst case scenario of joining with Buenos Aires, would only do it after the establishment of a Confederation. This agreement was reached thanks to the intervention of Dr. Francia, who couldn’t prevent the influence of the rest of the «Porteñistas» of the Junta of Asunción, but managed to impose his «confederate» view, contrary to the desires of Buenos Aires and its well known «unitarian centralism».

For the moment, Paraguayan Independence from Buenos Aires was saved. But this was just a miracle. Francia had to stand against enormous pressure from the Porteñista members of the Junta of Asunción, and many concessions were made to Belgrano. Dr. Francia understood that he was playing in total inferiority and started to push for the return of Father Bogarín to his former position in the Junta of Asunción, something that was resisted by the rest of the members (in the end, Bogarín would never come back). In the meantime, Yegros, Cavallero and especially de La Mora were continuing their communications with Buenos Aires.

At last, tired of the Porteñistas in the Junta, Francia resigned for the second time on 18 December 1811. His plan was to play his cards in the Cabildo, where his ally Don Juan Valeriano de Zeballos was still president. But the Junta, this time, didn’t allow it and increasingly reduced the influence of the Cabildo concerning matters of government and on 4 November 1812, they got rid of Juan Valeriano de Zeballos after many months of disguised and failed attempts. [7]

The plot of the Porteñistas against the Paraguayan Independence was increasing everyday. After the agreement of 12 October 1811, Buenos Aires wanted to suffocate Paraguay via tariffs and barriers to trading and customs, that is, an economic pressure. This got even worse when the Cabildo discovered that the Junta of Asunción «lost», in an unexplained incident, the documents signed by Belgrano and Francia that were favourable to the cause of the Paraguayans. These files were lost by Don Fernando de La Mora, the Secretary of the Junta. According to many authors, this happened because of a plan between de La Mora and his porteñista friend Gregorio de la Cerda, whom wanted to remove all obstacles that could prevent the total union with Buenos Aires. [8]

In the "Bando of 6 January 1812", Fulgencio Yegros, Fernando de la Mora and Pedro Juan Cavallero declared their intentions of putting Paraguay under the rule of Buenos Aires. [Image: ABC Color].
In the «Bando of 6 January 1812», Fulgencio Yegros, Fernando de la Mora and Pedro Juan Cavallero declared their intentions of putting Paraguay under the rule of Buenos Aires. They did this under the guise of an ambitious plan of government [Image: ABC Color].

But that was just one incident amongst many. A very important moment came when, on 6 January 1812, the three members of the Junta (Cavallero, de La Mora and Yegros) published their Plans of Government in a famous «Bando». Disguised and camouflaged inside some romantic projects of public education (like the foundation of a Military College, a Seminar and an Academy of Letters and Mathematics) and the promotion of industrial and agricultural improvements, the key lines of this document are contained at the very beginning:

«The Junta Superior Gubernativa of this Province, to its inhabitants: Since the moment of the unanimous vote and will of the whole Province that elevated us to the high command of its wide hemisphere, our whole endeavor was to promote the sacred interest of the public welfare: this Junta occupied itself, since the beginning of its inception, to arrange and to accord with the People of Buenos Aires the principles and treaties for a reunion and a federative alliance…». [9]

Behind an affected and dolled-up language, suited to cause effect in feeble liberal minds and also, striving to cause a nice impression to the pseudo-intellectual class of their masters in Buenos Aires, the three Porteñistas of the Junta of Asunción showed their true face. They were trying to decieve the population behind nice words and progressive ideals, but absolutely no one was fooled by their rhetoric. Quite the contrary, the Cabildo once again launched the alarm against the imminent threat of falling into the hands of Buenos Aires. But of course, this «Bando» is celebrated as a «masterpiece» of political vision and daydreaming, if we follow the usual suspects of Paraguayan liberalism, always reeling behind the recognition of their international and cosmopolite chiefs of sect. [10]

