327. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1
- Situation in Ecuador
For the past week the Military Junta in Ecuador has been faced with mounting pressures to step down. It began with a commercial strike in Guayaquil last Tuesday and has gradually spread to other cities. The base of the movement has also broadened to include other anti-Junta groups—political parties, chauffeurs federation, students, etc. A deteriorating economic situation has added to the Junta’s woes.
Last Friday the Junta, with the firm backing of the Armed Forces, seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Over the weekend, the picture changed as the strike continued and clashes between the Armed Forces and university students and other demonstrators increased.
Ambassador Coerr called State this afternoon to report that the Junta had announced that: (1) its members would “reintegrate” themselves into the Armed Forces and (2) there would be drastic changes in the plan for transition to constitutional government. Elections had been set for July 3. He did not know yet to whom the Junta would be turning over the government. The most likely possibility seemed to be a non-partisan civilian acceptable to the military and anti-Junta elements. [Page 709] A Guayaquil business-man—Clemente Yerovi—and former President Galo Plaza are rumored as likely candidates.2
So far the Armed Forces remain united and firmly in control of the security situation. This afternoon’s announcement reflects their decision that the present Junta should step down because it has lost public confidence and can no longer maintain a political climate which will permit meaningful elections in July. For the Armed Forces the way out is to put in a new face and adjust the date for elections to allow tempers to cool and make fresh preparations for elections.
Ambassador Coerr is active in this very fluid situation, using his influence to bring about a government of conciliation as rapidly as possible, while continuing to press for a return to constitutional government without delay.
There is nothing further at the moment that we can do from here. The Inter-American Interdepartmental Regional Group meets tomorrow to review the situation.3
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Ecuador, Memos, 12/63–11/68. Secret. A copy was sent to Bill Moyers. A notation on the memorandum indicates that the President saw it.↩
- In a March 29 memorandum for the President, Bowdler reported that Yerovi had been chosen as interim civilian President and was “known to be friendly towards the United States, which should ease our task in dealing with him.” (Ibid.)↩
- The Interdepartmental Regional Group for Inter-American Affairs met on March 29 to consider a draft contingency plan on Ecuador. A record of the meeting is in IRG/ARA Action Memo #4, April 1; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/IG Files, 1966–68: Lot 70 D 122, IRG/ARA Action Memos, 1968.↩