357. Airgram From theEmbassy in the Dominican Republic to the Department of State1



  • Six Months in a Qandary

[Here follow 13 pages concerning the domestic politics of the Dominican Republic.]

What Next

We are entering—indeed, we are in—quite a delicate period. Bosch has to decide whether to try to regain the initiative by enacting serious substantive legislation at this time—high political legislation that would redistribute wealth (or at least appear to do so, such as land expropriation), and/or put people to work—or, alternatively, whether to lie low a while longer (as he has been doing in the last few weeks.) He has to take this decision at a time when unemployment is high, the cost of living is high, and the military is restless. It is not an easy decision, and probably will depend on his estimate, on returning, of the military problem.

If he should show signs of trying to regain the initiative by spectacular revolutionary legislation, such as land expropriation, I intend to exert what influence I can to avoid explosions both here and in the United States. In this connection, a long memorandum from Abram Chayes2 will be very helpful—and I may need more help if things really seem to be headed that way.

The Prospect Before Us

As of now, we have a hard way to go, for we confront Bosch’s personality, the long-run leftist threat, the imminent rightist danger, and the [Page 734] problems endemic in the Republic. And we confront our own limitations, principally in two areas: Financial assistance (AID and Congress), and intelligence (CAS).

I think the difficulties are likely to increase in the next two months. Seasonal unemployment is upon us, and we have done little or nothing to help. It will get worse. Military pressures are rising.

I think if Bosch survives this calendar year, he may survive for four—but I emphasize: Prediction beyond tomorrow is ridiculous in this country.

I think that at best his tenure is likely to be a holding operation—not the peaceful democratic revolution we had hoped, certainly not the “showcase” some had advertised.

Although in the present political milieu it is difficult to envisage what comes after a four-year term for Bosch, I think we should regard Bosch’s government as a transition government. Under him we will likely never really make a nation here. But we should try to lay the groundwork for one.

Our Present Position

In spite of everything, I continue to believe at this time that our interests lie in supporting the Bosch Government. It is non-communist, tied to the West, friendly to the United States; it is committed to the principles of the Alliance for Progress (though Bosch blows hot and cold in public on the Alianza); it is the freely elected and the constitutional government; it respects individual liberties, human rights, and freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the alternatives are unacceptable.

I agree fully with Deptel 1723 and have for the second time laid down its line to all Embassy section chiefs and mission component chiefs.

We are paying something for holding firmly to our position.

Some individuals in the mission disagree with it. (I have no firm evidence that any are downright disloyal to it, though Bosch tells me some members of AID and MAAG are. I have told him if he gets me a name and proof, I will send the individual home. I have discussed the question with the AID and MAAG chiefs, and they are cooperative.)

A good many American private citizens think we are mistaken (or worse).

The attaches report that increasingly the Dominican military will not talk to them, since they simply replay the record: “We support constitutional government.” We are arming the attaches with economic and political facts for rebuttal.

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I have, as said above, been attacked publicly as a communist. (Other mission members have been accused privately.)

It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to get information out of opposition political leaders and out of the important business-professional group.

All this is not to say that we are now isolated. We have good ties to the oligarchy; good ties to the PRD; good ties to the PRSC; reasonably good ties to the labor movement; reasonably good ties to the military (I think); good ties to Bosch and his government. We are weak with students, campesinos, the far left, the far right, and some important business-professional men.

There is no question that we are losing contacts and even some support. (So are the Nuncio and others who work with us.) But we are far from isolated.

What I hope to do is to split off the rightist extremists now, while they are active, and the leftists extremists later, when they become active, leaving Bosch and me a broad center. This is probably an unattainable ideal; but it’s worth a try.

There have been for months almost no signs of anti-Americanism. I regard this as ominous; it simply confirms my view that the Castro/communist left as going along with Bosch and, so, with us. To gain time, they will permit him short-term victories over FENEPIA and the Electricidad and short-term association with us. When it behooves them, they will move hard. I would like to precipitate this, unless unemployment worsens seriously.

Our ability to influence events is probably waning. It was far greater in 1962 than in 1963—memories of the fleet (November, 1961) and the Echavarria coup (January, 1962) were fresh; we had helped install the provisional Council of State and everyone knew it. But today, time has passed, memories of 1961-2 are fading, and, moreover, Bosch was not installed by us, he was elected by the Dominican people. So, as time passes, our influence declines. And events elsewhere—Peru, Guatemala, Cuba, and, especially, Haiti—tend to undermine our influence here, for regardless of whether our policies in those places were wise, Dominicans see them as evidence of our growing reluctance to send the fleet.

Nevertheless, barring some reckless adventure, anyone who thinks to overthrow Bosch will, if he takes thought at all, find himself obliged to consider our views in advance. If he has a map.

In the final analysis, our ability to influence events here depends upon our willingness to bring the fleet to the horizon. By saying this, I do not mean we are at that point, or near it. I do mean to say that it was one [Page 736] thing to bring the fleet to eject the Trujillos; it would be quite a different thing to bring the fleet to stop an anti-Bosch coup. Unhappily, things are not so simple as of yore.

Simple or not, I reiterate that I believe at the present time that our policy interests are best served by maintaining Bosch in power. (A contingency paper accompanies this piece.)4


As a general policy, I believe that we should recognize Bosch is not much of a president, that we should recognize most of his opposition is almost equally incompetent, and that we should attempt to take his government away from him, insofar as possible. This involves what amounts to an extension of activist diplomacy. That is to say, we should woo his own supporters, ministers, and advisors ardently; use every means—or almost every means—to get rid of those whom we cannot control; exert every pressure to put our own people close to him and the other levers of power and, to the extent possible, though these people run his government without his knowing it. (Carried to its furthest length, this would mean subverting his government. That would require a most elaborate clandestine apparatus. Even should we decide to give this country the highest priority in Latin America, I doubt we could do it. And even so, such a policy would entail grave risks, enormous difficulties, and considerable likelihood of failure.) Nevertheless, somewhere short of such an elaborate exercise lies an extended activist diplomacy that should be possible now.

I recommend that we:

Move immediately on intelligence problem as I outlined in my recent [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] telegram.5
Step up immediately our [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] effort. It is not good enough. We do not know enough about the far left, the ministries, or the military. We are preoccupied by Haiti. I continue to believe, as I have said previously, that our single most urgent need here is for surveillance of the left now and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], for it is our only safeguard against communist infiltration. I welcome the advent of the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
Make every effort to split [2-1/2 lines of source text not declassified].
[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified]
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified]
Identify people and elements of the other shattered parties with the hope that we can build an alternative party. [Action] Embassy.
Survey and, if feasible, develop the Yaque del Sur, as envisaged in Embtel 236 and Deptel 154.6 I feel very strongly that TVA should take this on and it should become ours. We badly need a major U.S. project here. And the people here need the valley.
Get AID approval if possible, at least on a standby basis, of either the $15 million or the $ 17 million loan applications. Action AID/W.
Kill Luna’s Hawker-Hunter deal. Action Embassy.
Get coastal patrol boats. Action Embassy MAAG/SD, Dept/DOD.
Get MAAG agreement ratified. Action Embassy.
Straighten out Haina. I will keep pressing Bosch on this. If he asks us for technical help, I may want to request a change in our former policy preventing U.S. management of ex-Trujillo properties. Action Embassy.
Get hold of the only three really strong men I have been able to identify in the Republic—Wessin y Wessin, Imbert, and Miolan. Action Embassy.
If travel between here and Moscow, Havana, or Prague increases, I propose to press Bosch hard to stop it, pointing out that it contravenes United States policy and is very dangerous to his own government. Action Embassy.
Press Bosch to close Dato Pagan’s school. Action Embassy.
If Bosch tries to regain the initiative through legislation involving private property, I intend to exert what influence I can to avoid explosions both here and in the U.S. Action Embassy.
Work for establishment of a Dominican Peace Corps. Action Peace Corps and AID, Washington.
Watch Haiti. Action Embassy-[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and Washington.
Work to help the Parvin Foundation carry out its program. Action Embassy.
Try continuously to get better people into the Bosch Government. Action Embassy.
Perhaps bring the Boxer in and take Bosch and his military aboard for lunch as splashy evidence our support.


As above, I recommend a stepped-up effort at activist diplomacy. I envisage this as a long-range policy, something we will have to pursue for the forseeable future, perhaps even throughout Bosch’s term.

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However, in the short run, as a temporary policy tactic, I am inclined to think we should, in the near future, execute briefly a contrary policy of pulling out. Let me explain.

Right now things seem to be stuck on dead center, with opposing forces in balance and at stalemate. Our influence appears in danger of waning, in part because we have so continuously exerted it in the last 2-1/2 years. Perhaps if we were to withdraw for awhile, the contentious Dominicans might all surrender to each other. They look to us too much. We are a lightning rod. And our continual intervention gives them a sense of importance they do not intrinsically possess or deserve. Tensions get screwed tight in part because of our presence. They have no conception of what our withdrawal, our relaxation of pressure, would do. I think they would be shocked. I think they would miss us. They might even come to us. I would like to give them a taste of it.

Therefore, once we get through, say, the next month, I think we should seriously consider a sudden tactical withdrawal. I want first to set in train certain of the above recommendations—[less than 1 line of source text not declassified], the TVA-Yaque del Sur, the patrol boats, Luna’s Hawker Hunter fighter deal. This done, we might execute a sudden tactical pullback—adopt a policy of hands-off for a period of, say, three or four weeks or even longer. It would deprive both left and right of a target, force the military to look to its own problems; and might even force Bosch to govern.

To be effective, this policy would have to go all across the board—MAAG, AID, USIS, Embassy (not CAS or Peace Corps). For several weeks, we would all just stop pressing. The public symbol of this policy would be my own departure. I could accept, for example, a long-de-ferred invitation to visit General O’Meara’s headquarters in Panama, perhaps in the last half of October, and I might extend this trip to visit our base at Guantanamo and several democratic countries around the Caribbean with ties to Bosch—Costa Rica, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico.

All this of course would be subject to the Department’s approval and to unfolding events here during the next month. But as of now, I think such a sudden relaxation of pressure might have a cold-shower effect that could prove healthy. This would be, I wish to emphasize, only a temporary tactical deviation from the long-haul activist policy.

John Bartlow Martin
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 2 DOM REP. Secret; Air Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by J.B. Martin.
  2. Reference is to the Legal Adviser to the Department of State. No memorandum was found.
  3. Dated September 13. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 DOM REP)
  4. Not found.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. Embtel 236, September 11, not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 15-1 DOM REP) Telegram 154, September 4. (Ibid., AID (ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESS) DOM REP)