539. Telegram From the Embassy in Venezuela to the Department of State 1

4778. Subj: Insurgency Problem.

In conversation with Leoni today, he drew parallel between present insurgency problem2 and that faced by President Betancourt in 1962 prior to electoral period. He said it was important to build up extra forces for protection of cities and particularly communities near guerrilla zones so that main body of armed forces could function normally and provide essential security for electoral process.
Accordingly, Leoni said his government would require additional arms for special forces which will be created. He anticipates these arms will come from Western European countries (he mentioned Belgian guns) and from the U.S. He emphasized importance of more armament for helicopters so that they could better attack targets of opportunity, although he stated he believed for time being armed forces had sufficient numbers helicopters.
Leoni commented that Colombian insurgency a complicating factor and an even greater problem than it appears to be on surface. He said he confident GOV and armed forces can manage situation in Venezuela.
Military credits and MilGrp agreement also discussed but are subjects of other message.3
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23 VEN. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, and USCINCSO.
  2. Reference is to the assassination on March 3 of Dr. Julio Iribarren Borges, former Director of Social Security and brother of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. On March 4 the Leoni administration reinstated its suspension of constitutional rights, 2 days after those rights had been fully restored. Venezuela subsequently blamed Cuba for the assassination, thereby justifying further retaliatory measures from the OAS. Leoni raised this issue with President Johnson at Punta del Este; see Document 50.
  3. Telegram SCVE 034–67 from the Commander of the U.S. Military Group in Venezuela to USCINCSO, March 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, FN 6–1 VEN)