6. Letter From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Ambassador in Costa Rica (Woodward)1

Dear Bob : The Under Secretary has referred your letter of October 5, 1956 concerning implementation of the internal security program in Costa Rica to ARA for appropriate handling. We all greatly appreciate the rapidity with which you have responded to the OCB paper sent you by the Under Secretary on September 17. This will be in the nature of a tentative reply to some of the points raised in your letter which will require further consideration and action here in Washington.

I will communicate with you separately regarding the tie-in you make between this internal security program and the current efforts to undermine the principal center of communist strength in Costa Rica, namely the labor movement in the Pacific banana zone of the country. The two programs are necessarily handled by different people here in Washington.

The OCB Working Group which prepared the 1290–d paper did, as you surmised, take into consideration the international political implications of US efforts to strengthen the Costa Rican security forces and was fully aware of the risks involved. The current situation is such as to make any immediate survey unwise, in my opinion, and I believe we should do nothing in this connection for the time being. I note that the final paper omitted a provision which the Working Group tried valiantly to include, to the effect that the timing of the survey should depend on relative country priorities and would be influenced by progress in implementing other parts of the program. This would have provided greater flexibility as intended. Nevertheless, the general situation in Central America, especially the uncertainty in Nicaragua as an aftermath of Somoza’s assassination2 and the absence from Costa Rica of President Figueres, would make it undesirable to approach the Costa Rican Government immediately on the question of an internal security survey. At the proper time, however, all that is needed to proceed is a formal request from the appropriate authorities. Contrary to the thought expressed in your letter, ICA has funds available for this program. Procedures have been worked out here in Washington to carry out these [Page 32] surveys through ICA, and funds and personnel can be made available within a reasonable period after a decision to proceed is taken. Limited funds are also available to carry out the recommendations of the survey group when required. It would be our hope that the Costa Rican Government could be convinced that remedial measures would be in its own interest rather than in ours, and consequently be willing to put up the necessary funds. I recognize the problems involved here, however, and this is a bridge we can cross when we come to it.

With respect to Paragraph 48 of the 1290–d paper, everyone recognizes that the Embassy will have to proceed with the greatest caution in the face of Costa Rican traditions and prejudices. We are requesting that the material you asked for be sent you separately. As I indicated above, we all appreciate the prompt attention you have given this project. Now that its base has been set, I believe future correspondence on the details of implementation could best be handled through regular despatches and telegrams. If there are any unusual problems which should not receive wide distribution, however, of course write directly to me concerning them.

Sincerely yours,

R. R. Rubottom, Jr. 3
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Latin America, 1956. Top Secret: Official–Informal.
  2. President Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua was shot on September 21, 1956; he died September 29.
  3. Printed from a copy which bears this typed signature.