465. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • U.S.-Paraguayan Relations and Hemisphere Problems


  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Ambassador Snow
  • Paraguay
    • President Stroessner
    • Foreign Minister Sapena Pastor
    • Acting Foreign Minister Gonzalez Torres

During the Secretary’s visit to Paraguay he was received by President Stroessner at the National Palace. At the beginning there were photographers and reporters in the President’s office as well as certain members of his staff, but as soon as the initial amenities had been exchanged, all present departed except the President, Secretary Rusk, the Foreign Minister (Raúl Sapena Pastor), the Acting Foreign Minister (Dionisio Gonzalez Torres) and Ambassador Snow.

Recalling his daughter Graciela’s visit to Washington in President Kennedy’s time, the President observed that she had told him of meeting the Secretary and of finding him to be a warm, gracious and unpretentious person. The Secretary was most welcome here, the President’s only regret being that the visit was of such short duration.

Secretary Rusk said that President Johnson would undoubtedly wish him first of all to convey to President Stroessner his appreciation for the sending of Paraguayan troops to the Dominican Republic. President Stroessner said that the Paraguayan people were true friends of the United States. Paraguay’s foreign policy, which had been consistent and unequivocal, was based on the same broad objectives as that of the United States. President Stroessner had from the outset favored the entry of U.S. troops into the Dominican Republic and his intention throughout had been to cooperate with the United States. Referring to Cuba as an example, he said that the Paraguayans realized the need of timely intervention on the part of other free countries against communist takeovers in the hemisphere.

Secretary Rusk said that at times we found it necessary, as in the Dominican case, to act without being able publicly to explain in full the reasons for our action. This was because of the sensitivity of intelligence [Page 979] information. The communists, in their insistent campaign to dominate the world, were constantly engaged in subversive plotting. In the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and the Congo they had had concrete plans of that nature.

President Stroessner, with further reference to the troops in the Dominican Republic, reported having received a special message from General Palmer, the American commander, to the effect that the Paraguayan troops were superb and that the President and the Paraguayan nation had every reason to be proud of them. The President said he understood and applauded the U.S. action in Vietnam, which was worthy of a great people like the Americans. Secretary Rusk informed him that since 1945 the U.S. had sustained 160,000 casualties worldwide in the cause of peace and freedom. As for Vietnam, we were faced with two essential alternatives: either we could withdraw and in so doing leave all of Southeast Asia open to conquest by the Red Chinese, or we could stand firm. The President could rest assured that we would stand firm.

The Secretary then commented on the encouraging degree of economic and social developments he understood had occurred in Paraguay and asked the President if he wished to comment on the subject. The President instead spoke for several minutes on political issues including certain leaders in the hemisphere whom he distrusted. The Brazilian general commanding the OAS forces in the DR had sent him word that the situation there was chaotic, that the provisional President was a communist and that the Minister of Justice was likewise. As for Juan Bosch, the President continued, he was a thoroughly contradictory man. Instead of thanking the U.S. and other OAS countries for having sent troops to preserve his country from communism, Bosch was actually advocating the seeking of an indemnity from the United States, Brazil and Paraguay. The President also believed it was a mistake to have caused the removal of General Wessin y Wessin from his command and political position in the DR. Wessin was a staunch anticommunist. It was likewise erroneous, the President continued, to assert as some did that Fidel Castro had “betrayed” the Cuban revolution. Castro had always been a communist and the Cuban revolution was strictly a communist affair from the start. People like Betancourt, who had given much aid and comfort to Castro in the early days, were the kind who now supported Bosch and misrepresented the Cuban revolution. The President also criticized “Pepe” Figueres on similar grounds, suggesting that he and these other Caribbean political figures were and had been unduly influential in Washington, and that in consequence the U.S. was being misled with regard to the Dominican Republic. Secretary Rusk doubted that the FigueresBetancourt–Muñoz Marín group were currently asserting unusual influence. When they [Page 980] had offered their services earlier this year to the OAS as a sort of interim commission to administer the DR, the offer had not been accepted.2

The President returned to the subject of the Paraguayan people. He described them as a homogeneous race, instinctively and thoroughly anti-communist. A while ago a delegation of Uruguayan leftists had come to Asunción to petition for the release of several communist prisoners being held by the Paraguayan Government. A group of Paraguayan citizens spontaneously staged an anti-communist demonstration in front of the hotel where the delegation was staying. Demonstrations in other Latin American countries were almost invariably pro-communist and anti-U.S., he reminded those present. According to FAO statistics, the people of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay were among the best fed in the world. Considering all children of primary school age, Paraguay had the highest percentage attending school of any country in Latin America. A hundred years ago, according to the Almanach de Gotha, Paraguay was the most developed country in South America. It was a great country then, a great country now and he felt deeply honored to be a Paraguayan. When the time came for dispatching troops to the DR, the only problem was of restricting the number because the troops all wanted to participate. One amusing incident had resulted in his allowing a young soldier to go with the contingent extra-complement.

