172. Telegram From the Embassy in Portugal to the Department of State1

2076. 1. Foreign Minister asked me to come to see him late afternoon October 7 for our first meeting since change of government and naming of Marcello Caetano as Prime Minister.2 He wasted no time on preliminaries, emphasizing he was speaking “on direction and with authority of” new Prime Minister to present for attention of USG in formal and solemn manner a statement of GOP policy which latter considered of highest importance. Franco Nogueira said he was making same statement to Ambassadors of Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, UK and South Africa, as representatives of governments which GOP considered to have particular interest in matter. Statement concerned Portuguese policy in overseas territories.

2. Franco Nogueira began by commenting that there had been widespread view among foreign governments, press and other sectors of public opinion abroad that Portugal’s African policies had represented personal position of Dr. Salazar. Latter was regarded internationally as a strong-minded individual who had seen his country in a certain framework and had forged its policies in a manner to suit his own vision of Portugal at home and overseas. Various governments had come to conclusion that no changes were to be expected as long as Salazar remained at helm of Portuguese affairs. However, there had been considerable conjecture that, once Salazar left power, alterations would then begin to be made in GOP overseas policy.

3. Stressing again that he spoke on specific direction of new Prime Minister, Franco Nogueira said GOP considered it matter of highest importance to make its position unequivocally clear. Portuguese policy with respect overseas territories “would not be changed in the slightest degree.” Policies followed under Salazar were not personal ones but represented a considered national view of Portugal’s interests. These national interests continued to be valid and the new government was united in its determination to continue as before. There would be no changes in overseas policy, he repeated. Foreign Minister requested that I transmit this statement of GOP policy to USG.

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4. I inquired whether statement, since it being made to several governments, would remain as oral one or whether we would be furnished with aide-mémoire. FonMin did not seem to have thought much about this; he replied no aide-mémoire would be furnished but then added that Garin would later follow up with presentation of GOP views in call at Department.3 At another point in conversation Franco Nogueira said consideration had been given by new government to public announcement making clear its unswerving adherence to existing overseas policy. This idea had, however, been rejected as possibly raising rather than allaying doubts and speculation, and it had been decided instead to make direct approach to selected governments.

5. Franco Nogueira then said he would go farther and make an additional comment specifically for background information of USG. In surprisingly direct reference to political maneuvering that went on in inner government circles during week preceding Thomaz selection of Caetano as new Prime Minister, Franco Nogueira asserted he personally had tried to stay aloof from situation but that his “political friends” had been active. Discussions during that period had made it absolutely clear that no Portuguese Government could change the overseas policy and remain in power. Attachment to present policies was strongly and firmly held. This was honest Portuguese view, which had long considered its African posture a contribution to Western cause. With recent changes in Czechoslovakia, threats to Berlin and Rumania and renewed belligerent attitude on part of Soviets, FonMin considered recent Gromyko speech at UNGA as ominous, particularly with respect to its comments on Middle East and Mediterranean area—Portugal was more convinced than ever that she serving Western welfare by her posture in Southern Africa.

6. Comment: Presumably there will be opportunity in due course for a general talk with Prime Minister Caetano (we are now preparing some thoughts on this for consideration by Department).4 Once he gets settled in, ranking member of new Cabinet, Minister of State Vaz Pinto, has invited me to accompany him to Funchal for October 12 unveiling of Columbus statue and this will provide occasion for relaxed discussion re Caetano government’s plans and intentions. Meanwhile, I have no reason believe Franco Nogueira doing other than faithfully executing government policy in transmitting statement on overseas policy. His tone in our October 7 meeting was sober and serious and belligerency which he sometimes shows when discussing overseas matters was entirely lacking. Whatever understanding may have been [Page 355] reached behind scenes with respect to agreement on Caetano as Prime Minister, military and other hard-line elements (including Franco Nogueira on overseas matters) would have insisted on maintenance of existing line on Africa. We start from where we are, and time will tell how much Caetano will want to change overseas policies and how he will go about his delicate operation.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL PORT-US. Confidential; Limdis.
  2. Following an accident, Salazar underwent emergency brain surgery on September 6. On September 16 he lapsed into a coma. President Thomaz announced on September 26 that Salazar’s doctors had determined the Prime Minister would not recover, and he appointed Caetano as Salazar’s successor.
  3. No record of such a meeting was found.
  4. Transmitted in airgram A-540, October 18. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 PORT)