Caracas Embassy Files, Lot 64 F 14, “400–Defense Talks US & Ven, 1950–1952”

The Ambassador in Venezuela (Warren) to the Officer in Charge of North and West Coast Affairs (Bernbaum)

top secret

Dear Maurie: I refer to your letter of November 13, 1951,2 concerning the Military Grant Aid Program under the Mutual Security Act. In conformity with the last paragraph of your letter; I have taken no action since you passed on this information to me as of possible assistance in the event that the Department of Defense concurred, in which case the Embassy would then be instructed to discuss it with the Venezuelan Government. A letter2 just received from Tom Mann expresses his personal belief that our plans should be explained to the Venezuelans as soon as possible.

I consider that the timing of our approach to the Venezuelans on this subject is of paramount importance. As you are aware, there are three problems now pending: 1) The terms that we will impose for the payment of the military equipment and materiel which Venezuela wishes to purchase from the United States; 2) The date when General Morris will come to Caracas to continue the Panama talks; and 3) The visit of the Minister of Defense to the United States.

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It is difficult to predict what would be the reaction of the Venezuelans should we approach them now on the Military Grant Aid Program prior to the successful conclusion of the three problems enumerated. Certainly we could anticipate that they would be much more exigent regarding the terms for installment payments. They would expect that, if we are prepared to give grant aid to the other Latin American countries, we should be most generous in our terms of payment to Venezuela which will pay. On the other hand, were the installment payments problem satisfactorily disposed of, had General Morris successfully concluded his talks in Caracas, and had Colonel Pérez Jiménez terminated a successful and informative visit to the United States, we might then expect that the suggested approach would be reluctantly accepted.

I say reluctantly because the Venezuelans must consider the cost of the equipment and materiel. Estimates run from over $25,000,000 to in excess of $100,000,000, in which case a contribution by the United States would undoubtedly be not only welcome but also needed. It is one thing for Venezuela to express a willingness to pay for military supplies when everybody else is required to do so. However, it would be an entirely different matter to persist in such willingness should the financial shoe pinch hard and were relief being granted to the other Latin American countries. In fact, it is this very financial question, we surmise, that is causing the Venezuelans to make haste slowly with respect to the proposed discussions with General Morris in Caracas. Actually, we believe that they do not wish to fix a date for those conversations until they have received from us definite information on the financial commitments that would be involved in the purchase of the equipment and materiel. In this connection it should be recalled that the statement included in the Panama Document was to the effect that it is understood that Venezuela would be prepared to reimburse the United States for the materiel requested. However, it is equally true that the latter document must be ratified by both governments, which step has not yet taken place. In the light of the development of grant aid to Latin America, the Venezuelan Government might appropriately wish to modify the language in the Panama Document.

Our thinking on timing is along the following lines. Eddie Sparks will endeavor to contact Colonel Moreno tomorrow or early next week and inform him of the payment terms as outlined in Bain Davis’ letter of December 4,3 stressing that they are only indications of what we are prepared to do and are subject to future negotiation on the individual items involved. Should Eddie be successful in convincing Colonel Moreno of our desire to cooperate and be helpful, as well as the reasonableness of the terms—which is the principal stumbling [Page 1671] block to the proposed conversations of General Morris in Caracas— we could then go on to the next step which would be the invitation to Colonel Perez Jimenez to visit the United States in January. I would deliver this invitation in person to Colonel Perez Jimenez and, in the expectation that he would be gratified with this distinction, I could then explain to him our policy on Military Grant Aid to Latin America along the lines suggested in your letter of November 13, 1951. If we hold to this timing, we would then be somewhat hopeful that we might be able to discourage a request by Venezuela for inclusion in the Grant Aid Program.4

Sincerely yours,

Fletcher Warren
  1. Source text originally dated December 5, but handcorrected to read December 6.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. In a letter to Ambassador Warren, dated December 11, 1951, Mr. Bernbaum stated in part the following: “Although Venezuelan agreement to the resumption of staff talks would certainly be desirable prior to any conversation on military grant aid, I am wondering whether we can continue to wait for the period of time which may be necessary. I am, therefore, inclined to suggest that you take advantage of the opportunity offered by the extension of an invitation to Colonel Pérez Jiménez to visit the United States to bring up the subject of military grant aid. I understand that authorization to extend the invitation will be telegraphed by the Department of Defense on or about December 14.” (Caracas Embassy Files, Lot 64 F 14, “400–Defense Talks US & Ven, 1950–1952”)