156. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Portuguese Ambassador’s Call on the Secretary


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Vasco Vieira Garin, Portuguese Embassy
  • Mr. William R. Tyler, EUR
  • Mr. David H. McKillop, WE
[Page 319]

Calling at his request, the Ambassador first asked the Secretary whether there had been any developments stemming from the dossier that the Portuguese Foreign Minister had sent to us earlier as evidence of the dependency of the Angolan rebellion on Congolese support.2 The Secretary replied that we have tried to get the Congolese to take a responsible and moderate approach to this problem and have cautioned against dangers inherent in lending aid and comfort to the movement. Now the Congolese political situation is in a state of flux, and it is difficult to predict what kind of government will emerge. The Secretary believed, however, that there are elements among the Congolese who wish to cooperate in finding a peaceful solution for problems involving Angola and the Congo. Until the political picture in the Congo is clarified, we can only remain on the watch to see how the situation evolves. The Secretary asked if the Ambassador had any new information.

The Ambassador launched upon familiar Portuguese themes. He said that although there has been a decrease in terrorist activities in Angola, where the situation is now relatively calm and peaceful, nevertheless, the Portuguese continue to receive reports of large shipments of arms coming from a variety of Communist countries and entering the Congo for the use of Holden Roberto rather than the Congolese themselves. Thus while the Portuguese are not worried by the present situation in Angola itself, they are very concerned for the future because of the gathering military strength of the Angolan rebels and the use of Congolese territory as a safehaven in launching attacks against Angola.

The Ambassador then proceeded to paint a very rosy picture of conditions in Angola, based on what he said was his firsthand observations made on his trip there in January. Describing Angola as an island of peace and contentment in a sea of African turmoil, he said that the entire population is benefitting from the many social and health benefits, that economic conditions are good, that racial integration is complete and that slow but steady progress is being made toward greater political freedom with elections now at a district level. The only threat to this favorable evolution is the non-nationalist, Communist-backed rebel movement. If the use of the Congo for this operation could be terminated, the Ambassador was convinced that all of Angola’s troubles would be quickly over. The Ambassador, therefore, urged U.S. support for obtaining this objective, including some public acknowledgment on our part of the positive developments taking place in Angola, such as the role of Angolan transportation facilities in helping bolster the Congo economy.

[Page 320]

The Secretary observed that perhaps the Ambassador was underestimating the importance of the political factor in the Angolan domestic scene. In this day and age, favorable social and economic conditions do not necessarily alone satisfy populations, which are now insisting upon the right of governing or even misgoverning themselves. The Secretary wondered, therefore, whether the Portuguese should not try to cope with the rebellion using political and negotiating methods rather than relying entirely upon force. Referring to the fact that he had told the Portuguese Foreign Minister on a previous occasion that the Spanish approach to their African problems seemed to have succeeded in muffling attacks by Afro-Asians against Spain, the Secretary thought that Portugal might profit from this example.3

The Ambassador continued to insist that there would be no problem if the Congo ceased to be a base of operation against Angola, that the Afro-Asians refuse to accept evidence of the good conditions and contentment prevailing in Angola, as exemplified by the refusal of the UN Secretary General to visit Angola, and finally that Spaniards do not have the same large interests and investments in their African territories that the Portuguese have.

The Ambassador then asked the Secretary for his appraisal of recent political developments in the Congo, including the unexpected return of Tshombe to Leopoldville. He said that these events had generated all kinds of rumors, such as one that he had heard to the effect that the United States had backed Tshombe’s return to the Congo on the condition that Tshombe would continue to support Holden Roberto. The Ambassador said that this no doubt was just a silly story, but he wished to cite it as an example of what people are talking about.

The Secretary dismissed the story as obviously without foundation, pointing out that the United States is not particularly in Tshombe’s good graces because of past events and emphasizing that in any case, the United States had nothing to do with Tshombe’s return to Leopoldville, a strictly Congolese affair. As for the general political situation in the Congo, it is presently so unsettled that neither we nor anybody else is in a position to predict the outcome. Perhaps a government of national reconciliation would emerge headed up by Adoula, or even Tshombe, but at this point, we just cannot say.

After expressing concern about trends in Algeria, the Ambassador said as a final point, he wished to ask how we regarded the current Zanzibar situation, which continues to worry the Portuguese because of reports that the Communist presence is still strong there. In this connection, he commented that while not a shot has been fired in Mozambique, [Page 321] nevertheless, the Portuguese know that so-called “freedom fighters” are being trained in Tanganyika to cause the same type of trouble and violence that has occurred in Angola as a result of Roberto’s activities.

The Secretary replied that the Zanzibar situation seems now to be developing in a somewhat more favorable direction, that the former Embassies on the island, including the East German and ChiCom posts, have been reduced to Consulates, with the West Germans, however, retaining their Embassy in Tanganyika. Furthermore, the Tanganyikan police seem to have the internal security of the island well in hand.

The Ambassador thanked the Secretary for his kind reception and hoped that perhaps after the situation in the Congo had clarified, he could again seek our views on problems in the area.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330. Confidential. Drafted by McKillop and approved in S on July 21. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Not further identified.