161. Memorandum Prepared for the 303 Committee1
- Results of the Political Action Program for Bolivia2
- A. Memorandum for the 303 Committee Subject: “Provide Support to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] and the Popular Christian Movement in Bolivia,” dated 29 January 19653
- B. Memorandum for the 303 Committee Subject: “Expansion of Political Action Program in Bolivia,” dated 13 July 19654
- C. Memorandum for the 303 Committee Subject: “Additional Financial Support for Political Action Program in Bolivia,” dated 26 February 19665
1. Purpose of the Political Action Program
The referenced memoranda, the most recent of which was approved by the 303 Committee on 28 March 1966, concerned a political action program for Bolivia. The purpose of this [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] program was through covert means to ensure the orderly transfer of power via elections to a civilian, constitutional government whose policies would be compatible with those of the United States by:
- Providing covert financial assistance to the groups supporting the candidacy of General Barrientos.
- Providing covert financial encouragement to opposition groups who might otherwise abstain and endanger the legitimacy of the elections.
- [3 lines of source text not declassified]
2. Results of the Political Action Program
The objectives of this program have been accomplished. A new political party was built to provide the platform for General Barrientos. This base was reinforced by a coalition of already existing parties. Despite many internal stresses, this pro-Barrientos complex was held together during the crucial pre-electoral period by [1½ lines of source text not declassified] covert financial support. At the same time covert financial assistance was given to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a rival party to ensure its participation in the elections. In addition, a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] subsidy payment was made to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] a second important opposition party which was considering withdrawing from the electoral process. When these two most important opposition parties would not abstain from elections, three other groups made [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] entries into the race, with the result that the election contest took place between the Barrientos coalition and five opposition slates.
The combination of providing money and covert guidance to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] contending parties changed the political climate from a volatile, conspiratorial atmosphere with little discussion of peaceful resolution through elections to a full fledged electoral atmosphere with the traditional violence and conspiracy thrust into the background.
While the very final count of the elections is not in at this writing, it can be said that General Barrientos has won by the impressive majority of about 60% of the vote in an election praised by OAS observers as democratic and honest. [2 lines of source text not declassified] The inauguration on 6 August 1966 will mean the end of 21 months of military rule and the beginning of what hopefully will be a four-year term of office for the desired civilian, constitutional government.[Page 366]
It is obvious that the recent election of this government is but the first step towards establishing political stability in Bolivia. Much depends on the political acumen of Barrientos himself, who is faced with the task of manipulating and maneuvering the many divergent political forces which now may be expected to turn their energies to toppling him. The military, suppressed since 1952 by the previous regime, has obtained another taste of power during the past 21 months, and although its announced intention is to withdraw from politics, this may be only temporary. The opposition parties will not want to depend on honest elections in 1970 and can be expected to begin the anti-government scheming which is endemic to Bolivian politics. The economic problems continue to be as serious and extensive as ever. In summary, while the above described political action program has returned Bolivia to a constitutional government headed by a popular president, the prognosis whether Barrientos can last out his term of office must be one of cautious optimism.
- Source: National Security Council, Files of the 303 Committee, Subject File, Bolivia. Secret; Eyes Only. A handwritten notation on this memorandum reads: “Distributed to members of 303 Committee for information on 21 July 1966. Not reflected in 303 Minutes.”↩
- William V. Broe, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Deputy Directorate of Plans, briefly summarized the covert action program for Bolivia in a July 15 memorandum to Helms: “With the election of Rene Barrientos as President of Bolivia on July 3, 1966 this action was brought to a successful completion.” Broe continued, “in view of President-elect Barrientos’ arrival in Washington next week, it might be appropriate to remind the Committee of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] actions undertaken with Committee approval in Bolivia.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Bolivia, 1962–1980) A separate undated briefing memorandum on [text not declassified] support for Bolivian Presidential candidate Barrientos was forwarded by the CIA to Rostow on July 14 (Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence Files, Guerrilla Problems in Latin America) under cover of a memorandum from Broe to Jessup. (Ibid., National Security File, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. VIII) On July 16 Rostow provided President Johnson a copy of this briefing memorandum, with the following note: “This is to explain why General Barrientos may say thank you when you have lunch with him next Wednesday, the 20th.” (Ibid.)↩
- Document 153.↩
- Document 158.↩
- Not printed. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Files, c. 35, March 28) Also see footnote 4, Document 158.↩