179. Information Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • Bolivia—Former Minister of Government Returns, Makes Accusations Against CIA

Former Bolivian Minister of Government Arguedas returned to La Paz on August 17. At press conferences held upon his arrival and again later in the day, Arguedas ascribed his action of providing the Guevara diary to Castro to his desire to rid Bolivia of “imperialism”, as exemplified by the activities of the CIA. Arguedas claimed that he had been [Page 396]recruited by the CIA in 1965, and provided considerable information on names of CIA personnel and their alleged activities in recent years in Bolivia.2

Embassy La Paz believes that Arguedas’ anti-CIA line may have been ordered by President Barrientos to place the onus of the diary scandal on the U.S., thereby diverting attention from the GOB’s shortcomings.3

Possible ramifications of this development are several:

1)
Greatly increased press attention here to CIA “activities”.
2)
Possible public demonstrations against our Mission in Bolivia.
3)
Possible intensification by radical student and labor groups of agitation against the GOB (a minor demonstration occurred in La Paz on August 16, but was easily broken up).
4)
This raises the question of U.S.–Barrientos relationships if the Embassy’s belief is correct.

Regarding (1) above we are planning, at least for the time being, to adhere to our usual policy of declining comment on accusations about the CIA, no matter how absurd such accusations are.

Regarding point (2) above, our most recent information is that La Paz is calm. The Embassy has taken security precautions.

Regarding point (3), we continue to believe that the GOB can weather local threats as long as support from the military is forthcoming. The Barrientos–Military relationship, while uneasy since the onset of the diary scandal, is not yet at a point where military support seems likely to be withdrawn.

On point (4), it is too early to predict the effects of this incident on our relationship with Barrientos. We will be evaluating this question over the next few days.

Action Taken: I have instructed Ambassador Castro (who is in San Salvador making his protocolary goodbyes there) to delay his arrival in Bolivia (scheduled for August 20 but not yet announced publicly) for a few days. The Ambassador will return here for further consultations. This action is in accordance with the recommendation of Embassy La Paz which believes demonstrations against Ambassador Castro are likely if he arrives at the height of the present crisis.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 30 BOL. Secret; Sensitive. The date is handwritten on the memorandum.
  2. The Arguedas affair was the subject of a meeting on August 19 at the Department of State between CIA and representatives of INR and ARA. (Memorandum from William C. Trueheart (INR/DDC) to Hughes and Denney; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, ARA/CIA Weekly Meetings, 1968–1969) A separate record of this meeting, dated August 20, was prepared by the CIA. (Ibid., Latin America General, 1967–1968)
  3. On August 22, in summarizing the Arguedas affair for President Johnson, Rostow reported: “At first, it appeared Arguedas and Barrientos were in league to make the CIA a scapegoat and deflect from themselves some of the criticism over the Guevara diary episode. But in an August 20 press conference, Barrientos defended Bolivia’s relations with the US and condemned Cuba as the real threat.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Bolivia, Vol. IV, Memoranda, January 1966–December 1968)