531. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 89–65


The Problem

To estimate the situation in Venezuela and the prospects under the Leoni administration (until general elections in 1968).


Venezuela will probably continue to experience political stability and a favorable rate of economic growth over the next few years. However, it will still face deep-seated social problems. Most economic [Page 1104] and social reform programs will be pushed vigorously through 1966. Thereafter budgetary restraints are likely to lead to some loss of momentum. This slowdown will almost certainly become a major issue in the December 1968 elections.
The government and security forces have dealt reasonably effectively with the leftist insurgency; the capabilities of the guerrillas and terrorists will probably decline further. The insurgents are not likely to pose a major threat to the government during the period of this estimate.
Some misgivings regarding the Leoni administration still persist among the military, but the military establishment is generally disposed to support the constitutional government. We believe that there is little chance of a successful military coup within the period of this estimate.
Leoni’s governing coalition will probably hold together at least until the near approach of the elections scheduled for December 1968. The contest is then likely to be between two center-left parties, AD and COPEI, each claiming to be the more effective means of achieving social reform. If, in anticipation of this contest, Leoni should initiate a more radical reform program, he might thereby antagonize the military and increase the chances of a military coup.
The administration will make some attempts to increase Venezuelan influence in Latin American affairs, while holding to the Betancourt Doctrine of denying recognition to governments which come to power by overthrowing constitutionally-elected ones. Manifestations of economic nationalism—and in particular resentment over US restrictions on the importation of Venezuelan oil—will probably produce frictions in relations with the US.2

[Omitted here is the Discussion section of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on December 16.
  2. Bowdler forwarded an advance copy of the estimate with a December 17 memorandum to Bundy in which he noted that “the picture may not be as rosy as described.” Citing telegram 648 from Caracas, December 16, Bowdler explained that “Bernbaum is sufficiently concerned to speak to Leoni about it and, subsequently, to selected military leaders. I have asked ARA to make sure Bernbaum does not tarry in letting military leaders know how strongly opposed we are to a coup against Leoni.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Venezuela, Vol. II, 8/64–8/66) Leoni told Bernbaum that he was not concerned by the rumors, since “there is no real basis for coup” and not “enough support within the military to stage one.” Bernbaum reported that the Embassy would “continue to follow situation closely and take advantage any opportunities to discourage plotters.” (Telegrams 648 and 653 from Caracas, December 16 and 17, respectively; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 VEN)