20. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Prospects for Adoption of Venezuelan Resolution at OAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Mann
  • Ambassador Bunker
  • Mr. Daniel Margolies (ARA:CV)
  • Dr. Iribarren, Venezuelan Foreign Minister
  • Ambassador Tejera-Paris, Venezuelan Ambassador

1. Position of Mexico and Chile

The Foreign Minister expressed the intention to modify the first resolution by making certain measures, e.g. breaking of diplomatic relations and severance of air traffic, mandatory rather than discretionary.

The Secretary said that there were two questions involved: first, whether there were enough votes for the adoption of the resolution with the mandatory provisions and second, whether the consequences [Page 57]of adopting the resolution as proposed by the Foreign Minister would be in the best interest of the hemisphere.

The Secretary said, and Mr. Mann confirmed, that both Chile and Mexico were adamantly opposed to the Venezuelan proposal for mandatory language. It appeared likely that their strategy would be to take the resolution up paragraph by paragraph, registering their opposition to the points which they opposed, which would without any doubt include the requirement for the break in diplomatic relations. There was a possibility that Mexico, at any rate, would abstain when the entire resolution was voted on.

The Secretary said that if the resolution were adopted with mandatory language, this would confront Mexico and Chile with the necessity of complying with the resolution, or of taking issue with the OAS. Given the depth of feeling on this issue in both countries, it was possible that this could lead to an open break between them and the rest of the American system.

The Secretary said that he thought that it would be desirable to weigh carefully the consequences that might ensue from such a development, both with respect to the future of the American system and with respect to the impact on opinion at home.

Mr. Mann said that he thought that the mandatory language proposed by the Foreign Minister would be well received in the United States. He added that his experience with Mexico had persuaded him that the Mexicans did not respond well to pressure, but were open to reason. He thought it very possible that if left to their own discretion the Mexican Government would voluntarily break relations with Cuba, as the Brazilians have recently done, after the new President took office at the end of the year.

The Secretary said that his principal concern was the situation in Chile. He would have been able to face the risks with equanimity last January. However, with the Chilean elections so close, it was possible that the OAS action could play into the hands of the Communists in Chile and damage the election prospects of Frei. He thought that this required very careful consideration.

The Secretary said that he thought it would be well for both to talk with the Chilean Foreign Minister and the Mexican delegation. He planned to ask the Chileans whether they might take some constructive step toward accomplishing the objective sought, such as downgrading the level of their representation.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister said that Venezuela had a serious domestic problem that he would like to emphasize. His government was committed publicly to seeking mandatory language in the resolution. If they backed down, it would be regarded at home as retreat. The Communists had recently renewed their terrorist campaign [Page 58]of bombing and shootings in Venezuela because of the OAS meeting. If the Venezuelan Government appeared to retreat before such conduct, it would invite further terrorist conduct.

The Venezuelans expected the OAS to do something about Cuban aggression. If the OAS failed to take effective action, this would discredit the Leoni administration and discredit the OAS in Venezuela.

The Secretary said that he felt that the OAS had made much progress on the Cuban issue since 1960. He thought that the resolution, even if certain sanctions were recommended rather than required, would represent further progress. He noted in particular that the second resolution would be a major advance in dealing with Cuban aggression in the future and would have a deterrent effect.

The Foreign Minister said that he did not share the Secretary’s view on the second resolution. Assistant Secretary Mann said that he would explain our position in detail at a later time.

The Secretary said that a possibility to be considered was that of taking action in two stages. At the current meeting, certain sanctions could be recommended, and the OAS Council could be instructed to review compliance and to report to the Foreign Ministers at a subsequent meeting at which time mandatory language could be approved if considered appropriate. This would allow for an interval of several months during which the Chilean election would be over and the new Mexican Administration would take office. He said this was not advanced as a U.S. Government position but as an idea to be considered.

2. Line Up of Votes

The Foreign Minister said that he considered fourteen votes necessary to satisfy the two-thirds requirement. Ambassador Bunker said the precedents supported the view that only thirteen were required, and promised to furnish the Foreign Minister with a memorandum explaining the position.

The Foreign Minister said that he thought there were at least thirteen votes in favor of his position for mandatory requirements:

1.
Guatemala
2.
Honduras
3.
Costa Rica
4.
Panama
5.
El Salvador
6.
Nicaragua
7.
Dominican Republic
8.
Ecuador
9.
Colombia
10.
Bolivia
11.
Peru
12.
Paraguay
13.
Brazil

[Page 59]

Assistant Secretary Mann said that our information on Bolivia was different and Bolivia appeared to be opposed. The Foreign Minister said his report on Brazil was based on the Brazilian Foreign Minister’s recent statement to the press.

3. Publicity

The Secretary said that he favored keeping the meeting of the Foreign Ministers private, without the press and television, so that they could better arrive at a satisfactory solution. The Foreign Minister agreed.

4. Conclusion

The Secretary congratulated the Foreign Minister on Venezuela’s impressive showing of courage and support of the democratic process in the December elections.

He said that he believed it would be useful to reflect further on what had been discussed, to take further soundings and meet again soon to continue the discussion.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 3 IA. Confidential. Drafted by Margolies and approved in S on July 29. The time of the meeting is taken from Rusk’s Appointment Book. (Johnson Library)
  2. The Secretary met Iribarren on July 20. Iribarren reported that his government could not budge on mandatory sanctions and President Leoni had instructed him to ask that the United States support Venezuela on this issue. Rusk said that Iribarren “could rest assured that the United States Government would support the Venezuelan position.” (Memorandum of conversation, July 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 3 IA)