Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Special Political Problems, Office of Regional American Affairs (Jamison)1

[Subject:] Military Equipment for Costa Rica.

[Participants:] Dr. Alberto Oreamuno, Vice President—Costa Rica
Señor Don J. Rafael Oreamuno, Ambassador–Costa Rica
Colonel Radnor2G–3—Latin American Branch Ambassador Nufer3MID
Mr. Sohoenfeld4ISA
Mr. Siracusa6MID
Mr. Heins—MID
Mr. Jamison7AR

The Vice President of Costa Rica and his brother, Ambassador Oreamuno, called to explore further the question of replacement of arms of the Guardia Civil of Costa Rica with U.S. type equipment. This matter had been gone into in a preliminary way at a meeting in the Pentagon with Assistant Secretary Bendetsen8 of the Department of the Army, during which a general disposition to give sympathetic consideration to the Costa Rican proposition was expressed. This proposition is based upon a recommendation made by the head of the U.S. Army Mission in San Jose, Colonel Alexander,9 to the President of Costa Rica.

With regard to availabilities and pricing of the materials needed for standardization of Costa Rican arms, Colonel Radnor said that certain preliminary surveys had indicated that many types of material called for are probably available and that, as a rough estimate, the total cost would be around $500,000.

The principal problem resulted from what the Costa Rican Vice President said was a suggestion of Colonel Alexander that the varied types of arms now held by the Guardia Civil might be traded for, or at least be used as a basis for a credit upon, purchases by the Costa Ricans of new equipment. It was pointed out to Dr. Oreamuno and the [Page 1322] Ambassador that existing legislation requires payment in cash prior to the transfer of equipment, and that there is no way known to those present in which such a trade would be authorized under existing law or regulations. The only possible path that might be explored would be for the Costa Rican Government to arrange for sale of its present equipment to some private purchaser in the U.S., and use whatever funds it might obtain therefrom to help pay for new equipment. It was indicated that, if this proved at all feasible, it would have to be a completely separate transaction, but that the Department would look into the question of whether there are non-government buyers who might be interested in such purchases.

In the face of the obvious problem created for Costa Rica by the heavy costs which would be involved, the suggestion was made that in presenting the request through the formal channels required, the Costa Rican Government might indicate priorities in categories for contemplated gradual replacement of existing equipment in separate stages. Although disappointed at the unfavorable prospect of their being able to go through with the full program, Dr. Oreamuno indicated that a list of equipment on this basis would be prepared and that Ambassador Oreamuno would present it to the Department for consideration in accordance with existing Mutual Defense Assistance Act10 provisions.

During the conversation Dr. Oreamuno made it clear that a principal reason for his government’s interest in this matter was the desire to render ineffective, through control of supply of ammunition, significant amounts of materiel which have gotten out of the Government’s hands and, presumably, into the hands of real or potential revolutionaries.

  1. The source text is an unsigned copy of the original; it is attached to a letter from Mr. Fred G. Heins of the Office of Middle American Affairs to the Charge in Costa Rica (Williams), May 23, 1951, not printed (718.5/5–2351).
  2. Jess C. Radnor.
  3. Albert F. Nufer, Director, Office of Middle American Affairs.
  4. H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld.
  5. Robert W. Shaw.
  6. Ernest V. Siracusa, Assistant Officer in Charge, Central America and Panama Affairs.
  7. Edward A. Jamison.
  8. Karl R. Bendetsen.
  9. William Alexander.
  10. For text of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act (Public Law 329), approved October 6, 1949, see 63 Stat. 714.