MannWoodward files, lot 57 D 598, “Venezuela”

The Ambassador in Venezuela (Warren) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann)


Dear Tom: I saw President Pérez Jiménez Saturday morning at 9:30 in keeping with the appointment which I had requested. I took along George Phelan1 in order to have someone with me truly bilingual who could help me out in case I got stuck for a Spanish word and who would be in a position to get any intonation or implication of the [Page 1648] President that I might miss. George and I were with him for about 35 or 40 minutes. I was able to cover all the points that I had decided upon before hand. I found the President, at the beginning of the conversation, a bit reserved. Both George and I are inclined to believe that that attitude is explained by the President’s expectation that we were going to bring up the Penzini Hernández article concerning Jack Cabot.2 As soon as the President saw that we were not raising that matter, his friendliness left nothing to be desired. He was very much on the qui vive and well informed in what he said. I was particularly pleased with the understanding of the matters raised as revealed by his expression, both facial and oral. He gets to be more the President each time I see him.

  • First, I brought up the visit of Dr. Milton Eisenhower.3 I stated who the members of the party would be and the purpose of the visit. I told him in a general way what the Embassy expects to do during the visit and added that a member of the Embassy staff would be in touch with the Foreign Office during the present week to be sure that we all kept in step on the program to be set up. (Let me state at this point that thus far nothing has been said about Armed Forces Day on June 24 by anyone in the Foreign Office or the Presidency. However, we believe that ceremonies for the occasion will be held.) The President made it clear that his Government welcomes the visit of Dr. Eisenhower and will do all it can to make his stay here a success. Although I had mentioned Mr. Cabot’s name in particular along with that of Mr. Bennett, the President did not refer to him. Both George Phelan and I are inclined to believe that the President’s failure to mention Mr. Cabot was a simple omission. In connection with the President’s reference to Dr. Eisenhower, both George and I felt that the President had in mind the article of Dr. Juan Penzini Hernández alleging approaches by Mr. Cabot to Latin American Communists or radicals and leftists in exile. However, he did not mention Penzini when saying that occasional articles appear in the local press which are unfriendly to the United States, but that the censorship here is limited to the publication of items or news related to internal politics or domestic affairs. The President went on to mention that certain papers and magazines in the United States, such as the New York Times, Time, Fortune, and others, publish articles most unpleasant to the present Government of Venezuela, but that it is well understood here that such articles do not reflect the United States Government’s opinion and that, because of the existence of the free press in the United States, our Government cannot prevent the publication of such articles. George and I are of [Page 1649] the opinion that the little President handled his end of the conversation very well indeed, but that we surprised him in not bringing up Penzini or his article.
  • Secondly, I took the opportunity to make an explanation regarding the Simpson Act4 and proposals to restrict the importation of fuel oil in the United States. I tried to make plain that the proposals were not aimed at Venezuela in particular and were the result of developments in the United States affecting a considerable percentage of the people of our country. I also touched on the political situation facing President Eisenhower in the American congress because of the small majority which the Republicans have in the House and Senate. I mentioned the good work done by the Executive power, the State Department, and American citizens in setting forth the facts of the oil situation to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives. In effect, I bragged a little bit about how pleased I was with the efforts made by Americans in business in Venezuela to see that the truth about this matter is known in the United States. I stated that it looked as though we (Venezuelans and Americans) would have a year in which to present properly the true situation in order to avoid the imposition twelve months from now of the Simpson or other similar restrictions. I emphasized that it is a mutual problem and one that will call for the best study and attention that can be given by both Venezuelans and Americans. I said that I would try to see that American citizens here in Venezuela do not sound off in such a way as to make our problem in the United States more difficult. I did not mention Venezuelans in this connection but the President got the point.

I found the President well informed with respect to the Simpson proposal and other restrictive measures. He readily admitted that it was a mutual problem. He stated however that he and other members of the Government are rather optimistic for several reasons. First, they are sure that President Eisenhower would not like to see such a law enacted during the first year of his administration. Pérez Jiménez therefore trusts that President Eisenhower will exert his influence to prevent congressional enactment of any of the restrictive proposals. Secondly, President Eisenhower, as a soldier, realizes better than many others that it is important for the United States to preserve its oil reserves within its own territory for emergency cases, as suggested by the Chiefs of Staff. Furthermore, it is of vital interest to important sectors of the U.S. public that the economy of Venezuela be maintained at the present high level. With regard to the possible recurrence of the demand from independent oil and coal producers in the United States [Page 1650] next year for restriction, President Pérez Jiménez considers the demand from the coal producers a negligible one because he believes that limitation of oil imports would not induce the American people to use coal instead of oil; and he further considers that, as far as the independent oil producers are concerned, the Venezuelan policy should be to make every effort to arouse an interest in the exploitation of oil in Venezuela. Finally, that enactment of such restrictive measures could be detrimental to the present friendly relations between Venezuela and the United States and most likely would have undesirable influence on our relations with other Latin American countries. President Pérez Jiménez academically understands the relations between our President and the American congress but it was evident to both George and me that, despite what I had said, he still thinks our President should be able to handle the American congress in the same way that he would handle the Venezuelan Senate and Chamber. The President seemed to admit that this is a problem for both Venezuela and the United States, that Washington has done what it could thus far, that Americans and Venezuelans here have been on the alert and active, and that the next 12 months are the trying time. I am afraid that I did not impress him as I had hoped with a need for understandng the political importance of this matter to our own Government. In all of this, he was thinking as a soldier and not as a politician responsible to an electorate. I am sure that during the next 12 months, in speaking to the President, I shall have to go back often to this subject.

My main purpose in seeing the President was to bring up the Air Agreement. I will discuss that in another letter5 to you under today’s date.

At the close of our conversation, the President brought up his desire to obtain quickly ammunition for the tanks which Venezuela bought from us last year, I told him he could count on my assistance, and that of the Military Attaché.6 I have asked Colonel Haley to prepare me a memorandum on the subject (which he has done). I am forwarding a copy of that memorandum to Mr. Jamison under cover of a separate letter7 and asking him to do what he can to expedite the shipment of ammunition.

To end up my visit with the President, I, at the request of the Governor of Arkansas, delivered to the President a document conferring upon him the title of “Arkansas Traveler” and making him an Ambassador of good will on behalf of Arkansas to the people of this country. It was quite a pretentious document with plenty of colored ribbon and a gold seal. The President was evidently pleased and said that he would write me a letter accepting the designation and send the communication [Page 1651] through channels so that I could pass it on to the Governor of Arkansas. It was nice to be able to end the audience with the President on this pleasant note.

George and I agree that it was a satisfactory visit and I am glad to have it a matter of record.

Cordially and sincerely yours,

  1. George R. Phelan, Attaché, Caracas.
  2. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.
  3. Dr. Eisenhower visited Venezuela June 23–26, 1953, as part of a larger factfinding mission undertaken at the request of President Eisenhower. For additional information concerning the mission, see the editorial note, p. 196.
  4. No “Simpson Act” has been identified. Ambassador Warren may have been referring to one of several restrictive tariff bills introduced into the 83rd Congress, 1st session, by Representative Richard M. Simpson (R.–Pa.), possibly H.R. 5495, a bill to extend the President’s authority to modify tariffs under the Trade Agreements Act. H.R. 5495 became Public Law 215, approved Aug. 7, 1953; for text, see 67 Stat. 472.
  5. Infra.
  6. Lt. Col. Charles L. Haley, 3d.
  7. Neither printed.