320. Information Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Gordon) to Secretary of State Rusk 1

SUBJECT

  • Colombian Presidential Elections

Colombian presidential elections are scheduled for Sunday, May 1 (today). The candidate of the National Front, Carlos Lleras Restrepo, a Liberal, is expected to win handily with as much as 70% of the vote. The opposition candidate, Jose Jaramillo Giraldo, a political lightweight, is supported actively only by the followers of ex-dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, and has no real chance of challenging Lleras.

The elections may be plagued by abstention and by public order disturbances. Because of the National Front’s victory in the congressional elections on March 20 and the poor prospects of Jaramillo, voter apathy is likely to be widespread, with the result that Lleras may win with less than 2 million of 7 million possible votes. Dissident Liberal and [Page 700]Conservative leadership has called for abstention by its adherents. Both Lleras and Rojas stand to be somewhat embarrassed by a small voter turn out. Voting could also be affected by the current student strike over university issues, if the students try to interfere with orderly elections.

If elected, Lleras is scheduled to take office on August 7 for a four-year team. Lleras is a combination of politician, economist, and businessman, who is expected to provide capable administration and improved economic policies. He may be hampered in implementing his development and other legislative programs by the lack of the required two-thirds congressional majority. If so, he may have to either seek to amend the constitution or else continue to govern by decree under a state of siege, as the present Conservative administration of President Valencia has done since May 1965.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CV/C Files, 1966: Lot 69 D 407, POL 14, Elections. Confidential. Drafted by Lord. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Rusk saw it.
  2. In telegram 1423 from Bogotá, May 2, the Embassy reported that Lleras won the election, and that voter turnout had been higher than expected. (Ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 COL)