348. Editorial Note

Documentation on relations between the United States and Paraguay is being printed in an accompanying microform publication. A narrative summary based on that documentation is provided below, along with a purport list of the documents published in the microform supplement. The document numbers cited in the summary correspond to the document numbers in the purport list and the microform supplement.

During the final years of the Eisenhower administration, U.S. relations with Paraguay experienced no extraordinary departures from normal; indeed, the issues discussed and the policies pursued reflected the same concerns as in the preceding and succeeding periods.

At the outset, Ambassador Walter C. Ploeser set the tone in a letter to Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Roy Rubottom. The primary concern of the United States was to avoid the possibility of any disorderly change in the Paraguayan Government which might open the door to Communist infiltration of the government. (PA–1) President Stroessner, who had seized power in a coup in 1954, would have to employ all of the political sagacity and astuteness at his command to defeat the threat of unrest stemming from Communist provocations. Ploeser was quick to point to Stroessner’s constant support for the United States in the world arena, even at the risk of alienating his own neighbors, yet the Ambassador and his colleagues were skeptical of the President’s assurances that he was leading the country in the direction of gradual democratization. Ploeser urged impetus for economic projects which would aid Paraguay, chiefly by improving the infrastructure of the country. He also asserted the constant and continuing theme of the United States in dealing with Stroessner that the U.S. goal was to ensure the stability of Paraguay by supporting the country and its people, but not necessarily the Stroessner government. Support for democracy in Paraguay did not mean showing favors to the current regime there. (PA–3)

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In September 1958, Paraguay attempted to exert a little leverage to gain U.S. attention when it registered complaints about U.S. aid to Bolivia at a time when that country was expressing interest in recognition of the Soviet Union. (PA–5, 6) Foreign Minister Raul Sapena Pastor said that lack of U.S. economic assistance might force Paraguay to turn to Soviet bloc countries and commented on the seeming incongruity of aid to Bolivia rather than to Paraguay, even though the latter had no dealings with any Communist states. The Department of State’s response was to put forcefully to Paraguayan officials the position that efforts to play East vs. West were inappropriate.

On September 25, 1958, Sapena met with Rubottom in Washington. (PA–7) The atmosphere was cordial. The Foreign Minister stressed Paraguay’s support for the United States especially in terms of air bases should the United States desire that. Rubottom emphasized the need for Paraguay to eliminate the “authoritarian” character of its government and stressed that the American press referred to Paraguay as a dictatorship. For his part, Sapena again complained of U.S. aid to Paraguay’s nemesis, Bolivia, while Paraguay preserved a more staunch anti-Communist posture. Rubottom reassured him that military aid to Bolivia was minute, that the system of inter-American guarantees made unthinkable any aggression by Bolivia, and that economic assistance to that country had to be seen in the light of a larger effort to aid the whole regional economy and shore up the free world.

A year later, Ploeser, close to the end of his tour, could state that the United States had been successful in stabilizing the local economy and nurturing Paraguayan friendship for the United States. (PA–8) He was also able to say that no endorsement had been made of the Stroessner regime, but had to admit that pressures to move the government toward greater political liberalism had not been measurably successful. The United States, he reminded the Department, could only urge strongly; it could not intervene.

In September 1960, Ploeser’s successor, Henry Stimpson, came to Washington for talks and met with Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas C. Mann. (PA–12) Stimpson felt that “the troublesome stigma of dictatorship of the Stroessner government notwithstanding, the United States should pursue a policy of working with the [Stroessner] regime.” In addition, the United States should press for free elections and a generally more liberal atmosphere in Asuncion. Leftist infiltration would have to be prevented, he said, but once that threat was curbed, the U.S. Government should urge Paraguay to reduce its armed forces and use the manpower thus liberated for projects such as road building and maintenance. The Paraguayan economy by and large was in dismal shape, said Stimpson, and Mann agreed that the United States would have to continue to help.