The Deputy Director of the Office of South American Affairs (Bennett) to the Ambassador in Venezuela (Warren)

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Dear Fletch: We have been giving some thought to the military staff talks with Venezuela, which were begun in March 1951 but never concluded, and wondering whether this would not be an appropriate time to propose that they be resumed. Before even asking the people in Defense whether they would like to have us arrange for further conversations, we would like your informal comment on the advisability of doing so at this time.

As you will recall, the March 1951 talks which took place at Panama resulted in a memorandum document which was drawn up ad referendum. Arrangements were made to renew the conversations on November 5, 1951, and Lt. Gen. Morris was to visit Venezuela in that connection, but at the last moment, Col. Moreno, speaking on behalf of himself and Col. Pérez Jiménez, indicated that more favorable terms of payment for military equipment must be granted by the U.S. before the conversations could continue. It became evident that failure to receive military equipment promptly and to the extent requested by the Venezuelan Military was an even more important factor influencing the thinking of Col. Pérez Jiménez and his Chief of Staff. Our proposal to resume the talks either in December 1951 or January 1952 did not meet with Venezuelan approval. I also note from your despatch 1182 of February 1, 19521 that during a conversation which you and Col. Shaw had with Col. Pérez Jiménez, the latter replied to your question regarding resumption of the talks by stating that he hoped to give you an answer soon, after discussing it with his Chief of Staff.

As a result of vigorous and continued efforts by the State Department, improved terms of payment were offered the Venezuelans in a note of February 8, 1952,2 and somewhat higher priority, as well as more prompt administrative handling of the Venezuelan requests for [Page 1642] military equipment was granted by the Department of Defense. (The delays had also been due to ineffective and careless handling of orders by the Venezuelan military attachés in Washington, and this procedure was likewise improved.)

Despite these efforts on our part and Col. Pérez Jiménez’ statement to you that he had hoped to give you an answer soon, it appears that he has not brought the subject up again and that during the past twelve months there has been no progress toward renewal of the talks. I note that you have in your files a copy of a memorandum of conversation dated March 19, 19523 between Lt. Col. Bryde4 of G–3 and Messrs. Bernbaum, Mackay, and Davis in which it was agreed that it would be wiser not to take the initiative in raising the question of further talks until the Venezuelans had actually received some of the M–18 tanks and so had tangible evidence of our willingness to fill their requests. It was realized that some of the equipment being provided was not needed by Venezuela to fulfill its defense role but was being demanded by that country as the price of its resumption of the talks. It was thought that after delivery of some of this matériel the Venezuelans could be told that agreement on a plan for protection of the oil fields5 would place the U.S. participants in the talks in a better position to support Venezuelan requests for additional equipment. Finally, in a conversation with Col. Bryde on July 10, 1952,6 Mr. Davis again expressed our opinion that it would be best to wait until some of the M–18’s had arrived on Venezuelan soil, but stated that if Defense wished to raise the question sooner, we would be glad to obtain your advice as to timing.

In the foregoing paragraphs I have set forth our understanding of the status of this problem, and would appreciate your comments as to whether this is a correct summary. I judge that the subject has not been raised by either country during the past year. While I suppose it would be too much to hope for real political stability in the near future in Venezuela, Col. Pérez Jiménez, who has so far made the real decisions, is not confirmed by the Constituent Assembly as Provisional President, and he has recently seemed to desire to work more closely with the U.S. We in turn have done as well as we are likely able to do in granting Venezuelan requests of interest to the Military. Therefore, from this distance, the time would seem to be as propitious as any we might choose to arrange for the resumption of the staff talks. Before ascertaining whether Defense has any reason for not wishing to reopen the matter at this time, we would appreciate your appraisal.

Very sincerely yours,

  1. Not printed, but see the memorandum of conversation, Jan. 31, 1952, p. 1587, transmitted under cover of despatch 1182.
  2. Apparent reference to the memorandum cited in footnote 4, p. 1598.
  3. Not printed (731.5/3–1952).
  4. Walter J. Bryde.
  5. Documents pertaining to this subject are in file 831.2553.
  6. Not printed (731.5/7–1052).