292. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Chilean Progress and American Assistance

PARTICIPANTS

  • For the U.S.
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson
    • Secretary of State Dean Rusk
    • Assistant Secretary Lincoln Gordon
    • Ambassador to OAS Sol M. Linowitz
    • Special Assistant to the President Walt W. Rostow
  • For Chile
    • President Eduardo Frei
    • Foreign Minister Gabriel Valdes
    • Ambassador Radomiro Tomic
    • Ambassador Pedro Daza(LAFTA)
    • Amb. to OAS Alejandro Magnet
    • Special Advisor Raul Saez

Both President Johnson and Secretary Rusk expressed their praise for the progress made in Chile under the Frei administration. Secretary Rusk said it was important for the entire hemisphere that Chile become a successful example of economic and social progress. President Frei said progress had been achieved in a number of fields, such as housing, education, health, and industrialization, but a great deal of work remained to be done in the field of agriculture. He said he faced opposition from two extremes: the right on the one hand, and the left, composed of the Socialists and Communists, on the other. The Socialists were now more extremist than the Communists. The left coalition was acting in a very aggressive fashion, realizing that if the Frei administration were successful, particularly in the field of agrarian reform, this success would have a far-reaching impact, not only in Chile, but throughout Latin America. It would spell the end of any hope for power in the hands of the extreme left.

When Secretary Rusk asked President Frei what his most pressing problem was, he replied that it was the whole problem of agriculture. Chile was going to have to spend $170 million on food imports this year. In addition, Chile’s rural population was pressing for a betterment of their conditions. In the past, any attempts to increase the prices of agricultural products had been attacked as a boon to the wealthy land-owners. Now, however, with an increasing number of small farmers [Page 643]being created under agrarian reform, this problem is decreasing in magnitude. Chile needed fertilizer, seed, and credit for its agrarian reform and modernization problem.

In this connection, Chile would like American assistance in a pilot agricultural project. Chile would be able to finance compensation for land, but would appreciate assistance in the other aspects of this project.2

Finally, President Frei said that, in spite of what some others had said in the course of the conference,3 he felt Chile had received the proper understanding and cooperation from the United States.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 IA Summit. Confidential. Drafted by Barnes. Approved in S on April 19 and by the White House on April 22. The luncheon meeting was held at President Johnson’s temporary residence. The memorandum is part II of II parts. Part I, “Conference of Chiefs of State,” is ibid. The meeting of American chiefs of state was held at Punta del Este, April 12–14.
  2. Tomic raised the “pilot agricultural project” in a conversation with Gordon, April 27. Although he failed to offer any details, Tomic maintained that agrarian reform in Chile would fail without U.S. assistance. Gordon reiterated the “U.S. commitment to agrarian reform in Latin America and our interest in seeing it succeed in Chile.” Gordon suggested, however, that further discussion of the issue take place in Santiago. (Telegram 184953 to Santiago, April 29; ibid., POL 7 CHILE)
  3. Reference is evidently to critical remarks made by President Arosemena of Ecuador; see Document 51.