Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Charles C. Hauch of the Division of Caribbean Affairs

Participants: Mr. Lyon—A–A
Mr. Wright—ARA
Mr. Woodward—ARA
Mr. Gray—Le
Mr. Peterson—MD
Mr. Wells—NWC
Mr. Barber—CRB
Mr. Hauch—CRB
Ambassador Corrigan—Caracas

This meeting was held to discuss the advisability of bringing charges against the persons allegedly involved in the revolutionary plot to overthrow the Government of Venezuela. The Department of Justice had requested the opinion of the Department of State on this subject in several conversations and had formalized its request by a letter of June30.13

Mr. Gray14 outlined the case, as set forth in his secret memorandum of July 8 entitled “Revolutionary plot against the present Venezuelan Government”.13 He explained that four of the principals in the case have been charged with theft of United States Government property. In investigating this theft the FBI discovered this was merely incidental to a plot to overthrow the Venezuelan regime, which involves a large number of other persons including … Venezuelans, as well as several Dominicans. The plot appears to have the backing of the Dominican Government, which is assisting in the obtaining of war material for use against Venezuela and is permitting its territory to be used as a base of operations.

The basic question was whether charges on counts other than the theft of Government property should be pressed against the Venezuelans and Americans concerned. It was pointed out by Mr. Wright and Mr. Wells that (a) it would probably be undesirable politically to prosecute the Venezuelans involved; (b) if the foreigners were not prosecuted, it would not appear proper to press the same charges against the Americans involved; and (c) if the charge of organizing a revolution against a friendly power were pushed, full publicity would ensue during the trials with undesirable results for inter-American relations.

Mention was made that confining the trial to the four individuals charged with theft of Government property would mean that persons who have been bringing planes and perhaps other war material into [Page 1058] the Dominican Republic, in violation of various statutes, would not be apprehended at this time, with the result that they might continue to participate in the clandestine and irregular shipment of arms and aircraft to that country. Note was taken of the fact that some of them have continued to fly aircraft into the Dominican Republic even after questioning by the FBI and the arrest of Eisenhardt16 and his three associates on the theft charge. Ambassador Corrigan expressed concern regarding the seriousness of the action of these flyers. It was pointed out, however, that the actual bringing of the four persons to trial on the theft charge would probably cause the others involved in the plot to desist from their activities, and that if it did not, further consideration could then be given to taking action against them.

Mr. Peterson stated that if any of these individuals were involved in violation of export control laws, he thought MD would take the position they should be prosecuted on this charge. He did not feel that complete publicity on the plot need ensue were charges of export control violation to be pushed. He also doubted that trying the foreigners on this charge would necessarily reveal their complicity in the plot, since it would be in their interest not to mention this, and the prosecution need not bring it out. Mr. Wells said that if it was deemed undesirable for political reasons to prosecute the foreigners concerned, he felt it likewise undesirable to bring the Americans to trial on this charge, since in such trials they would probably make public statements implicating the foreigners as their principals. Mr. Peterson reiterated his view that any violation of the export control law should be punished.

After considerable discussion, it was decided (with Mr. Peterson of MD later reserving MD’s position) to acknowledge the letter of the Department of Justice by stating (1) that the Department has no objection to the immediate prosecution of the four persons already apprehended on the charge of the theft of Government property and (2) that with regard to the institution of additional criminal prosecutions as the result of the alleged revolutionary plot, the Department is of the view that, although investigations of any activities relating to this subject should be continued, it is desirable that prosecutions be held in abeyance, if the Justice Department has discretion in the matter, owing to the international political repercussions which would probably ensue.

  1. Not printed.
  2. George O. Gray, Assistant to the Legal Adviser.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Karl John Eisenhardt, said to have organized a number of commercial companies useful in smuggling weapons, planes, and boats.