Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President


Subject: Resumption of Diplomatic Relations with Bolivia

In the Bolivian Presidential election of May 6 the Administration candidate1 came in second in a field of six, and the largest number of votes (43%) was obtained by an opposite party, the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR),2 which had a long record of undemocratic practices and principles and which was supported by Bolivia’s [Page 1151] small Communist party. The vote for the MNR was not sufficient for outright victory under the Bolivian Constitution, but that party declared its intention to seize power by force if denied it by Constitutional procedures for resolving such electoral deadlocks.3

On May 15–16 the Constitutional President of Bolivia4 voluntarily resigned and turned his power over to the Bolivian Army, which designated a Junta of Army officers5 to assume the executive functions of the government. The President stated that he had taken this step to preserve democracy in Bolivia from those who would have made a mockery of it (by which he meant the MNR). The Junta announced that it would seek to keep the peace in Bolivia and preserve her democratic institutions, and it promised that its stay in power would be brief.

From appearances to date the Junta has met the criteria which the United States has applied in other recent cases involving the recognition of Latin American governments which have come to power through irregular procedures. It has established its authority over Bolivian territory, with the substantial acquiescence of the people, it has declared its intent to honor Bolivia’s international obligations, and its assumption of power has not been due to any external influences. A resumption of US-Bolivian diplomatic relations would therefore be consistent with our policy, and I believe that it is desirable from the viewpoint of our national interests.

It will be important to time our action so that we shall not be among the last Western Hemisphere countries to resume relations. The Junta has already been recognized by Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, and Spain. Brazilian recognition is expected soon. In conformance with recent practice it is planned to give the other American republics and certain European countries advance notice of our intentions, and it is believed that most of those which have not recognized the new Junta by the time we do so will shortly follow our example.

Inasmuch as timing is an important factor, I recommend that you authorize me to announce resumption of relations with Bolivia at such early date as may be appropriate.6

Dean Acheson
  1. Gabriel Gosálvez.
  2. The MNR’s candidate was Victor Paz Estenssoro, who was then in political exile.
  3. Under the Bolivian constitution, in order to become president a candidate had to win a majority of the votes cast in the presidential election. If no candidate received the required majority, the constitution provided for the selection of a president by the Bolivian congress from among those candidates receiving the highest percentages of the vote.
  4. Mamerto Urriolagoitia.
  5. General Hugo Ballivián assumed leadership of the Junta.
  6. Marginal notation on source text: “Approved 6/1/51 Harry S. Truman.” As reported in despatch 1010, from La Paz, June 7, the United States officially resumed diplomatic relations with the government of Bolivia on June 7, 1951 (611.24/6–751).