543. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1
Venezuelan Ambassador Tejera-Paris called me yesterday to ask for an appointment with you to deliver a letter from President Leoni. He said he was under instructions to deliver it to you and make some oral remarks. I gave him no encouragement but did not close the door. An advanced copy of the English translation is at Tab A.2
What Leoni wants is revision of our Mandatory Oil Import Program (MOIP) to put Venezuela on a par with Canada and Mexico and permit higher imports of Venezuelan oil. He looks upon increased demand on Venezuelan production resulting from the Middle East crisis as further justification for this request.
We are not in a position to do what Leoni wants on the MOIP. You told him this at the Summit when you outlined the steps you were prepared to take:
- —talks with Canada to restrict their deliveries.
- —additional imports of asphalt.
- —assistance in desulphurization technology.
We are moving forward on all three of these commitments as described in the report at Tab B. Tony Solomon tells us that Stu Udall has not moved faster toward carrying out the pledge on asphalt because of opposition of his staff and Congressman Mahon.3
Because you can’t oblige Leoni on what he is after, it is inadvisable for you to receive Tejera-Paris. Were you to see him, it would become known and expectations in Venezuela aroused. The government might even encourage such hopes. The resulting let-down of an unforthcoming reply would then be increased. Covey Oliver and Tony Solomon agree with this assessment.
I recommend that I tell Tejera-Paris that I have consulted you on an appointment and because of the pressure of business you asked that I receive him on your behalf.
You want to receive him
I should receive him4
Speak to me
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Venezuela, Vol. III, Memos, 12/66–12/68. Confidential.↩
- Dated July 25; attached but not printed.↩
- Congressman George H. Mahon (D–Texas), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.↩
- Johnson checked this option.↩
- Leoni met Linowitz in Caracas on June 26. An account of their discussion on petroleum was transmitted in telegram 6824 from Caracas, June 28. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, PET 15 VEN)↩
- Proclamation 3794. (32 Federal Register 10547)↩
- In a letter to Leoni on August 8, President Johnson outlined the action taken to support Venezuelan oil, but discounted any hope of further improvement: “To go beyond these measures would involve a fundamental and drastic change in our entire petroleum policy and would bring into question the whole structure of our oil policy. Indeed, since we last spoke, the crisis in the Middle East has made it even more difficult to envisage changes in our oil import program.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–7 VEN) Bernbaum later warned that relations would deteriorate if Venezuela’s share in the U.S. oil market declined due to events in the Middle East and clean-air requirements. (Telegram 1219 from Caracas, August 25; ibid., PET 17–1 VEN)↩