300. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Oliver) to the Under Secretary of State (Katzenbach)1

SUBJECT

  • Ambassador Tomic and Christian Democratic-Communist Popular Front in Chile

President Frei told Ambassador Korry that it would be valuable to him if we could take advantage of farewell meetings with Ambassador Tomic to emphasize the total US coldness to any possibility of a Christian Democratic Popular Front combination with the Communist Party in Chile.2 You may wish to take advantage of the occasion of your March 7 luncheon with Ambassador Tomic to discuss this with him, possibly before or after the luncheon. If, given the ceremonial nature of the luncheon, it seems inopportune to do so, we can see that Ambassador Tomic receives our thoughts on this matter on some other occasion.

As you can see from the general briefing memorandum for the luncheon,3 Ambassador Tomic has ideas about forming a political grouping of the left and left-center. He clearly includes the Communists in his thinking. President Frei believes that Ambassador Tomic has convinced himself that the US would be willing to provide the same degree of support to such a coalition government including Communists as it does to the present government. President Frei believes that Tomic should be disabused of this idea, and he hopes that we would make our opposition clear before Ambassador Tomic returns to Chile. President Frei said that Ambassador Tomic running on a straight PDC ticket would be the strongest presidential candidate in 1970, and that it would be within his character to decide to make a deal with the moderate forces in Chile in pursuit of the presidency if need be.

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Ambassador Korry stresses that in discussing this matter with Tomic, there should be no indication of initiative from him or from President Frei.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL CHILE–US. Secret. Drafted by Shankle and cleared by Morris. Initialed for Oliver by Sayre.
  2. Reported in telegram 2547 from Santiago, February 21. (Ibid., POL 7 CHILE)
  3. In this March 5 memorandum from Oliver to Katzenbach, Oliver explained that Tomic had a “good chance” of winning the 1970 presidential election and that the purpose of the luncheon was to convince him that “he has made friends at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.” (Ibid., POL 17 CHILE–US)
  4. Donald F. Herr, staff assistant to the Under Secretary, wrote the following note on the memorandum: "I have heard that Chilean Communists are less red than the Socialists. Tomic’s idea of a coalition of the left may not be all that bad. At any rate, it is worth further investigation." The talking points for the meeting suggested that Katzenbach "privately" discuss the problems associated with a Popular Front in Chile, including the following argument: "The United States is a strong supporter of Christian democracy in Latin America. Any combination with communists, however, could only serve to bring this support into question." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Katzenbach Files: Lot 74 D 271, Luncheon—March 7, 1968, Host for Chile Ambassador Tomic) No substantive record of the luncheon has been found.