462. Memorandum From Robert M. Sayre of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1
The LAPC discussed Paraguay on August 6.2
Ambassador Snow reported a noticeable political liberalization in Paraguay. Public criticism of the regime is permitted in the press and otherwise, but it is cautious and not extensive. The general public is reasonably content with the political situation, and there is no serious agitation against Stroessner. Ambassador Snow said he had devoted considerable effort to determining the number of political prisoners, and found them highly exaggerated. He has concluded that there are no more than a dozen, give or take a few. He considers figures alleging that there are thousands of political exiles as fiction. He would put the figure at 600–700 at most, and of these he has been told by the Paraguayan Foreign Minister,3 that all but about 25 would be permitted to return to Paraguay unmolested. He reports police brutality as minimal, probably no more than in Mexico, or other Latin American countries in which he has served. He is concentrating his efforts on emphasizing respect for human rights, etc. None of this changes the fact that Stroessner is a dictator of the Odria or Somoza type. He is definitely not of the Trujillo, or Duvalier stripe, however.
There was general agreement on the line that we should treat the Paraguayan Government and its officials with respect, but that we should carefully avoid becoming identified with Stroessner, or lay ourselves [Page 973] open to the assertion that we “support” the Stroessner Government. Our line should be to the Government, and to opposition leaders, that our interests is in working with the Paraguayan people, and helping to improve their well-being.
On the economic side, Paraguay is doing reasonably well, and the economic situation is improving. We have a modest technical assistance program. We have made one small loan. The discussion was about expanding it. There was general agreement that we had an obligation to improve the Asuncion airport. An American firm did the engineering, the Eximbank loaned the money to build it, and an American firm did the construction. The airport is breaking up because of poor drainage. There was also general agreement that we might consider one or two other projects.
As a side light, Mr. Mann reported on his conversations with Senators Morse and Gruening on Haiti. He said he had laid out the possibility to them of being pushed out of Haiti by Duvalier unless we were a little more forthcoming. He inquired as to their attitude on approval of investment guarantees. Senator Morse thought we should go further and approve project loans. Senator Gruening agreed on investment guarantees, but asked that we keep it quiet. In sum, up against the hard realities, they come out about where we do.
As a result of the LAPC discussion, Ambassador Snow will submit a new paper on Paraguay, which as he put it, would “open the throttle a little” on AID assistance.4