The President next took up the question of the sugar quota, setting forth the Paraguayan position, pointing out that Bolivia for some reason had not only received a quota but had been given the prospect of an increase in the initial figure, whereas Paraguay had been entirely deprived of its previous quota. The Secretary frankly explained that the sugar quotas were worked out by the legislative branch of the U.S. Government3 in a complicated manner. By the time State Department officials and others had learned of what was happening to the Paraguayan quota, it was too late to influence the result because Congress was at that moment hastening to adjourn. President Stroessner requested that the U.S. examine the possibility of restoring a quota to Paraguay a year from now, the Secretary assured him that his request would receive careful attention.

The President’s next topic was the need for more agricultural credit. This was not a rich country, he said, but it could be if its agricultural [Page 981] and human resources were developed properly. Such could only be done with an adequate volume of foreign credit. More money was needed now for the small Paraguayan farmer. By contrast, a rich country like Venezuela shouldn’t need outside help, although it appeared to be getting it. The Paraguayans did much with little; there was no misery here, even if there were many with very few material possessions. One should contrast conditions here with the slums in Caracas and elsewhere.

The Secretary stated that he had discussed the level of aid with Foreign Minister Sapena and Ambassador Snow. The U.S. would always be interested in knowing the President’s view of priorities in aid matters. President Johnson also was convinced, he said, that rural development was indeed of the utmost importance. If the combined efforts of all in this regard should prove inadequate, the world might possibly be facing a food crisis one of these days. The tendency in the developing countries had been to neglect the rural people in favor of industrial development.

Stressing the theme that inadequate attention had hitherto been paid to his views and his requests for U.S. aid, both military and economic, the President informed the Secretary that he had spoken many times about these matters to Ambassador Snow, but he was not certain that whatever the Ambassador had reported was reaching the top of the U.S. Government. He believed we were far more attentive to the pleas of such countries as Chile and Bolivia for example, both of which countries possessed very unstable political structures. The late President Kennedy, however, had seen fit to state publicly that the Government of Paz Estenssoro was a “model for the hemisphere”. He (President Stroessner) had been told by Paz Estenssoro himself that Paraguay had the model government. President De Gaulle, President Castello Branco, General Ongania, an ex-Foreign Minister of Uruguay and others had assured him that he was a great president presiding over an exemplary government.

The Secretary assured the President that the U.S. Government intended always to give thoughtful attention to its relations with Paraguay.

The President took up the topic of arms assistance. “We Paraguayans,” he said, “do not play our anti-communism for U.S. dollars. We will be anti-communist with the United States, anticommunist without the United States, or even anti-communist against the United States, if that ever should be necessary.” The President then gave details regarding U.S. arms he had heard were being supplied to Uruguay and Bolivia, two countries which were receiving considerable military aid, whereas Paraguay was receiving very little indeed. All of the American military officers of the Southern Command in the Canal Zone assured him that the one and only obstacle was the State [Page 982] Department. The military officers referred to were in favor of much more generous treatment for Paraguay, but it was always the State Department which blocked their way. He could not understand this because Paraguay was just about the only country in the hemisphere which had remained consistently in support of U.S. policies, had not wavered from its anti-communist stand, had maintained a period of internal peace and growing prosperity for eleven years, had held its currency stable and had aroused the admiration of various other countries. In view of how things really were in Paraguay and of such testimony as he had previously quoted, he was curious to know just how the mind of the State Department really worked. He realized that people like President Johnson and Secretary Rusk were extremely busy people, but he thought that Paraguay should receive more attention at the top and more favorable treatment in general.

The Secretary said that if President Johnson were sitting where he was in President Stroessner’s office, the latter would quickly discover that President Johnson knew a good deal about Paraguay and the two chiefs of state would be talking like neighboring ranchers within a few minutes.

Before departing, the Secretary took occasion to express to the President his admiration for Foreign Minister Sapena Pastor as a highly competent colleague with whom it had always been a pleasure to work.4

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL PAR–US. Secret. Drafted by Snow and approved in S on December 16. Rusk stopped in Paraguay after attending the Second Special Inter-American Conference in Rio de Janeiro November 16–24.
  2. The final version of the memorandum eliminated the following sentence at this point: “Moreover, a Texas President in the White House was not likely to sit idly by while the communists took over the DR.”
  3. The final version of the memorandum eliminated the following clause at this point: “—in what could be described as a confused atmosphere and—.”
  4. The final version of the memorandum eliminated the following sentence at this point: “The interview lasted approximately an hour and five minutes.”