301. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Farewell Call by Ambassador Tomic

PARTICIPANTS

  • Foreign
    • Ambassador Radomiro Tomic, Ambassador of Chile
  • United States
    • Secretary Rusk
    • Mr. Patrick F. Morris, Country Director, Office of Bolivian-Chilean Affairs

After an exchange of pleasantries with Ambassador Tomic on his sojourn in the U.S. and his pending departure for Chile, Secretary Rusk asked the Ambassador about the present economic difficulties in Chile and the prospects for the future. He said that he understood that there was a possibility of an alignment of democratic parties with non-democratic parties in Chile, and asked Ambassador Tomic to comment on it.

Ambassador Tomic answered that he wanted to be absolutely frank with the Secretary and therefore he had to admit that the government [Page 657]of President Frei had reached the limit in its ability to carry forward its program of economic and social reform within a democratic framework. He explained that the government lacks the popular support primarily from organized labor to reach its stabilization goals as originally projected. The Christian Democratic party will have to accept the fact that it cannot get over 33% of the vote in the forthcoming congressional and presidential elections and therefore must look to working with other parties if it is to continue as an active promoter of social and economic change in Chile. There is the need for a new alignment of forces and a re-definition of social and economic goals to coincide with this realignment. Under these circumstances, it is possible that the Christian Democratic party will enter into some kind of arrangement with other parties on the left.

The Secretary commented that of course Chile would have to make its own decisions regarding its political future, but that any democratic party should make a very careful examination of the ultimate aims and objectives of the Communist party before entering a political arrangement with them. He said that he could not speak on Chile, but that the pattern of Communist party activities in Southeast Asia and the Middle East clearly indicates that they have not abandoned their goals of world domination. He said that the tradition of democratic institutions in Chile might make it strong enough to withstand the strains of a coalition government which included the communists but that in some of Chile’s neighbors with less strong institutions such a coalition might have more serious results. He then asked why a coalition of democratic forces of the Center and Left could not be worked out.

Ambassador Tomic answered that the situation in Chile was very confused. He said that the moderates within the Radical party were not in control of the party machinery; that the Right was generally discredited and there were many divisions in the non-communist Left. It is necessary that a new combination of forces be brought into being which is not based upon the leadership of an individual, (caudillismo or personalismo) but which expresses the needs and aspirations of the Chilean people. The Christian Democratic party is a vital and modern party which is guided by the aspirations of a majority of the electorate, but it will not achieve its objectives within the narrow confines of its own structure. It can serve as a nucleus for a broader and more inclusive political expression. He said that he recognized that it would take a number of miracles to bring such things to pass.

The Secretary congratulated him on his ambassadorship of three years in Washington and wished him well on his return to Chile.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 CHILE–US. Confidential. Drafted by Morris on March 20 and approved in S on March 21. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. According to the Secretary’s Appointment Book, Rusk briefly met Korry before meeting Tomic. (Johnson Library) No substantive record of that meeting has been found.
  2. Tomic also made a farewell call on President Johnson, March 22. A brief account of the meeting is in a March 22 memorandum from Bowdler for the file. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Chile, Vol. V, 8/67–11/68)