536. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Venezuela1

585. Following summary FYI only and Noforn. It is based on uncleared MemCon and subject to amendment upon review MemCon.

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President Johnson this noon received President Leoni’s special emissaries Gonzalo Barrios and Manuel Perez Guerrero who delivered letter from Leoni and, as expected, brought up Vietnam, British Guiana border dispute, and petroleum.2

Barrios opened by expressing President Leoni’s solidarity with President Johnson’s policy of peace and said Venezuela wished express that solidarity by sending food and medicine to South Vietnam. President Johnson said we would welcome any help in resisting aggression and keeping Communism from enveloping free countries.

Barrios then turned to British Guiana border dispute, stating President Leoni had charged him to say Venezuela wanted peaceful solution and desired to keep British Guiana out of hands of Communist demagogues as that would be not only threat to hemisphere but direct threat to Venezuela. Barrios did not advance any particular solution but suggested President Johnson seek to obtain greater understanding of problem by all parties especially British. President Johnson said it was U.S. policy avoid getting involved in boundary disputes and doubted whether such involvement would be useful or acceptable to parties.

When petroleum came up, Perez Guerrero made presentation of importance petroleum to Venezuela’s economy and political stability. He underscored Venezuela did not object to restrictions on imports of crude to U.S. but did object to discrimination in favor other countries. Described past conversations with U.S. as conducted with frankness and mutual understanding but said President Leoni disappointed no solution had been found. Leoni had, however, welcomed indication that U.S. recognized special position Venezuelan petroleum and was hopeful something could be worked out in near future. President Johnson replied that Venezuela was wise in continuing discussions with Departments State and Interior, as he had not personally dealt with details oil program since taking office. He expressed hope mutually satisfactory solution could be worked out.

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At close interview, President indicated that, while he personally not involved in these matters, he would direct officials to work with Venezuelans here and Caracas towards eventually satisfactory solutions. Venezuelan delegates expressed themselves as pleased with interview. Barrios said President Leoni hoped two Presidents could meet and President Johnson said he hoped this would be possible within their respective terms of office.

Ambassador Tejera Paris also attended as did Mann, Sayre and Hill for Department. Copy letter being pouched Caracas.3

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, AID(VEN) VIET S. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Hill on January 21, cleared by Sayre and Bowdler, and approved by Mann. Repeated to London and Georgetown. According to the President’s Daily Diary the meeting was held from 12:56 until 1:14 p.m. (Johnson Library)
  2. As the Venezuelan emissaries waited outside his office, Johnson returned a telephone call from Senator Clinton P. Anderson (D–New Mexico). Anderson explained the reason for his earlier call: “I know the boys from Venezuela are up in town. I’ve got friends in the petroleum industry that are worried about that situation.” After a general discussion of Venezuelan oil, the President asked: “Now, what are we going to do ultimately, Clint, on this price thing? Now here is an illustration. These people are happy with what they are getting, they’re doing well. Then we come along and say ‘we are going to give you a great opportunity to bring in a lot more’ and they answer us with a hell of a good price increase.” The Senator suggested: “I think you ought to threaten them someday with a Price Control Act, have them start exploring it, hold some hearings on it, they might behave themselves.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Anderson, January 21, 1966, 12:40 p.m., Tape F66.02, Side B, PNO 1) An uncorrected transcript of the conversation is also ibid., Chron Series.
  3. A copy of Leoni’s letter to Johnson is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 7 VEN.