334. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Conference Between President Kennedy and Venezuelan President Betancourt—Dominican Republic Situation


  • The President
  • Ambassador Chester Bowles
  • Mr. C. Allan Stewart, Charge d’Affaires ad interim
  • Mr. Robert F. Woodward, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
  • Mr. Teodoro Moscoso, Assistant Administrator for Latin America of the Agency for International Development
  • Mr. Richard Goodwin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs
  • Mr. Harold Linder, President of Export-Import Bank of Washington
  • Mr. Fernando van Reigersberg, LS staff interpreter
  • President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela
  • Dr. Marcos Falcón Briceno, Foreign Minister of Venezuela
  • Dr. Andres German Otero, Minister of Finance of Venezuela
  • General Antonio Briceno Linares, Minister of Defense of Venezuela
  • Dr. Jose Antonio Mayobre, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States
  • Dr. Alejandro Oropeza Castillo, Governor of the Federal District of Venezuela
  • Dr. Manuel Perez Guerrero, Chief, Office of Coordination and Planning, Venezuelan Government

The meeting convened at 5:15 p.m. on December 16, 1961, at Los Nunez, began with a discussion of the Dominican Republic situation and the Cuban problem. Other subjects were discussed subsequently.

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Dominican Republic Situation

The Dominican question was the first topic discussed. President Kennedy outlined United States efforts to bring the Dominican Republic toward a provisional democratic government, which would rule until free elections could be held later in 1962. He said that he had talked to Deputy Assistant Secretary Morales Carrión and Consul John Hill the night before in Puerto Rico, that they had returned to Santo Domingo immediately afterwards and that Mr. Hill was to meet with President Balaguer this very day. He discussed the difficulties in bringing the democratic opposition parties into agreement with the Balaguer government and said that agreement appeared to be near for naming a provisional junta. President Kennedy thought that the opposition parties should unite and agree to present a common front and that President Balaguer should form a provisional junta immediately. He should also make a speech to the nation stating that he would resign on a certain date but that his resignation would be the result of his own decision and not forced on him by the opposition parties. After a coalition government is formed, the United States would support the lifting of economic sanctions and the resumption of diplomatic relations.

President Kennedy indicated that it was very useful for the United States, Venezuela, and Colombia to work together in this matter. In twenty-four or forty-eight hours he would know more about the success or failure of Mr. Hill’s mission. The United States would keep in touch with President Betancourt and keep him informed of the latest developments. Unquestionably, the difficult man to deal with would be General Rodríguez Echevarría. It would be necessary to persuade Balaguer and Rodríguez of the need for Balaguer to resign. The opposition parties would have to be persuaded to form a workable coalition and a date for Balaguer’s resignation would have to be set. If Balaguer refused to resign or if General Rodríguez opposed the plan, the problem would be much more serious and acute than at the present time.

President Kennedy said there would be, in any case, a waiting period before sanctions were lifted and in the meantime, efforts would continue to be made by the United States to induce Balaguer to leave the presidency some time during the winter if the provisional junta idea were accepted by the negotiating factions. He requested President Betancourt to use his influence to persuade Balaguer to leave office and to persuade the opposition groups to cooperate in reaching a satisfactory solution.

President Betancourt stated that he had followed Dominican developments very closely. His prediction that the death of Trujillo would not be followed by Castroism had proven to be correct. When the United States sent its destroyers to the Dominican Republic, Venezuela considered [Page 691] sending some of her ships but decided that it would not be necessary.

President Betancourt said the procedure indicated by President Kennedy met with the approval of the Venezuelan Government. He said he was disposed to send a personal message to President Balaguer and General Rodríguez Echevarría urging them to accept the proposal presented by the opposition parties with United States approval. He stated that General Rodríguez is a very ambitious man. There is a clear and present danger that he may wish to follow in Trujillo’s footsteps. It is very fortunate that the three main parties opposing Balaguer are on excellent terms with him (Betancourt) and have written to him on several occasions. He had sent his personal envoy to Santo Domingo recently to inquire into the situation and would send him again if it were necessary to induce Balaguer to remain as President only transitorily. It was decided to wait at least 48 hours before any action be taken in view of present indications that some arrangement might be reached between Balaguer and the opposition parties.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 739.00/12-1661. Secret. Drafted by Charles A. Stewart of the Embassy, Fernando van Reigersberg (LS), and Sam Moskowitz (ARA/ESA) and approved in the White House on February 6, 1962.