The Ambassador in Bolivia (Flack) to the Secretary of State
[Received 6:12 p.m.]
675. Last evening, the Venezuelan Ambassador, Dean of Diplomatic Corps, held meeting to exchange opinions with certain other Chiefs of Mission. We met at 7 p.m.; Brazilian Ambassador, Peruvian Ambassador, Ecuadorian Minister, Papal Chargé35 attending. I took Adam with me. All present expressed great indignation that a member of the Cabinet had led the stoning attack on the University and felt that students were really defending their institution. They also deplored recurrence of arming MNR civilians.
Brazilian Ambassador and Peruvian Ambassador proposed that Dean see Foreign Minister Pinto at once and state that without attempting to intervene in Bolivian internal affairs, but speaking as a friend, urge clemency for the students and their treatment as youths rather than as a foreign army or a subversive political movement. I supported this wholeheartedly and those present unanimously decided to take this course immediately. The Dean accordingly made an immediate appointment with Pinto and the meeting directed that the Brazilian Ambassador and I accompany him, taking Papal Charge along. We proceeded in a car to President’s Palace where Pinto was, being stopped only twice en route by military traffic police. The streets were otherwise empty. Palace approaches were well guarded by a number of small tanks in Plaza Murillo. We saw Pinto at once, and the Dean, acting as chief spokesman, said that our visit was not in any sense an intervention in Bolivian internal affairs, nor did we come as diplomats or ambassadors, but as friends of Bolivia with [Page 358]humanitarian motives to urge clemency in dealing with the students, a number of whom had been killed during the day and a larger number gravely wounded. The Dean added that he felt that the students were animated by enthusiasm in defending their institution and did not merit being treated as an alien army or as a subversive political element. Pinto thanked us for this friendly visit and the view expressed, said that he would convey them to the President whom lie felt would be sympathetic. He said that during the afternoon the Army had been brought increasingly into the picture and that at all times it had been instructed to fire in defense only or at such times when properties like the markets had been invaded by the students. (Condor Radio was in student hands only 15 minutes.)
He suggested that the students might be counselled to desist and that the Papal Chargé, who is a teacher in the University, might speak to the students. He said that the students had been under the influence of political elements hostile to the Government.
The Papal Chargé said that he would discuss this with the University rector but that he understood that the students were demanding the removal of all MNR cabinet members. The Dean stated immediately that this was purely a repetition of what the Papal Charge had heard from the students and was in no sense a representation of our group. This was clearly understood by Pinto. Pinto told us the Government is in complete control throughout the country. This concluded the interview and we returned to report to our colleagues at the Venezuelan Embassy, with the knowledge that the rector was awaiting an interview at the Palace when we departed. I trust the Dept approves my action set forth above.
There was a good deal of firing in various parts of the city until midnight and occasional firing thereafter, but this morning seems somewhat calmer and there is a much smaller number of troops in the streets.
To insure safe home journey for all staff members, Military Attaché arranged for members his staff to contact military outposts around the Chancery from which there had been constant shooting in the streets from 11 a.m. These posts agreed to cease fire for a period of time to enable the caravan of Embassy autos with flag protection to leave Chancery in late afternoon and to proceed safely to homes. This was satisfactorily carried out and I have informed all members of staff that if they feel there is any danger to remain home during this emergency.
No American casualties of any nature have been reported.
- Renato de Lacerda Lago, Eduardo Garland Roel, Hugo Moncayo, and Gastón Mojaisky, respectively.↩