338. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Dominican Republic1

885. As soon as possible upon your return and unless your estimate current situation suggests different course action (in which case you should advise Dept immediately) you should speak to Rodriguez Echavarria along following lines:

We believe that with departure Balaguer he may be only man in position to move DR rapidly along road to democratization. This is great historical opportunity which we are hopeful he will take. Any other course will inevitably lead to increasing tension, unrest, etc., and make it impossible for US follow through on intention assist social and economic development DR. These conditions will not only prevent him from gaining stature in hemisphere as friend of democracy, but, by setting the military against the people, will seriously endanger position of military establishment when, as is inevitable, civilian rule is restored. On other hand, if he acts rapidly to restore civilian rule he and military will be credited for having preserved order and constitutional government.

His action in removing six-man council and setting up new council evidently under his control is compelling us to reconsider entire range of our political and economic policies toward DR. Raises such basic questions as recognition of government established by apparently unconstitutional means; desirability and legal possibility, under existing circumstances, of authorizing further purchases under windfall quota, [Page 695] which once lost cannot be recaptured by DR; and desirability furnishing economic and military assistance. You may indicate that we are giving serious study to immediate withdrawal AID mission currently in DR, and plans for military assistance now in abeyance. In this discussion, you may draw on substance your conversation with General after your visit San Juan.

You should add that, although we have taken note his anti-Communist statements and his intention have Punta del Este delegation2 take firm anti-Castro stand, we are convinced his actions which appear constitute military coup without any popular support will strengthen Castro-Communists in DR, drive moderate opposition in desperation into alliance with them, and gravely weaken, if not destroy, effectiveness posture at MFM of GODR. You should state that several democratic nations hemisphere will almost certainly raise present Dominican situation at MFM, including civil rights situation, particularly arrests and deportation non-Communist leaders. You may draw parallel between current situation and that created by return Hector and Arismendi.

You should state our belief best solution present situation would be restoration former Council under presidency Bonnelly. This return status quo ante would enable us proceed with programs already at point execution. At minimum, solution must be found that permits genuine participation moderate opposition in government. You should emphasize that we recognize necessity maintenance effectiveness armed forces, and that he may have legitimate basis for fears of future status of armed forces under civilian rule by opposition. Accordingly we prepared assist both sides in working out appropriate guarantees re armed forces role and rights. You may add that as first step this effort we prepared receive from him definition guarantees sought by armed forces. However, we strongly believe his continuance present line action, by setting armed forces against people, can only destroy former, open country to Castro-Communism and thwart indefinitely hopes for orderly progress in DR.

You should also inform leaders moderate opposition who still free (including, as you see fit, Amiama and Imbert) we are attempting restore situation. However, in order have any chance success, our efforts must be accompanied by exercise by them of flexibility and moderation, avoidance provocative actions and recognition necessity for guarantees to armed forces.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 739.00/1-1762. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Goodwin and Crimmins, cleared by McGhee, and approved by Ball.
  2. Reference is to the Eighth Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the OAS at Punta del Este, January 22-31.
  3. On January 18 General Echavarría’s coup ended when he was arrested by his own men. The original Council of State was reinstated and Rafael Bonnelly was sworn in as its President.