469. Action Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1


  • Visit of Paraguayan President Stroessner

Tomorrow President Stroessner comes to Washington for a two-day official visit. Your participation is limited to:

  • 11:30 a.m.—Welcoming Ceremony at the South Lawn.
  • 12:00 noon—Office meeting with President Stroessner.
  • 8:00 p.m.—State dinner.

A reception is being offered by the Paraguayan Ambassador at the Pan American Union on Thursday evening, but I advise against your attending.

President Stroessner is coming armed with a “shopping list” as he did at Punta del Este. Nick Katzenbach’s briefing memorandum (Tab A)2 describes what the items are. Most of them are for economic assistance, but there also may be a request for artillery. He may support the requests by possibly offering a Paraguayan army unit for Vietnam.

Nick counsels that you be non-committal on the offer of troops and handle the request for aid and military equipment by saying your advisers will study the requests and be in touch with him later. This is how his Punta del Este shopping list was handled—with good results.

The principal problem with this visit is President Stroessner’s image in certain circles as an old-style Latin American dictator and criticism of you for inviting him.3 So far, we have had only one newspaper [Page 987] article striking this theme—in the Washington Post. The characterization is unfair to him and your purpose in having him up here.

Stroessner has granted considerable political liberalization in recent years and is making steady headway with economic and social reform and development. The charts at Tab B illustrate this.4 We want to encourage this trend. The suggested welcoming statement and toast (Tab C) are designed to put the visit in this context.5 The press back-grounder will do likewise.

The points we would have you stress in your talks with the Paraguayan President are:

that he continue political liberalization so that the principal opposition can function freely;
that he press forward with reform of budget and tax structures which CIAP has recommended as being of primary importance;
that we appreciate Paraguay’s help in the OAS and UN, where Paraguay is now a member of the Security Council.6

W. W. Rostow 7
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Paraguay, Visit of President Stroessner, 3/20–21, 1968. Confidential.
  2. Tab A was a March 18 memorandum from Katzenbach to the President; attached but not printed. President Johnson met Stroessner at Punta del Este on April 13. In addition to presenting his “shopping list,” Stroessner received an invitation to visit Washington after complaining that he was “developing a complex about it.” Memoranda of conversation are in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Conference Files, 1966–1972: Lot 67 D 586, CF 151. A CIA assessment on “Stroessner’s Paraguay,” March 1, is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Paraguay, Vol. I, 1/64–8/68.
  3. In a memorandum to Rostow, March 18, Harry C. McPherson, Jr., Special Counsel to the President, anticipated the criticism: “I wish we weren’t entertaining Stroessner so soon after Bobby’s announcement. For better or worse, he has the militarist-oligarchist image that liberal Democrats have complained about for years; I imagine Bobby will attack his presence here as symbolic of what’s wrong with the Alianza, etc. ‘If Jack were in office, the White House would be entertaining Eduardo Frei.’” (Ibid., Visit of President Stroessner, 3/20–21, 1968) On March 16 Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
  4. Attached but not printed.
  5. Attached but not printed. For Johnson’s welcoming remarks and toast to Stroessner, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1968–69, Book I, pp. 419–424.
  6. According to the President’s Daily Diary Johnson met Stroessner in the Cabinet Room on March 20, 12:14–12:50 p.m. (Johnson Library) When Stroessner mentioned several requests for economic assistance, Johnson “expressed sympathetic interest and suggested that these be taken up with Secretary Rusk.” (Memorandum of conversation, March 20; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 PAR) Memoranda of his conversation with Rusk, March 21, are ibid.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.