250. Memorandum Prepared for the Special Group1


  • Support for the Chilean Presidential Elections of 4 September 1964


  • A. Memorandum for The Special Group, dated 13 December 1963, Subject: Financial Support to Chilean Democratic Front [1 line of source text not declassified]2
  • B. Memorandum for The Special Group, dated 27 August 1962, Subject: Support to the Christian Democratic Party of Chile (PDC)3

1. Summary

This is a proposal for political and propaganda action directed at the defeat of Salvador Allende, the Communist-supported candidate for the Chilean presidential elections of 4 September 1964. The sum of $750,000 is being requested for the implementation of courses of action that will contribute to this objective by increasing the organizational efficiency and campaigning ability of the Christian Democratic Party, by inducing as far as feasible, supporters of the former Democratic Front to cast their votes for Frei and deny their support to Allende, and by attempting to discourage third candidacies—such as Jorge Prat’s. It should be noted that representatives of the Christian Democratic Party visited, on their own initiative, the U.S. Embassy in Santiago on 26 March and, after presenting their current and proposed budgets, asked for a one million dollar subsidy for Frei’s campaign. The Embassy and our field representative recommended that this amount be provided for this purpose.

Funds for this activity have not been programmed for FY 1964 and are not available within the Agency; it is recommended that this amount be obtained from the Agency Reserve for Contingencies.

2. Problem

To provide financial support, as necessary, to the democratic forces of Chile in an effort to defeat Salvador Allende, the Communist-sponsored [Page 555] candidate of FRAP. The objectives of this support are: (a) to minimize the number of democratic votes that may drift to FRAP as a result of the fractionalization of the Democratic Front; (b) to obtain the support of democratic parties and organizations for Eduardo Frei, the Christian Democratic candidate; (c) to strengthen the Christian Democratic organizational structure and campaigning ability so that it can appeal to the largest number of Chileans including FRAP voters, former Democratic Front supporters, and new voters; and (d) to induce “Independent” candidates, such as Jorge Prat, to withdraw from the campaign.

3. Factors Bearing on the Problem

The Curico by-elections of 15 March 1964 changed the Chilean political spectrum radically by forcing the withdrawal of the Democratic Front’s presidential candidate, Julio Duran, and disrupting the Democratic Front coalition composed of the Liberal, Conservative, and Radical parties.
The dissolution of the Democratic Front has polarized the elections around the candidacies of Eduardo Frei of the Christian Democratic Party and Salvador Allende of FRAP. In this situation the preferences of the voters who had been committed to Duran become the key to the election and to the defeat of Allende. In turn, the attitudes of these voters will be heavily influenced by the official position of the Radical, Conservative, and Liberal parties. The parties of the Democratic Front coalition polled approximately 921,000 votes in the April 1963 municipal elections which amounted to 46% of the votes cast. (Out of this 46%, the Radicals got 21.6%, the Liberals got 13.1%, and the Conservatives got 11.3%.) As a basis of comparison it should be noted that the Christian Democratic Party obtained 453,000 (23%) votes and FRAP 583,000 (29%) votes at that time. Since the estimated electorate for the 1964 presidential elections is two and one quarter million, either candidate will have to poll roughly one million, one hundred, and fifty thousand votes to win. Thus, even if there is no precise correlation between the voting patterns of municipal as compared to presidential elections it is clear that neither candidate can hope to win the elections of 4 September without appealing to a substantial number of the Conservative, Liberal, Radical, and new voters.
It can be said, in general, that the majority of the Conservative vote will be for Frei in view of this party’s Catholic tradition. The Liberal Party, which is staunchly anti-Communist, also can probably be depended upon to deliver a substantial segment of its vote to Frei. Historical factors, including the traditional anti-clericalism of the Radical Party and its past participation in a Popular Front Government, indicate that a substantial number of votes will probably shift from that party to FRAP.
The ability of the Christian Democratic Party to appeal openly for the vote of the former Democratic Front is seriously limited by Frei’s need to maintain his image as an honest and dedicated leader of the underprivileged who is above political “deals.” Conversely, the leaders of the former parties of the Democratic Front, especially the Radical Party which depends heavily on patronage to maintain its organization intact, would be hard pressed to throw their support to Frei in the absence of a PDC public appeal for their assistance. This dilemma poses the need for an external stimulus which will bring the Democratic Front parties and the PDC to a sophisticated agreement on the support of Frei for the presidential elections.
Apart from the problem noted above, there remains the persistent need to assist the PDC in the construction of an efficient capillary organization that will conduct an effective campaign, especially among peasants and women. A tentative analysis of the Curico election results indicate that the greatest FRAP gains and Democratic Front losses came from the category of peasants and women. Consequently, Frei must make a major organizational effort to counteract FRAP influence in these areas. The Curico campaign also demonstrated that the PDC organization is inadequately supplied with vehicles, party workers, loudspeakers, and the other accouterments of an effective campaign.
Thus, as a result of the situation outlined above, it becomes necessary to take all possible action to assist Frei in his campaign and to limit the number of former Democratic Front votes that might go to Allende. Some of the methods that will be used to achieve these objectives, insofar as feasible, are:
Bring pressure to bear on the Radical Party to prevent it from formally endorsing Allende, or, failing in this, to remain neutral or to run its own candidate if it appears that he will not damage Frei. In the event the Radical Party declares for Allende, financial assistance will have to be provided to individual Radical leaders or groups capable of bringing Radical voters into the Frei camp.
To influence the Conservative and Liberal parties to support Frei in a manner that will not damage his image as a reform candidate. To achieve this it will be necessary to provide financial assistance to the Liberal and Conservative parties or those of their leaders who will work to swing their votes behind Frei.
Provide a substantial subsidy [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for the purpose of strengthening his electoral machine and campaign capabilities. Efforts will also be made to influence Frei to reach a private agreement with the Radicals for their support in exchange for some patronage.
Bring pressure to bear on Jorge Prat, partly through Conservative and Liberal leaders, to induce his withdrawal from the presidential contest.
Provide financial assistance, as necessary, to ancillary organizations, such as youth and student groups, peasant organizations, slum dwellers’ associations, labor unions, and women’s clubs, to bring their votes to Frei.
In the latter stages of the campaign to buy some votes outright if required.
[3 lines of source text not declassified]
Some funds will also be utilized for specialized propaganda operations, some of which will be black, to denigrate Allende.

