217. Telegram From the Embassy Office in Brasilia to the Department of State 1

153. For President and Secretary of State from Harriman.

Immediately upon arrival in Brasilia 1330 Tuesday, I was received by President Castello Branco for one and one-half hour working luncheon, together with FonMin Vasco Leitao da Cunha and Ambassador Gordon. Conversation was cordial, frank, and very much to the point.
In my opening exposition, I first reviewed reasons for President Johnson’s emergency action last Wednesday,2 collapse local authority [Page 481] in Dominican Republic and increasing takeover of rebellion by foreign-trained Communist elements. Since we aware of GOB support for multilateral force resolution and indications of willingness contribute thereto, I concentrated on immediate problems how secure effective OAS action to authorize I–A force and work toward Dominican Republic conditions permitting people peacefully choose own government. I also expressed appreciation GOB public support President Johnson’s actions.
Castello Branco replied that problem had two aspects. Substantive one was to avoid Communist seizure of another country, as well as saving innocent lives. Formal one was to legitimate actions through effective OAS measures. GOB subject to two constraints in sending troops: (a) must have OAS request and (b) must have congressional approval. It is vitally important secure two-thirds MFM vote on I–A force. To get this, most effective step is to galvanize OAS five-man commission on spot and get them to take three steps soonest: (a) secure effective cease-fire, (b) make clear to LA governments and publics the nature and extent of Communist threat, and (c) to insist on constitution of I–A force under its political guidance. He said commission so far acting too much like Red Cross body and not taking enough political leadership. He instructed FonMin to communicate forthwith to Penna Marinho in this sense.
We also discussed Brazilian approaches through Ambassadors here and in Washington to press Peru and Ecuador to favorable vote. They will also work on Chile, Uruguay and Mexico, although not expecting much from latter two.
Castello Branco stated failure secure two-thirds vote would create major rupture in OAS and also be signal for political violence in much of hemisphere. He felt sure that US would not withdraw any forces and made clear he would not want us to. On this point, I assured him President Johnson would stand firm until it was clear that Dominican people would have opportunity establish government of own choice. If MFM vote not secured, Castello Branco doubted possibility going through with May 20 Rio conference.
Castello Branco stated categorically that after favorable MFM vote he would request congressional authority to send force. We did not discuss size of force or command arrangements, but ARMA’s contacts indicate Brazilian military thinking of one infantry battalion, one MP company, and possibly a tank company totalling up to one thousand men. Castello Branco had discussed Monday evening with congressional leaders and was seeing them again at 1500 when we adjourned. Their reaction was that OAS request was key, and that with such request favorable vote would be given although with some difficulties in chamber. Castello Branco also thought MFM might want to [Page 482] decide specifically on which countries to invite to send forces, and they should if possible include one of the “shy maidens.”
In discussing hostile attitude Chile and Venezuela, I mentioned personal friendship with Bosch as one element and reluctance believe that he had lost effective leadership of rebellion to Communist and allied elements. Castello Branco said he had received two telegrams from Bosch protesting US intervention, but shows no disposition to credit Bosch line.
After presidential meeting, we continued briefly with FonMin, who sending instructions to Penna Marinho through OAS. GOB has been without direct communications with Santo Domingo Embassy for three days. We offered ours if they have any trouble, but agree OAS politically preferable channel if working.
FonMin also gave us copy their Monday morning instructions to MFM representative, strongly opposing Mexico, supporting US actions and resolutions. Translation follows separately.
FonMin also gave preliminary views on how Dominican Republic crisis will require being taken into account at May 20 Rio Conference if held, specifically possibility acting on establishment permanent arrangements for emergency I–A peacekeeping force.
Castello Branco agreed to keep in closest touch with us here and in Washington to concert specific moves to achieve our mutual objectives on which there appears to be full agreement.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN. Secret; Immediate. Repeated Immediate to Rio de Janeiro and Priority to Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Quito, Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City, Panama, Guatemala, USCINCSO, and USUN. Passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA.
  2. On Tuesday, April 27, the President sent U.S. Marines to the Dominican Republic to protect American lives in the midst of civil war; he later claimed that action was necessary to prevent the establishment of a Communist dictatorship. In response to criticism that he had acted unilaterally, the President dispatched Ambassador at Large Harriman and a team of high-level officials to Latin America for consultation, i.e., to explain the decision and to seek support from other countries. Before Harriman arrived in Brasilia, Walters met Castello Branco to “prepare a favorable atmosphere.” When Harriman landed at the airport, Walters gave him a note: “Don’t push too hard. The door is open.” (Vernon A. Walters, Silent Missions, pp. 399–401)
  3. On May 6 the OAS voted to form an Inter-American Peace Force, a unit that augmented U.S. forces with contingents from several member states led by Brazil. Six days later, the OAS voted to postpone the Second Special Inter-American Conference scheduled to start in Rio de Janeiro on May 20. For documentation on the Dominican crisis, see Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXII.