153. Memorandum Prepared for the 303 Committee1


  • Provide Support to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and the Popular Christian Movement in Bolivia

1. Summary

It is proposed to provide in appropriate stages the total sum of [2 lines of source text not declassified]. Barrientos, due to his popularity and power position, appears to have the best chance for organizing behind him a national consensus which would provide the needed unity to proceed with the development of Bolivia. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] this sum of money will expedite and help other negotiations currently being undertaken by the Embassy and the AID program. Barrientos has requested U.S. Government help in his election campaign. [2 lines of source text not declassified] The Embassy in La Paz, the Department of State, and the CIA all concur that in the present circumstances the best possibility for stability in Bolivia is the ascendency to the Presidency of Barrientos with a return to constitutionality. It is important that he have a strong organizational base in order to bring in with him a Congress which would be cooperative. This proposal has been fully coordinated with and concurred in by Ambassador Henderson and Assistant Secretary Mann.2

[Page 345]

2. Problem

To strengthen the organizational base of General Barrientos within all sectors of the population through aid to his newly organized political vehicle—the Popular Christian Movement. This movement will be used to make inroads into the crucial areas where the communists and leftist followers of Juan Lechin are strongest, thus undercutting their natural support.
To indicate to General Barrientos that the U.S. government is in support of him personally and of his efforts to create the conditions for stability and unity which are essential for the return to constitutional government.

3. Factors Bearing on the Problem

a. Background

Because of the constitutional provision that anyone holding public office must resign from that office 180 days prior to an election, General Barrientos must step down from the Junta in order to run for the office of the presidency. General elections have been called for September 1965. When Barrientos does step down he will no longer have access to the facilities of the government such as air transport, vehicles, and even government funds. Thus he is seeking an alternate source of funding for his campaign. He [1 line of source text not declassified] provided a detailed budget of his requirements to establish his organizational base. He also provided a statement of his principles and program together with a listing of the individuals who would constitute his top command.
[8½ lines of source text not declassified]
Barrientos is a long standing friend of the United States. He received a good portion of his military training in the United States. He was Air Attaché to Washington, attended American University, and is a close friend of many high officials in the United States Government.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the proposal.]

4. Coordination

This proposed activity has been fully coordinated with and approved by the U.S. Ambassador, Assistant Secretary Thomas Mann, and has been discussed in detail with appropriate officials of the Department of State.

5. Recommendation

That the 303 Committee approve the covert subsidization of the Popular Christian Movement which will be the vehicle [1 line of [Page 346] source text not declassified] upon which to effect a return to constitutional government in Bolivia. The total sum requested for this program is [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].3

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Special Files, January–June 1965. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs Llewellyn E. Thompson concurred on February 3, but according to a February 5 handwritten note by Murat W. Williams (INR): “In approving this paper Ambassador Thompson remarked that he thought the whole question of this type of support in elections should be reviewed on a general basis. A distinction must be drawn between action to check communism and other activities in internal political affairs.” (Memorandum from Mann to Thompson; ibid.) At a January 6 meeting of CIA and ARA officials Mann had suggested that, in response to a request for financial aid, “Barrientos should be told we do not like to intervene in an election of this nature, however if it were a ‘matter of Bolivian independence,’ we might do something.” Mann thought it was time for Bolivia “to stand on its own feet.” (Memorandum from Carter to Hughes, January 8; ibid., ARA/CIA Weekly Meetings, 1964–1965) A message was sent to La Paz apparently turning down Barrientos’ request for financial aid, but with a proviso that the question could be reopened if events made it necessary. (Draft message to La Paz with handwritten note by Carter, January 14; ibid., Bolivia, 1962–1980)
  3. The 303 Committee approved the recommendation by a vote by telephone on February 5. (Memorandum from Williams to Mann, February 16; ibid.) According to a February 10 memorandum [text not declassified] to ARA, Barrientos was informed on that date of the decision and of the U.S. Government view “that relations between sovereigns should be based upon dignity and mutual respect rather than financial considerations; but in order to dispel any doubts” in Barrientos’ mind “of our attitude toward him, his request was approved as a one-shot affair.” (Ibid.) Privately the [text not declassified] assessment of the operation was more positive, pointing out that “the risk of exposing U.S. participation in the MPC program is probably worth taking, especially if the operation helps to unify the country, reduces political turmoil, and helps Bolivia along the road to economic and social progress. The exposure of U.S. participation would, undoubtedly, be embarrassing, but it probably would not lead to serious repercussions.” (Memorandum from FitzGerald to Helms, March 3; Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80–01690R, Directorate of Operations, Latin America Division, WH/Bolivia, [file name not declassified])