150. Memorandum From Gordon Chase of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1
I talked briefly to Bill Dentzer, the Office Director for Bolivian/ Chilean Affairs, about the current goings-on in Bolivia. Here are some points of interest.
- Bill said that the present disturbances can be characterized as a popular reaction to repressive government. The students are a big factor in this reaction.2 Much of the leadership for the disturbances is coming from the Falangists (a leftist but tolerable party) and the Communists.
- I asked Bill what the
disturbances could leave in their wake.3 He described the following alternatives:
Paz could stay on. This looks like the most likely alternative; Paz seems to be keeping the support of the military.[Page 340]
Bill went on to say that, while Paz is not particularly popular with the people, they probably like him “best.” The people see no clear alternative and, under Paz, they at least get less instability.
The military could capitalize on the present disturbances and take over the government. The leader of a military government could be Barrientos, but it could also be someone else; in this regard, it should be noted that Barrientos is not all that popular with the military.
Bill does not regard a military takeover as highly likely; however, it is in the ball park.
- Paz could get killed and there could be a state of anarchy for a while, followed by some sort of coalition. Bill feels this is not a likely alternative.
Bill said that the possibility of a Communist takeover is nil. The Communists do not have enough popular following or acceptability. In addition, the military is violently opposed to them.
Bill went on to say that the main threat that the Communists pose is that, in a state of instability or transition, other parties will be looking around for support. In such a situation, the Communists, while not being able to take over the country, will be in a position to exert significant influence.
- The upshot seems to me to be that there is little likelihood of something happening in Bolivia which we cannot live with. Given our “druthers,” however, we would probably just as soon see the disturbances end with Paz still in the saddle.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Bolivia, Vol. II, Memoranda, July–November, 1964. Secret.↩
- The Embassy reported on the student demonstrations and their political implications in telegram 426 from La Paz, October 24, suggesting that the demonstrations were in part a response to the shooting of a student in Cochabamba, and in part by the climate of political agitation and discord between Paz and the military. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL–8 BOL)↩
- A separate assessment of the political unrest in Bolivia, which focused on the prospects for a military coup, is in an October 29 memorandum from Lieutenant General Alva R. Fitch, Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to Secretary of Defense McNamara. (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330 68A 306, Bolivia 000.1, 1964)↩