245. Memorandum From the Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division (King) to Director of Central Intelligence McCone1


  • Political Action Program in Chile


  • A. WHD Memorandum to DCI on Same Subject Dated 24 December 19632
  • B. Memorandum dated 30 December 1963 from E.H. Knoche requesting clarification on some points of the WHD Memorandum3

1. Our comments on the questions posed in Mr. Knoche’s memorandum are listed below.

2. Support for the Democratic Front

On 19 December 1963 the Special Group approved a one-time payment [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to the Democratic Front [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].4 The suggestion for this payment originated with Ambassador Cole and was concurred in by Assistant Secretary Martin. Arrangements are now being made to transfer this money [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. This Special Group paper did not request regular monthly payments to the Democratic Front.

During his December 1963 Washington visit, [name not declassified] mentioned that the Democratic Front required 1.5 million dollars for its election campaign—one million of which it could raise locally. The implication was a pitch for $500,000 from United States sources.

3. Present Assistance to the Christian Democratic Party


Policy Approval

In view of the ambiguous position of the Christian Democratic Party on a number of issues of interest to the United States, the subject [Page 546] of assistance to this party was periodically coordinated at various levels, with the people responsible for policy. The idea of assisting the Christian Democrats was first broached to us on 22 March 1962 by Ambassador Cole and the then Special Assistant to the President, Richard Goodwin. The Special Group approved a program of assistance to the Christian Democrats on 19 April 1962 and again on 30 August 1963.5 The Latin American Policy Committee approved the continuation of the assistance at meetings held on 10 January 1963 and 20 June 1963.6 On 14 August 1963 Mr. Martin and Ambassador Cole agreed again that this assistance should continue. The Special Group paper on one-time assistance to the Democratic Front which was approved on 19 December 1963 refers explicitly to our assistance to the Christian Democrats.7


Rationale for this Assistance

The reasons for our non-attributable assistance to the Christian Democratic Party are:


To Deprive the Chilean Communist Party of Votes

The Christian Democratic Party is the fastest growing party in Chile. Its social program and evangelical fervor has enabled it to compete successfully with the Communists for the votes of students and workers. The Christian Democratic Party is the only non-Communist party in Chile in a position to attack directly the Communist Party at its mass base. This has been demonstrated in the municipal elections of April of last year, in the student elections, and in the fight for control of labor unions, which, though still controlled by the Communists, are showing the signs of Christian Democratic Party inroads.


To Achieve a Measure of Influence Over Christian Democratic Party Policy

This objective could not be realized effectively because of security restrictions under which we must operate in this case. The Special Group, in approving assistance to the Christian Democratic Party, insisted that this assistance be non-attributable. [1½ lines of source text not declassified] Since security has been tightly maintained, Eduardo Frei, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, is unwitting of the fact that he is being aided by the United States Government and believes that this assistance is being provided by his [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] friends.


To Foster a Non-Communist Coalition

One of the original objectives in March 1962 was to strengthen the Christian Democratic Party so that it would be more attractive to the Radical Party as a coalition partner. Up to April 1963 the Radicals had been the largest single party and the Christians the second largest in Chile. Hence a coalition of these parties with the greatest voter appeal was viewed as a viable non-Communist barrier. Since the Radical Party joined the Conservatives and Liberals in their own alliance, the Democratic Front, on 11 October 1962, this objective is not now feasible.

4. Parliament’s Role in the Election of a President

In the event no candidate achieves a majority, the Chilean constitution does provide parliament with the right to select the president between the two leading candidates. The composition of the present parliament is such that it could select the runner-up over the Popular Front candidate. Historically, however, parliament has never passed over the candidate who received the largest popular vote, and we have no hard intelligence to the effect that any leading groups are planning to do this, if it should become necessary, nor do we have any indication that public opinion would approve such a move. Moreover, parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 1965, and it is unlikely that many parliamentarians will conclude that their reelection will be best assured by going against the will of the people by flouting Chile’s proud democratic spirit and by assuming the responsibility for the civil unrest that would follow such a decision.

5. Military Intervention

Traditionally, the Chilean military establishment has not interfered with the political life of the country. The last military coup occurred in 1932. The Chilean military stood idly by and watched a Popular Front government assume power in 1938 and permitted it to govern until 1941 when it fell of its own weight and without military intervention. Although the military have the capabilities to intervene, we have no intelligence or other reports indicating they are planning or considering this.

6. How Business Circles View the 1964 Elections

The fact that the Socialist/Communist Front did not do as well as anticipated in the municipal elections of April 1963 has created some new optimism in regard to the 1964 election results. However, although we (and our counterparts in the State Department) do not view the election of the Popular Front candidate as a probability, we do feel it is a distinct possibility. Business circles of course have no illusion about what would happen should the Socialist/Communist Front win, but they believe this possibility to be less likely than we do.

[Page 548]

Should a Christian Democratic victory occur, it might be noted that the Christian Democratic Party tends to favor selective nationalization and increased state planning. Undoubtedly, private industry would be in a better position with Duran as president and will probably suffer increased restrictions under a Christian Democratic administration.

7. Should we be Supporting the Christian Democratic Party

Although the Christian Democratic Party and the Democratic Front do not, in large measure, compete for the same votes and the Christian Democratic Party has demonstrated its ability to compete with the communists for worker votes, its position on a number of issues of interest to the United States makes it advisable to reexamine our aid to this party. [2½ lines of source text not declassified] In any event, we must face the fact that the Christian Democratic Party will be less favorable and responsive to United States Government policies than the Democratic Front, that it will try to establish relations with Iron Curtain countries, that within the limited capability of Chile it will endeavor to increase its trade with the Soviet Bloc and will not follow the United States lead in foreign policy with the same willingness as the present government.

8. Should we Alter our Chilean Program

Two aspects of our Chilean program should be exploited with Secretary Mann.

Depending on [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] our intelligence reports, and State Department findings, the entire subject of Chilean election subsidies, with particular emphasis on assistance to the Democratic Front, should be discussed with Secretary Mann.
If a decision is made to continue assistance to the Christian Democratic Party, an effort should be made to achieve greater influence over it by modifying the Special Group restriction on non-attributability. Funds could be provided in a fashion causing Frei to infer United States origin of funds and yet permitting plausible denial.
J. C. King 8
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 80–01690R, DDO Files, Western Hemisphere, Chile, [file name not declassified]. Secret. Drafted on January 2. Forwarded through the Deputy Director for Plans. Copies were sent to DDCI, DDP, and ADDP.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found. Enno Henry Knoche was Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence.
  4. The minutes of the meeting are in Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Special Group Files, Meetings, January 2, 1964.
  5. The funding approved was [text not declassified] and [text not declassified], respectively. The minutes of the Special Group meetings are in the Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Special Group Files, Meetings, April 26, 1962 and September 6, 1962.
  6. The minutes for both meetings are ibid., LAPC Action Minutes, 1962–1963.
  7. Reference is to a CIA paper for the Special Group, December 13, 1963. (Ibid., Special Group Files, Meetings, December 19, 1963)
  8. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.