354. Memorandum From Samuel E. Belk of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy0


  • Your Meeting with the New Portuguese Ambassador Pedro Pereira

You are now scheduled to receive the new ambassador’s credentials at 1200 on Friday (September 15). The State Department has sent you very thorough briefing papers, but you should be aware of several additional points which are outlined below.

The signs are that our relations with the Portuguese are going to be very difficult in the forthcoming period. They apparently intend to pull out all the stops in an attempt to bring about a turn-around in our policies toward Portugal and its African territories. The accounts of Pereira’s first meetings with the Secretary of State are far from encouraging. Pereira continued to expound the rigid Salazar line of equating Communism and African nationalism. Moreover, we doubt seriously that the much-touted reforms in the African territories will be far-reaching enough or carried out fast enough to allow the Portuguese to remain in Africa without extensive and continuing use of military force.

In addition, a group of Portuguese businessmen—“The Overseas Companies of Portugal”—have awarded the public relations firm Selvage and Lee a contract of a million dollars “to place the affairs of Portugal and Angola in a true and proper perspective” in the United States. $500 thousand of this amount is to be spent over the first twelve-month period.

In addition, we expect that the Angolan item will be inscribed almost immediately on the agenda of the General Assembly which opens on September 19, either by the Africans or the bloc. There is every reason to believe that Portugal will be more sharply denounced than ever before.

You also should know that, on the same day the General Assembly opens, the National Broadcasting Company is showing a one-half hour television film on Angola which is strongly anti-Portuguese. It is necessary that you know this because there reportedly are jeeps and napalm bombs shown in the film which might well be of U.S. origin. As State and [Page 551] Defense reported to you earlier, the U.S. sometime ago instituted a system of control of arms to Portugal, but we have never announced this publicly. In this connection, there is strong feeling in town that the U.S. should make a public statement to the effect that the U.S. will henceforth refuse to make available any arms to Portugal that are to be used in the African territories. A statement of this kind was made by the UK on June 27 in Parliament.

As you may recall, when you approved the recommendations of the Angola Task Force, paragraph 12 read as follows:

“Implement the foregoing quietly [italics provided]1 insofar as possible and in a manner designed to bring about basic and far-reaching reforms in Portuguese colonial policy, and to minimize the possibility of losing the Azores, recognizing the grave military consequences which would attend such a loss.”

The arrival of a new, probably very active ambassador, the expected activities of the public relations firm, the U.N. debates and the NBC film, suggest that we may have to be more outspoken than we have been in the past, especially with regard to the use of U.S. arms in Africa. This is one point we think you should stress.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Portugal, Security. Secret. The “From” line on the source text shows Rostow’s initials (WWR) crossed out and “S.B.,” pre-sumably Samuel Belk, inserted by hand. A question mark appears alongside in the margin. A memorandum from Belk to Dungan, January 9, 1962 (Document 356), confirms that Belk wrote a memorandum to President Kennedy on Portuguese Africa in September 1961.
  2. Brackets in the source text.