32. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation1


  • Mr. Vaughn
  • Governor Harriman

Governor Harriman said that he had talked to Bobby Kennedy about a couple of things before he left and he had mentioned having a good talk with JV, and seemed quite happy about it. JV said that Kennedy had seemed quite rough.2 In reply Harriman stated that Kennedy was a wonderful fellow but it was hard for him to get readjusted—that he felt things were just not as good as they used to be. JV mentioned that Kennedy had three specific points, which bother him and on which he felt he must speak out—

D.R. (Harriman interupted to say that he thought Kennedy wrong in his views on the D.R. and had told him so)
Policy in Peru—and
Recent developments in Brazil.

On the last point JV mentioned that Kennedy thought we should stop aid and Harriman remarked that this was “crazy.” Harriman then explained that Kennedy had asked him to keep in touch and he [Page 84] (Harriman) felt that Dungan and Linc Gordon could do Kennedy some good. Continuing, Governor Harriman said that his interest was to be sure Kennedy was constructive—rather than destructive—because he “has so much steam,” and asked if there was anything he could do in the way of communicating with him. JV and Harriman discussed further the things Kennedy would probably say in LA—he will probably say that we were wrong in the D.R. but that he is willing to forget the past and talk about the future. It was agreed that Kennedy was not as bad as Fulbright but that he would talk and would “raise this hell in Brazil” (Harriman). The Governor asked what Kennedy planned to do in Argentina and JV said that he wouldn’t do anything since we are so far on the way of resolving the oil problem. Chile?—he wouldn’t say anything. Venezuela?—no, the main problem there is oil and he feels it is too complicated for him to go into. Harriman asked if Kennedy really planned to talk against our policy in Peru and JV replied that he would express his view that we should stick to the Alliance for Progress objectives and not work with the oil companies. Harriman expressed hope that Linc Gordon could get to him on Brazil but JV said most likely Kennedy would be asked about Brazil before he gets there.

Going to another subject, Governor Harriman asked if Chile was going to show up at Rio and JV said that chances are that they will be going—the question mark being Venezuela. Harriman said that he thought Venezuela would follow Chile—JV said no, that they would not go because they did not have diplomatic relations.3 As to U.S. policy on the Brazilian situation JV stated that the Second Institutional Act contained 32 different authoritarian steps the President could take and we felt it best to wait and see what he chose to do before making any statement of condemnation. Harriman said that it was his understanding that Castello Branco took these steps to appease his military and JV said “yes, he did.”

Returning to the subject of Kennedy’s trip Harriman asked JV if he planned to write to any of the Ambassadors and JV said he was going to discuss this with the Secretary. Harriman suggested that a letter be sent Linc Gordon and Ralph DunganDungan and Kennedy are friends and this might be helpful. Thought it advisable to let the Ambassadors know the mood Kennedy was in. Governor Harriman again stated that he would do anything he could to help in corralling Kennedy and asked JV to mention this to the Secretary.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA Files, 1965–67: Lot 70 D 295, Inner Office Memoranda, November 1965. No classification or drafting information appears on the memorandum. A copy was sent to Sayre.
  2. For an account of the meeting between Kennedy and Vaughn, see Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Robert Kennedy and His Times, pp. 693–694.
  3. Although a Chilean delegation attended the Rio conference, Venezuela refused to send a delegation; in accordance with the Betancourt doctrine, the Leoni administration had suspended diplomatic relations with Brazil after the coup d’état of March–April 1964.
  4. According to the Secretary’s Appointment Book Vaughn met Rusk on November 8 (10:40 a.m.); the two men also attended a briefing session for the Rio Conference on November 9 (3 p.m.). (Johnson Library) No substantive record of either meeting was found.