278. Telegram From the Embassy in Ecuador to the Department of State1

842. For President and SecState from Harriman.2

During my brief visit to Santiago, GOC had made most thorough security arrangements through national police, lining streets where needed and protecting chancery and residence, as well as President’s palace. We were greeted with some derogatory shouts and clenched fists, at the same time a certain number of friendly waves.

President Frei with Foreign Minister Valdes received Dungan and myself shortly after my arrival for over two hours and a half talk, mostly in English with little translation. Therefore we were able to cover a wide range of subjects. Frei listened attentively to my explanation of situation in Santo Domingo which required President Johnson’s decision, with description of some vivid details of Communist take-over and atrocities. I emphasized that Communist subversion was now the dangerous aggression the hemisphere had to face and described Brazilian and Argentine ideas regarding necessity to expand permanent arrangements for rapid OAS peace keeping capability in order to avoid President being faced with necessity to take unilateral action in another crisis. I said that although he [Frei] appeared now to be out of sympathy with the President’s decision, I believed he would reverse his opinion when all the facts were in and applaud the courage and decisiveness of President Johnson’s action. In any event the immediate situation was being dealt with at USG’s request through the OAS in both political and peace keeping fields. There appeared unanimous agreement in objective of creating stability which would permit Dominican people select government of their own choice. I asked for his full cooperation to this end.

Frei replied that he understood the President’s dilemma and reasons his decision, but hoped that the President would understand the political scene in Chile. Chile has the largest Communist Party in the hemisphere. He believed he could reduce its influence through his [Page 610] policies. Communists had led in attacking former ruling class privilege. He was convinced the way to eliminate Communist influence was his social and economic revolution which would achieve more for the people and out-do them in appeal. He recognized importance of private investment and took pride in sensible new arrangements with Anaconda and Kennecott, and also with American Foreign Power and International Telephone and Telegraph. His policies were pro-American. He had won the election with that plank [in] his platform. He had great admiration for President Johnson’s domestic program, but we had to understand Chile feared military dictatorship and military intervention as much as Communist subversion. Chile was getting along well today with civilian governments in Argentina and Peru whereas military dictatorship particularly in Argentina would reverse this situation and possible Argentine military intervention menace Chile’s independence. He and his colleagues had worked hard to develop Christian Democratic Party. 20 years ago they only had 20 percent as many votes as the Communists whereas today Christian Democratic Party vote was five times as large as the Communists. American liberalism had given inspiration and courage to the CDP and he hoped that this liberal United States image would not now be blurred by military action or identification with and support of military regimes. The Communist issue was not as clear cut in Chile as in the United States and U.S. should be prepared to accept certain risks to maintain our liberal leadership. The Communists had helped awaken the people to oppose the status quo and had to be dealt with as part of the political scene in many L.A. countries. In Chile the Communists could be beaten through political action rather than military suppression. Frei expressed confidence that his program would succeed and thus Communist influence would fade. I interrupted to say that Communist danger was different in almost every country and the tactics in dealing with it had to be flexible.

After much discussion, he agreed. He pointed out that he could not jeopardize his own leadership and that of the CD Party by becoming involved in military intervention in D.R. He therefore could not support the OAS resolution and cannot send troops.3 If he proposed it, he would be defeated in Congress and reduce his influence. In any event he obviously did not want to take this action. Dungan asked if he would send a medical unit. This he declined as any military unit, even medical, required congressional action. But when I pressed him to participate, mentioning Peruvian food shipment, he finally agreed to send relief supplies. I pressed him on the necessity for [Page 611] Chile, as representing constructive liberal force in L.A., to take an active part in helping solve Dominican situation, and urged him to send a representative in whom he had confidence to Santo Domingo to keep him informed of the true situation during coming months. He admitted that he had no confidence in his present Chargé and turning to Valdes told him to select someone promptly. Neither man had any suggestions of concrete action to be taken except to state that some reasonably representative government must be established soonest with elections to follow as soon as practicable. He had expressed no choice of factions. He did however refer to Bosch as “a coward remaining securely under American protection in Puerto Rico.” He had had communications from Colonel Caamano but had no judgement of his position. I explained rebel isolated position in a small part of Santo Domingo and lack of control of other parts of the country. I said we must avoid unilateral political action in the recognition of any group as this was almost as bad as unilateral military action. He agreed and commented that we must await more information from Santo Domingo particularly the commission’s report.4

As I took my leave Frei expressed hope that even though we had differed on D.R. situation, and might again disagree on tactics for achieving mutual objectives this would not affect warm friendship that existed between our two countries and intimate personal relationship he had with Dungan in Santiago. He expressed great confidence in Tomic and hoped he could develop similar relationship in Washington.5

To Santiago for Dungan:

Since this written in Quito hope you will make such comments or additions you feel desirable.6

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Bogota, Santo Domingo, Caracas, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Panama, Guatemala, Buenos Aires, USCINCSO, and USUN. Passed to the White House, DOD and CIA.
  2. On April 27 President Johnson sent U.S. Marines to intervene in the Dominican civil war. In response to criticism that he had acted unilaterally, the President sent Harriman to Latin America to explain the decision and seek support from other countries. Documentation on the Dominican crisis is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XXXII.
  3. The OAS voted on May 6 to establish an Inter-American Peace Force, a unit that augmented U.S. forces in the Dominican Republic with contingents from several member states. Chile was one of five countries to vote against the proposal. (Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1965, pp. 854–869)
  4. On May 1 the OAS voted to send a five-member committee to the Dominican Republic. The committee was instructed to seek a negotiated settlement and report its conclusions or recommendations. Chile abstained from the proposal. (Ibid., May 17, 1965, pp. 738–748)
  5. President Johnson and Mann reviewed Chile’s role in the Dominican crisis on May 25: “Mr. Mann said that although the Mexicans voted against us, they did not lobby against us. The Chileans did, and they are the ones who hurt us. The President said he thought we should take a few siestas ourselves and go to sleep for a while on some of their requests. Mr. Mann said he could not agree more.” The two men later discussed how to implement this policy: “Mr. Mann said that we would have to go slow but we should put a price tag on it without ever admitting this has anything to do with their actions. The President said that Mr. Mann should tell these people that he is doing his best, but people are upset and it is very, very difficult. Mr. Mann said he understood very well.” (Johnson Library, Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, May 2, 1965–June 2, 1966)
  6. Dungan’s account of the meeting between Frei and Harriman was transmitted in telegrams 1722 and 1729 from Santiago, May 7 and 8, respectively. (Both in National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 US/HARRIMAN)