296. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1

Mr. President:

In the past few days, President Frei has suffered two body blows from his own Christian Democratic Party.

The Party’s National Council on July 12 published an extraordinarily naive—and unhelpful—statement saying that:

  • —the Cuban-backed Latin American Solidarity Organization (Castro’s vehicle for promoting “national liberation” movements) should be allowed to establish an office in Chile provided it does not stimulate violence.
  • —guerrilla warfare is a phenomenon resulting from underdevelopment and exploitation by national oligarchies and foreign interests, and not always attributable to Cuba.

The statement reflects the ascendancy of “left-wing” elements of the Party and their desire to strike a “liberal” stance in the face of goading by the Socialist-Communist coalition which has picked up voting strength in recent municipal and by-elections. Frei responded with a strongly-worded, public denunciation of LASO. This statement also helped reassure President Leoni and the Christian Democrats in Venezuela who were furious over the Chilean PCD declaration.

The second set-back is the capture of the Party national leadership by the “left-wing” during last weekend’s National Assembly. Ralph Dungan reports that Frei, who has remained aloof from Party politics, did not intervene in the Assembly and the “moderates” were not a match for the more aggressive “left-wingers”.2

The new leadership will try to push Frei towards greater nationalization of important sectors of private enterprise. Anticipating this, Frei, in signing the new Agrarian Reform Law on July 16, made clear that he would not vary from his announced government program fostering the growth of the private sector.

Ralph Dungan concludes that Frei is so strong with the rank and file of his party that the new leadership will not be able to budge him from his policies if he is willing to take his case to the Party faithful.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Chile, Vol. IV, 10/65–7/67. Confidential. A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.
  2. Reported in telegram 206 from Santiago, July 19. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 12 CHILE) Dungan left Chile on August 2 to assume his new responsibilities as the first Chancellor of Higher Education in New Jersey. On July 25 the White House announced that his replacement would be the Ambassador to Ethiopia, Edward M. Korry. Korry was confirmed by the Senate on August 23 and presented his credentials in Santiago on October 16.