4. Coordination

This proposal has been coordinated with the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs who believes that—should it appear necessary at a later date—additional funds should be sought.4

In this regard, it should be noted that on 26 March 1964 the Embassy was visited by Frei’s [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] campaign managers who presented their current budget showing a rate of expenditure of $100,000 per month which they claim they are meeting with much difficulty. They also presented a proposed campaign budget for the next five months of $300,000 per month which they state would be required to mount an effective campaign. The Chileans suggested that the U.S. Government make up this difference which amounts to one million dollars for the period from now to election time. The Embassy and our field representative reviewed the budgets, felt they did not seem unreasonable, and subsequently recommended that the Chilean’s request for one million dollars be granted as soon as possible.

At the same time, the Embassy strongly recommended that the mechanics of the operation insure that this assistance not seem to come from U.S. sources.

5. Recommendation

It is recommended that:

Action under paragraph 3 f above be approved for immediate implementation.
The U.S. Government provide $750,000 for this purpose.
Funds [1½ lines of source text not declassified], be passed covertly in a manner [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] to infer [Page 558] U.S. Government origin of the funds yet permit us plausible denial if necessary. This will be done by attributing the funds, explicitly, to U.S. non-official sources. This approach is required in an effort to obtain some essential leverage [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. It is realized that this recommendation does not reflect the Embassy’s position.5

  1. Source: National Security Council, 303 Committee Files, Subject Files, Chile thru 1969. Secret; Eyes Alone. Dungan forwarded the paper to Bundy as an attachment to an April 2 memorandum in which he commented: “As I told you this morning, I have no way of knowing whether $750,000 is the right amount, but I certainly would not balk at it. You might inquire, however, why the cost of campaigning in [text not declassified] Chile is always so much higher than it is in the United States. As I indicated, I will follow up with Des[mond FitzGerald] on the implementation of this program without getting in any further than is absolutely necessary.” (Ibid.)
  2. Not printed. (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Special Group Files, Meetings, December 19, 1963)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., August 30, 1962)
  4. In a memorandum to U. Alexis Johnson, April 2, Mann approved the proposal with the following clarification: 1) that the money be divided, [text not declassified] going to support Frei and the remainder to other objectives; 2) that Frei be made “explicitly aware” that the U.S. Government was the source of the money; and 3) that the procedures for transferring the money be “closely coordinated with Mr. Mann.” (Ibid., April 2, 1964)
  5. The Special Group met on April 2 at 3:30 p.m. in the White House Situation Room. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, U. Alexis Johnson Files: Lot 90 D 408, Date Books, 1964) The minutes of the meeting record the decision on Chile as follows: “The paper, ‘Support for Chilean Presidential Elections,’ was approved. Mr. FitzGerald announced that a solution to the slight difference of opinion between Ambassador Cole and the CAS in Santiago had been reached and that attribution of U.S. support would be inferred but there should be no evidence of proof. Mr. FitzGerald indicated that this was operationally feasible.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Special Group Files, April 9, 1964, 116)