Despite the actions of the three Porteñistas of the Junta of Asunción whom removed the most ardent defenders of Dr. Francia, after several months of pressure by the Cabildo (that was under Francia’s total control thanks to his anti-Junta and anti-Buenos Aires propaganda), they had to give up and summon his political enemy one more time. But in this second return, Dr. Francia imposed his own conditions: he would only come back after receiving assurances that the military element (ruled by Cavallero and Yegros) would have no more influence in any political decision whatsoever, and also, after the creation of an infantry batallion entirely for his own disposition, outside the authority of the Junta, completely armed and disciplined by himself; finally, he requested half of the weapons and ammunitions of Asunción. Mainly because of the pressure of the Cabildo but also because Don Fulgencio Yegros, a sincere and unambitious patriot, wanted a definitive solution to all the problems of the Province, all the conditions were accepted. [11]

Don José Gaspar de Francia returned for the second, and definitive time, on 16 November 1812. The crowds in the Cabildo and in the whole nation were on their feet, in awe and acclamation. This «Enigmatic Doctor» conquered their minds and souls with subtle and delicate precision. His first official move was to propose a rupture of all diplomatic relations with Buenos Aires, something that was done in the notes of 27 December 1812 and 27 January 1813. Some weeks afterwards, he removed Fernando de La Mora from the Junta, accused of «Porteñismo» because of the aformentioned plot with Gregorio de la Cerda that was totally discovered. The military element, represented by Yegros and Cavallero, was nullified. [12]

The Porteñistas’ Gamble failed decisively… For all intents and purposes, Dr. Francia became the Regent of Paraguay… And this was just the beginning…

REFERENCES

[1] Chaves, Julio César (2019): «Compendio de Historia del Paraguay», pages 125-126. Asunción, Paraguay: Editorial Intercontinental.

[2] «Instrucciones a los Delegados Belgrano y Echevarría», 1 August 1811; «Letter from the Junta of Buenos Aires to the Junta of Paraguay», 28 August 1811. Cited by: García Mellid, Atilio (1963): «Proceso a los Falsificadores…», op. cit. vol. I, pages 157-158.

[3] «Bando de la Junta Superior Gubernativa del Paraguay»; 14 September 1811. Available in: Museo Mitre, Documentos del Archivo de Belgrano, Vol. III, pages 397-401.

[4] Vázquez, José Antonio (1975): «Dr. Francia Visto y Oído por sus Contemporáneos», pages 79-82. Buenos Aires, Argentina: EUDEBA.

[5] Rodríguez Pardo (2011): «La Independencia del Paraguay…», op. cit. page 76.

[6] Mitre (1887): «Historia de Belgrano…», op. cit. vol. II page 26.

[7] Cardozo, Efraím (2010): «El Paraguay Independiente», pages 59-64. Asunción, Paraguay: Editorial Servilibro.

[8] Rodríguez Pardo (2011): «La Independencia del Paraguay…», op. cit. pages 77-78.

[9] «Bando de la Junta Superior Gubernativa del Paraguay»; Asunción, 6 January 1812. Signed by Fernando de La Mora, Pedro Juan Cavallero and Fulgencio Yegros. National Archives of Asunción: Sección Histórica, Volume 217, File N° 1.

[10] Paraguayan Modern Liberals like Luis Verón and Margarita Durán Estragó celebrated the «Bicentennial» of this «magnanimous» document where the three members of the Junta Porteñista openly declared their intentions to unite with Buenos Aires. See: «El Bicentenario de una Política de Buen Gobierno» by Verón, Luís (6 January 2012), published in ABC Color (Asunción). – «El Bando del 6 de Enero de 1812» by Durán Estragó, Margarita (28 May 2011), published in Secretaría Nacional de Cultura (Asunción). Retrieved: 20 June 2021. Link: http://www.cultura.gov.py/2011/05/el-bando-del-6-de-enero-de-1812/

[11] Chaves (2019): op. cit. pages 128-129.

[12] Rodríguez Pardo (2011): op. cit. page 81. – Chaves (2019): op. cit. page 129.

Emilio Urdapilleta

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