294. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Gordon) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Kohler)1

SUBJECT

  • Proposal to Aid Moderate Elements in Radical Party of Chile

There is attached a memorandum for the 303 Committee2 that proposes covert financial assistance of $20,000 to the moderate faction of the Radical Party (PR) of Chile to attempt to contain the drift of this Party, under its present pro-Marxist National Committee, toward an alliance with the Communist-Socialist Popular Action Front (FRAP). The memorandum points out that the PR holds the balance of power in the Chilean Senate between President Frei’s Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and the FRAP, and notes that under the current leadership of the National Committee (CEN) the Party has tended increasingly to vote with FRAP to obstruct key legislation of President Frei’s program, the success of which the US regards as of first importance. The memorandum also states that the Committee has recently enjoyed a considerable accrual to its prestige because of the relative success of the PR in the 2 April nationwide municipal elections.

Election of CEN members is to take place at the Party convention in June. It is argued in the memorandum of proposal that were the leftist control of the Committee eliminated or diluted in this election, sentiment in the PR to maintain the current voting alliance with FRAP would be weakened, and that the likelihood of effective collaboration between the two groups in the 1969 Congressional and the 1970 Presidential campaigns would also be reduced. The expenditure contemplated in the memorandum is directed toward this Committee election.

ARA agrees that the ends sought by the proposal are desirable.3 We recognize that there is no guarantee that the action contemplated [Page 648]will in fact achieve the ends sought, but we believe that on balance it represents the most practicable means immediately available to ensure that we can go into the 1969 and 1970 campaigns with some reasonable prospect of preventing the undesirable coalition.

ARA recommends that you support the proposal in the 303 Committee.4

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, 303 Committee Files, c. 49, April 28, 1967. Secret; Eyes Only. Sayre initialed the memorandum for Gordon.
  2. Dated April 8; attached but not printed.
  3. In a draft memorandum from Gordon to Kohler, April 19, this sentence continues: “but we have serious doubts that the action recommended would be successful.” A handwritten note on the draft memorandum indicates that Sayre decided to withhold signature on the memorandum until the Embassy had the opportunity to clarify its “contradictory advice.” (Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Chile, 1967–1968) In his reply on April 25 Dungan stated his case as follows: “I believe that this program is reasonably sure of accomplishing its modest purpose to deny an open field to the Marxist-oriented wing of the party. It is a one-shot operation which may or may not have future implications for the U.S. I believe that the risks are minimal and the prospects for success in the attainment of limited objectives are good. To take no action involves little risk but a high probability that the present leftist-oriented leadership of the CEN will be strengthened.” (Ibid.)
  4. According to the minutes of the April 28 303 Committee meeting: “The proposal to help save the Radical Party from marriage with FRAP was approved by the committee with some members curious about whether $20,000 was sufficient to keep the prospective bride intact. It was explained that this was estimated to be about what the traffic could properly bear at this time.” (Memorandum for the record, May 1; ibid.) On July 3 the Embassy reported that the election for the national committee of the Radical Party had resulted in a “resounding triumph” for the leftist faction. (Telegram 21 from Santiago; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 12–3 CHILE)