156. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Read) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Bolivia: Visit of Lieutenant Colonel Paul Wimert to La Paz

Ovando are reported in Exdis telegrams Numbers 1222 and 12272 from the Embassy and in [1 line of source text not declassified].3

Assistant Secretary Vaughn and other officers have talked with Wimert since his return. We believe that he carried out his assignment fully in keeping with the instructions he was given, and chances are fair that there will not be a split in the Bolivian Government in the immediate future. Both Generals Barrientos and Ovando have been made unmistakably aware that the United States Government attaches the greatest importance to the complete unity of the Military Junta and of the Armed Forces in Bolivia. A Bolivian mission now in Washington4 has discussed in credible terms the relationships between Barrientos and Ovando and it has given assurances that they must and will keep together.

Wimert’s presence in La Paz was reported in today’s New York Times, the source being Bolivian. We are treating the article as inaccurate, as it is in a number of respects, and explaining, if asked, that Wimert was in La Paz in preparation for his imminent assignment to Santiago as Army Attaché.

On the basis of his talks and observations, Colonel Wimert belives that civilians and military alike realixe the necessity of presidents [Page 352] Barrientos and Ovando sticking together. He says that General Ovando can be classified as a “conniver” who has always been known to play various parties against one another, and that Ovando has not been making key decisions and is not as forceful as Barrientos. He has, however, a fair knowledge of economic problems and government administration. General Barrientos, Wimert thinks, would best be described as a “can-doer”, perhaps too impetuous, and not given to thinking out the entire problem. According to Wimert, Barrientos has matured and is becoming more aware of the economic problems of the country, and believes that the Junta now has to stop shooting and come up with positive programs, especially in the mines, to give the people something in return for having supported the Junta.

Wimert’s characterizations of the two men coincide with our own, but our problem will be to shape and make realistic the Junta’s generalized desires to move forward on the socio-economic front.

Hawthorne Mills5
Executive Secretary
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Bolivia, Vol. III, Memoranda, December 1964–September 1965. Secret.
  2. Dated May 31 and June 1. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US)
  3. Dated May 30 and May 31. (Ibid., POL 1 BOL; and Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Bolivia, Vol. III, Cables, December 1964–September 1965)
  4. A record of meetings of the Bolivian mission with Vaughn on June 3 and Mann on June 4 was transmitted in telegram 670 to La Paz, June 7. The main points of the mission’s presentation were a request for immediate U.S. assistance to allow Bolivia to increase its armed forces by 10,000 to maintain security in cities where the army occupied the mines, to improve the image of the armed forces, and to provide funds for social and road projects so that surplus miners could be hired. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL BOL–US)
  5. Hawthorne Mills signed for Read above Read’s typed signature.