The Chargé in Venezuela (Bernbaum) to the Department of State


11. For Holland. Saw Otanez and Estrada separately after your call.1 Although denying Venezuelan participation any plans attack Costa Rica, both flatly refused consider doing anything to protect Figueres. Otanez conceded after lengthy discussion that Department’s intentions laudable and beyond reproach but insisted that Figueres’ conciliatory attitude based only on fear reprisals and would change with elimination danger.

Estrada went further with allegation Figueres still tolerating continued aid plans for uprising in Venezuela and assassination President.

Both discounted importance Betancourt departure Costa Rica as inevitable due internal political situation but felt it could be constructive if future host country could be relied upon to check continued subversive plotting. They definitely felt United States not such a country and that his admission therein would reinforce growing resentment in Venezuelan and other Caribbean countries against United States efforts protect Costa Rica and readiness to build up Betancourt prestige. Although Otanez amenable Betancourt admission on basis reliable guarantees against political activities and declarations, Estrada stated definitely even this unacceptable and certain convince Perez Jimenez that US willfully irritating Venezuela. He queried whether Betancourt important enough to US to risk Venezuelan friendship.

Both unimpressed by our apprehension attack on Costa Rica could lead to serious damage inter-American system. Otanez observed it might be healthy bring differences out into the open even if that should involve division American Republics into two camps. He felt this would have virtue of reinforcing the bonds linking the anti-Communist countries as against the theoretical and tenuous unit now existing. He warned in a friendly manner that our insistence upon protecting Costa Rica even in the name of hemisphere unity could result in serious damage relations with our real friends. He observed that in such case the US would find that it could no longer count upon them in future emergencies such as the one involving Guatemala. Estrada was even more outspoken regarding the strain being placed on our relations with most Caribbean countries with which he was in daily contact. He spoke at length about the President’s resentment over the Department’s appeal to Gonzalez and other Ambassadors help protect Costa Rica. He felt this implied belief complicity their countries in “non-existent” invasion plots.

Estrada then smilingly expressed the firm conviction that Somoza was far too clever to invade Costa Rica. He repeated this a few times [Page 373] as well as the statement that Figueres was fortunate in not bordering on Venezuela. He referred to the possibility of an uprising by the “enraged” Costa Rican populace, expressed the hope that this would take place and stated that he would be careful not to let us know if he knew it were going to take place. He also repeated the threat of instant retaliation at first sign Costa Rican-based attack against Venezuela.

It is difficult to appraise the extent to which our representatives here and in Washington will influence Venezuelan plans for Costa Rica. Present indications are that a Nicaraguan-based “internal” coup may be in the making with Venezuelan moral or financial support. It is also depressingly clear that our relations with the top level of Venezuelan Government have deteriorated badly. It would appear desirable to prevent further deterioration by arranging for a destination other than the US for Betancourt. Gonzalez arriving July 11 for consultation.

  1. No record of this conversation was found in Department of State files. Pedro Estrada Albornoz was Chief of National Security from August 1951.