MannWoodward files, lot 57 D 598, “Venezuela”

Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Woodward) to the Ambassador in Venezuela, Temporarily in Washington (Warren)1


I understand that we have not yet answered the Venezuelan queries as to (a) what would we do if the vessel we planned to stop2 had a naval escort of its flag country, and (b) would the area of search be as large as the Rio Treaty area.

With respect to the answer to (a), we must assume—and I believe that we may do so securely—that this situation will not arise in the case of any vessel other than, possibly, a vessel of a Communist country. If the vessel of a non-Communist country were accompanied by a naval escort, we must expect that the non-Communist government is so fully aware of the activities of the vessel concerned and that it is not engaged in clandestine trade or in other activities that would be contrary to the interests of the free world. To substantiate this point of view, we have indications from the European maritime nations that the United States Government has approached on this problem that they are prepared to give full cooperation in preventing the shipment of arms to Guatemala.3

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With respect to the possibility that a vessel of a Communist country might be accompanied by a naval escort, this would be such a patent indication of direct military collaboration between the Communist bloc and Guatemala that it could be construed as an open defiance of inter-American defense measures. If this highly hypothetical situation were to arise, it would seem reasonable to assert, equally hypothetically, that this display of force would need to be met with force. It would be reasonable to interpret the presence of a naval escort as a specific indication that a substantial shipment of arms was being carried by the vessel escorted.

With respect to (b) while the area of search constitutes a matter to be worked out among the American Republics, I would assume that it would not be larger than the Rio Treaty area and might be entirely in the Caribbean area and off the Pacific coast of Guatemala. (We have made this same observation in response to a query from the Chilean Government.)

I believe you received these queries from the Venezuelans in oral discussion with them. Therefore, you may wish to determine what method should be used for transmitting the reply.

  1. Drafted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Enter-American Affairs Woodward; redrafted by Assistant Legal Adviser for Inter-American Affairs Marjorie M. Whiteman.
  2. En route to Guatemala, and suspected of carrying military supplies.
  3. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1111 ff.