204. Letter From General Franco to President Johnson1

My Dear President Johnson:

Please forgive me for retaining your attention for a few moments, but I trust that the importance of what I have to say will justify my writing directly—to Your Excellency.

The publicity which is being given in Morocco to the announced visit of His Majesty the King to the United States2 and the fact that among the Ministers accompanying him will be the Minister for Mauritanian and Saharan affairs, coincides with a campaign of expansionist [Page 402] claims on the territories of her neighbours—Algeria, Mauritania and Spain—and reveals Morocco’s intentions to exploit the King’s visit to the United States to attempt to present the United States as being implicated in her aspirations. I have therefore thought it best to forewarn you of this possibility; firstly, because none of the parties affected are ready to cede their rights, and in our case the Spanish right of sovereignty is clear as is the firm and repeatedly evidenced loyalty of the people of the Sahara—about 26.000 inhabitants; and secondly, because this sparsely populated territory has a very marked geo-strategic importance as it includes an extensive portion of the African coast immediately adjacent to the clearly Spanish Canary Islands, which are a center of world sea-routes, and which Spain has for centuries developed and defended.

Among the objectives publicized in Morocco for this visit is that of asking the American Administration for a larger economic and military aid. While I find their economic interest legitimate and very convenient for the peace, development and internal stability of their country, in which we are truly interested, such is not the case with respect to military aid. The American Government is aware through our Representatives of the constant Spanish concern with respect to the increase of armaments taking place in North Africa with the general intention of threatening peace and attempting to satisfy imperialist ambitions in conflict with neighbouring countries. But no one is threatening the integrity of Morocco’s frontiers; she already has sufficient weapons for her defence and for her internal peace and security; and Spain, who only a few years ago underwent the aggression of supposedly spontaneous bands which Morocco utilized to break the peace in the territories of Ifni and Sahara, now feels alarmed by Morocco’s attempt to secure more arms at a time in which she is stirring up bellicose feelings in her inhabitants. It is really incongruous that when Morocco’s economic need is at its greatest she should wish to devote to military expenses amounts far in excess of her means in the hope that another country will finance them.

I have wished Your Excellency to be acquainted with this concern, in order to avoid the possibility that, in the light of an apparent neutrality, and heeding a supposed need for self-defence which has been ably and artificially contrived, your Administration might err on the side of generosity in this military aspect.

Due to my great confidence in your judgement and fairness, I feel satisfied in having made this known to you.

At these moments, when the United States is going through a great sorrow at the loss of her heroic astronauts, I wish to express to you the solidarity and appreciation that this sacrifice has inspired throughout all the Spanish nation.

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May I avail myself of this opportunity to reiterate to you my highest consideration and affection.

I remain, Your Excellency’s good friend.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Spanish Desk Files: Lot 70 D 35, Pol 7. No classification marking. The letter, which is typed on Spanish Embassy stationery, is marked “Translation.” In a memorandum transmitting the letter to the President, Walt Rostow commented: “This letter caps a prolonged Spanish diplomatic effort to make sure the Moroccans don’t get an inside track with us on the argument with Spain over the phosphorus-rich Spanish Sahara.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Spain, Vol. I)
  2. Documentation on King Hassan’s February 4-12 visit is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XXIV, Documents 130133.
  3. The letter is unsigned. In a February 15 letter to Franco, President Johnson thanked him for his expressions of sympathy regarding the deaths of the three U.S. astronauts and commented on U.S. policy in Morocco. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence, Spain)