291. Editorial Note

In early 1967 the Johnson administration considered a proposal to provide financial support to the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) for the municipal elections in April. When Deputy Assistant Secretary Sayre first raised the issue on February 17, Assistant Secretary Gordon replied: “On substance, you know my ground rule that we should engage in election funding only where there is a clear US national interest at stake. In Chile there was in the 1964 national elections but this is not at all self-evident in the 1967 municipals. It also seems to me extraordinary that PDC should still need funding on this scale after two years in national power.” “Much as we admire Frei,” Gordon concluded, “a very strong case would have to be made to justify this funding, and I have grave doubts that it can be made.” (Memorandum from Gordon to Sayre, February 18; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Chile, 1967–1968)

At a March 2 meeting with Sayre, William V. Broe, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, Directorate for Plans, reported that Ambassador Dungan had forwarded a request from President Frei for funds to cover half of the PDC campaign budget of $1 million. Although he was against financial support for the party, Dungan suggested an alternative: a direct subsidy of $75,000 to Frei himself. Dungan also recommended that the Johnson administration “express interest” in giving the Christian Democrats assistance to “organize the party more rationally and put it on a self-sustaining basis.” After presenting the Ambassador’s views, Broe commented: “The $75,000 sop to Frei would accomplish little,” he argued; “if we were to give any support at all, we would have to go all the way.” In Broe’s opinion, the United States should decline the request but do so in such a way as to “hold out hope for the future.” Sayre maintained that the Christian Democrats were not as badly organized as was generally believed. Moreover, Gordon had already questioned the need for the program since there was no apparent threat to U.S. interests. Sayre, therefore, agreed to await the outcome of the municipal elections, i.e. to see how well the PDC could do “without outside help.” Sayre thought the Department would instruct Dungan to “hold out some hope” to the Christian Democrats “but not do anything.” Broe replied that, “in view of the time elapsed already, the Party has probably already gotten this message.” (Memorandum for the record by Sliffman [Broe], March 6; ibid., Latin America, 1966, 1967, 1968)