133. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Argentine Situation

The latest reports from Buenos Aires indicate that the Army has arrested President Illia and removed him from the Presidential Palace.

Where he will be taken is not known at this juncture. There are three likely possibilities:

  • 1. detained on Martin Garcia island in the River Plate estuary.
  • 2. put across the border in Uruguay.
  • 3. sent to the United States to join his wife who is hospitalized in Houston.

This unjustified military coup is a serious setback to our efforts to promote constitutional government and representative democracy in the hemisphere. It will be necessary to re-examine our whole policy toward Argentina.2 This process will be carried out through the IRGSIG mechanism starting at noon today. The OAS may also have to shift the site of the Foreign Ministers Meeting on OAS Charter amendment scheduled to open on August 29 in Buenos Aires.

State this morning sent the attached cable to our Embassy in Buenos Aires with guidance on official contacts and dealings with the press.3 In paragraph 3 it gives the press line which State is going to follow on the coup. The line is the correct one for the time being.

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Argentina, Vol. II, 9/64–2/67. Confidential. A copy was sent to Moyers. Another copy indicates that the President saw the memorandum. (Ibid., Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. 7)
  2. Rostow inserted the following handwritten comment at this point in the margin: “Mr. President: This is Bill Bowdler. I wish to add a word of caution when you have a moment.” According to the President’s Daily Diary Johnson called Rostow at 11:42 a.m. (Johnson Library) No substantive record of the conversation has been found.
  3. Document 132.