The Ambassador in Venezuela (Corrigan) to the Secretary of State

No. 8575

Sir: I have the honor to report that the Counselor of the Embassy32 called on Junta President Betancourt with my concurrence on March 22, 1946, at Sr. Betancourt’s request. It was the first time Mr. Dawson had seen the Junta President in about four weeks although Sr. Betancourt had previously been in the habit of asking him to call every week or ten days to discuss matters of mutual interest.

The ostensible reason for the March 22 conversation was the question of the airplanes being made available to Venezuela by the United States Army in connection with the recommendations made in the joint staff conversations of April 1945. Sr. Betancourt referred to the fact that the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington had been advised by the Department that there would be available for Venezuelan purchase from surplus military air equipment only eight two-motored planes of transport or similar types and none of the pursuit ships or bombers originally recommended (the Department’s telegram No. 131 of March 13 [14,], 9 p.m.). He exhibited a letter received by him from Lt, Col. Jorge Marcano, Air Attaché to the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, to the effect that the reduction had been decided upon by the Department of State, “which now has jurisdiction on these matters”, and that, despite the good will of the War Department, its hands were tied.

Sr. Betancourt then said that he had noticed in the press that Colombia had had allocated to it a number of pursuit ships and bombers and complained of the “discrimination” as between Colombia and Venezuela. He remarked that he personally understood that the fact that the Venezuelan Government was still a de facto one while [Page 1317] the Colombian Government was folly constitutional might be a reason for differing treatment but that it would be difficult to make the Venezuelan military men appreciate this point. All that they would understand was that Colombia, Venezuela’s next-door neighbor, was being favored and Venezuela “treated like a stepchild”. He (Betancourt), from long years of residence in Colombia, knew that it was perhaps the most pacific country in South America but the military men were always suspicious. In view of the present Venezuelan Government’s complete support of the United States internationally and the stability of conditions in the country as compared with the turmoil in Colombia, Sr. Betancourt said, their reaction was bound to be bad unless there was some change in the allocation program. He hoped fervently that Major Luis Calderón, Chief of Aviation of the Venezuelan Army, now in Washington on a mission in an endeavor to get more planes, would not return with his hands empty and that the Embassy would do what it could to avoid such a “misfortune”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Embassy’s deduction from all of this is that Sr. Betancourt has been under considerable pressure from Army elements to keep strictly to his promises of nonpartisan government and fair elections and that he is anxious to play up to these elements by getting them the planes they wish and whatever else their hearts desire to lessen the chances of opposition from them to his regime. In the suspicion-laden atmosphere which is common to Venezuela, rumors are easily spread that failure to receive arms or other equipment requested is an indication of displeasure by the United States with the Junta as at present constituted. Aside from that, of course, Sr. Betancourt obviously wants at least pursuit ships for purposes of possible defense against domestic disturbance. The P–47 is an extremely lethal weapon and even slow trainers and light tanks in small quantities turned the tide in the October Revolution.

Respectfully yours,

Frank P. Corrigan
  1. Allan Dawson.