Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of Embassy in El Salvador (Donovan)
- Participants: President Oscar Osorio;
- Ambassador Michael J. McDermott;
- Counselor of Embassy Andrew E. Donovan II.
- Purchase of Arms by Salvadoran Government.
During a conversation with the President on the afternoon of May 31, his previous request for assistance in the immediate purchase of arms in the United States was discussed. A copy in Spanish was delivered to him of a list1 which had been drawn up by the Army Attaché and the Chief of the United States Army Mission2 after consultation [Page 1018] with the Chief of Staff, Col. Escamilla. It was explained that in such purchases, the transportation costs were paid by the receiving government; that normally they would be sent by ship as the expense of air lifting was excessive, but that perhaps certain items might be available in the Canal Zone. It was also pointed out that since his first priority list presumably largely concerned small arms and munitions, they might be available from existing Army stocks and would not necessitate new procurement. Under these circumstances, if agreement of other interested government agencies in Washington was obtained, it might be possible to supply them with payment to be made 60 days after the date of their receipt.
The President said he understood it might not be legally possible to establish a credit, such as he had envisaged, of $2,000,000 for these purchases, adding that the 60-day term for payment was of course only an extension of time but not credit. He said that in view of these circumstances, he would have to select from the lists submitted to Washington those items which were particularly urgent, considering at the same time, delivery dates and prices. He said certain items on the list might have to be omitted at this time and other items again dependent upon prices, such as munitions, increased in size. Consequently, he said he would appreciate receiving information on prices and delivery dates in order that he could make further revision of the list. He said certain items might be purchased now from existing funds and others when provision is made in the budget of next year.
He said that in making his selections in accordance with the funds which might be available 60 days after the date of delivery, he would be guided by the obtention of sufficient military support to back up the political position of the government. He said that El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have no intention of engaging in any actual armed conflict but that he must have the military support which will make his political position respected and which will not allow it to be jeopardized by greater military support on the other side.
Referring to the Military Assistance Agreement, he said that in his concept, it involved the training of Salvadoran forces for continental defense which was quite distinct from the necessity of reinforcing his forces for support of the political position of the government. He said he felt that over a period, perhaps 75,000 Salvadorans might be trained for continental defense and that the matériel supplied by the United States would be used in this general training rather than for the immediate necessities of his troops to confront any unusual situation which may develop in Guatemala.
The President was told that while we could not anticipate the military plan which might be worked out in conjunction with the negotiation of the agreement, it appeared likely that some agreed-upon group, a [Page 1019] company or regiment or any other size unit that might be mutually agreed upon, would be supplied and trained to be ready for continental defense. He said that these matters would naturally be the subject of military discussions but that aside from the question of continental defense, he must provide for the military necessities of any given international situation.