Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. William P. Hudson of the Office of South American Affairs


Subject: Departmental Policy on Recommendations of United Nations Technical Mission1

Participants: Dr. Hugh Keenleyside, Director General of UN Technical Assistance Administration
Mr. John D. Hickerson, Assistant Secretary for United Nations Affairs
Dr. Henry G. Bennett, Administrator of TCA
Assistant Secretary Miller—ARA
Miss Eleanor Dennison—UNE
Mr. Benjamin Hardy—TCA
Mr. William P. Hudson—OSA

Referring to a letter2 in which Dr. Keeneyside had asked for a meeting to exchange views about technical assistance to Bolivia, with particular regard to the report of the United Nations technical mission,3 Mr. Hickerson said that the Department agreed with many of the recommendations of the Keenleyside mission but that, as Dr. Keenleyside had himself realized, the Department could not give any blanket endorsement to them. In fact, while the Department would certainly not oppose Bolivian acceptance of the mission’s recommendations, it could not put any pressure on the Bolivians to accept them. The Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, Mr. Hickerson said, felt that the proposal to place UN administrative assistants in Bolivian Government [Page 1156] Ministries was particularly significant, and he wondered if Dr. Keenleyside would elaborate on this aspect of the mission’s plan.

Dr. Keenleyside said that every effort had been made to work out the administrative assistance aspect of the UN plan in a way which would make it fully acceptable to Bolivia. The plan called for placing one UN technical expert in each Ministry at the Under Secretary (Official Mayor) level. This officer would work with the Bolivian Under Secretary of that Ministry and with the Minister himself within a framework of action and policy outlined in advance in the contract between the United Nations and Bolivia. The UN expert would not receive orders from the United Nations or even be in communication with the United Nations under ordinary circumstances except once a year, when an annual report would be made to the UN. However, if the UN expert felt that any case of disagreement between himself and his Bolivian colleagues involved a breach of the original contract, he could refer the case to the chief of the UN party in Bolivia, who would be known as the Coordinator and would be a special assistant to the President. (Although Dr. Keenleyside did not further elaborate on this point, it is understood that such cases, if not settled by the Coordinator and the President, would be referred to the United Nations, which might then terminate the contract with Bolivia if it saw fit.) The salaries of the UN experts would be paid in part by Bolivia and in part indirectly by the United Nations, which would supply the Bolivian Government with foreign currency for this purpose. Asked about the nationalities of the UN experts, Dr. Keenleyside replied that they would be picked from various countries but that the Coordinator would not be American, British, or Canadian, nor could he be a citizen of any country bordering on Bolivia; he would probably be a Scandinavian.

The proposal regarding administrative assistance, Dr. Keenleyside said, was the keystone of the program recommended by the UN technical mission. He felt that this program offered the only possible solution for Bolivia’s difficulties, and said that he hoped to receive United States support in his attempts to persuade the Bolivians to accept the program. Mr. Hickerson reiterated that the United States must remain neutral on this issue.

Dr. Keenleyside then asked whether the United States would continue to bail Bolivia out of her recurrent crises by large loans. Mr. Miller replied that the United States had never done this, but that in any event the United States would not apply economic sanctions to make the Bolivians accept the recommendations of the Keenleyside mission.

Dr. Keenleyside then took up the question of technical assistance, stating that he was concerned lest a major expansion in the U.S. Point IV program might not be seized upon by the Bolivians as an excuse [Page 1157] for rejecting the less palatable but more fundamental program proposed by the United Nations. Dr. Bennett and others assured him that the United States would continue to try to make its technical assistance program fit so far as possible into the recommendations of the Keenleyside mission.

Mr. Miller made it clear to Dr. Keenleyside that the United States would not use either financial or technical assistance to Bolivia in such a way as to impede Bolivian acceptance of the UN recommendations.

Dr. Keenleyside said that he understood that Ambassador Florman had told the Bolivian Government in effect that Bolivia did not need to worry about the recommendations of the UN mission because the United States would take care of Bolivia. Mr. Miller expressed surprise at this statement, but said that he would write a letter4 to the Embassy to make it quite clear that Embassy officials should in no way oppose Bolivian acceptance of the UN recommendations.5

[Here follow remarks by Dr. Keenleyside concerning the current status of negotiations between the UN and Bolivia.]

  1. A position paper on this subject, dated June 25, 1951, drafted by Mr. Hudson in preparation for the meeting which is reported in the instant memorandum, is attached to a memorandum by Mr. Hudson to Mr. Miller, dated June 25, 1951, not printed (365.4/6–2251).
  2. Not printed.
  3. For the mission’s report, see United Nations, Report of the Mission of Technical Assistance to Bolivia (New York, 1951).
  4. No copy of Mr. Miller’s letter could be found in the Department of State files. However, a letter to Mr. Miller dated July 6, 1951, from the Chargé in Bolivia (Maleady), reads in part as follows:

    “You may be assured that, as directed in your letter of June 29th, officers of the Embassy will be instructed to maintain strict neutrality on the question of whether the Bolivian Government should accept the recommendations of the UN Technical Mission.” (398.00/7–651)

  5. On October 1, 1951, the Bolivian Government signed an agreement with the United Nations providing for the implementation of the technical assistance recommendations of the so-called “Keenleyside report.”