The Secretary of State to the Attorney General (Brownell)1


My Dear Mr. Attorney General: The Department has information that Rómulo Betancourt, who was born at Cuatire, Venezuela, in 1908, is desirous of visiting the United States in order to see his daughter who is studying in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and possibly to visit friends in continental United States.

Mr. Betancourt was President of the Junta which governed Venezuela from 1945 to 1948, and before and since that date he has been Secretary General of the political party Acción Democrática (Democratic Action). Following the overthrow of the Acción Democrática government by a military coup in November 1948, Mr. Betancourt was exiled and his party was outlawed. Since 1952 he has been living in San José, Costa Rica, where he has recently applied for a visa to enter the United States. Allegations have repeatedly been made by certain persons, particularly members of the present Venezuelan regime which overthrew Acción Democrática, that Mr. Betancourt is a communist or communist sympathiser. However, as a result of observation of Mr. Betancourt, both while in office and subsequently, and careful appraisal of available information, the Department [Page 1669] is of the opinion that Mr. Betancourt’s political orientation may best be described as nationalistic, leftist, non-communist, and frequently outspokenly anti-communist. When in power he co-operated with the United States and since that time, while he has occasionally spoken critically of certain policies, it is believed that he is basically friendly toward this country.

Mr. Betancourt has admitted that during the early 1930’s he belonged to the Communist Party of Costa Rica. He has, therefore, been found to be inadmissible under the provisions of Section 212(a)(28) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.2 He withdrew from membership in the party during the late 1930’s.

. . . . . . .

Mr. Betancourt’s presence in Costa Rica and his friendship with the President of that country have recently constituted a source of increased friction between Venezuela and Costa Rica, which if it continues may lead to the outbreak of hostilities in this hemisphere and serious injury to the inter-American system. Such a development would be contrary to the national interests of the United States and would weaken vital support for this country. Mr. Betancourt has of his own free will offered to leave Costa Rica, accompanied by his wife, and following a visit to his daughter and to friends in the United States, he intends to take up residence in a South American country. This proposed move is considered to be very much in the interest of improved inter-American relations and, therefore, in the public interest of the United States. Our failure to permit his entry into this country at this time would interfere with the achievement of this result. It is, therefore, considered urgent and important that Mr. Betancourt be permitted to come to the United States, notwithstanding the uncompleted investigation cited in the preceding paragraph.

It is requested, therefore, that you exercise your discretionary authority for the temporary admission of Mr. Betancourt under Section 212 (d)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Inasmuch as the Department has been informed that Mr. Betancourt desires to arrive in the United States on July 22 or at the very earliest moment thereafter, your urgent attention in the matter would be appreciated.3

Sincerely yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Henry F. Holland

Assistant Secretary
  1. Drafted by Mr. Davis.
  2. Public Law 414, approved June 27, 1952; for text, see 66 Stat. 163.
  3. Attorney General Brownell granted the required waiver for a period of 90 days, and Señor Betancourt entered the United States at Miami on July 26, 1954.