548. Information Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

SUBJECT

  • Venezuelan Elections

The Christian Democratic candidate, Rafael Caldera, has finally been declared winner in Venezuela by the narrowest of margins.2 He won by about 30,000 votes, or a margin of approximately 29 percent to 28.4 percent for his nearest rival. The election was held in remarkably good order, and there is every indication that power will pass peacefully to the opposition next March for the first time in Venezuela’s recent history.

President-elect Caldera is founder of Venezuela’s Christian Democratic Party, and has run unsuccessfully several times before for the presidency. He is able, responsible, and a moderate leftist—an expert in the field of labor law—and a strong anti-communist. He knows the United States well, and has supported the Alliance for Progress in general while criticizing “errors of operation”.

Caldera’s Party will be the second largest in the Congress and will have to form a coalition to put through a program. He may be somewhat more nationalistic in his dealings with American oil companies in Venezuela, but the general lines of Venezuelan policy toward the United States should continue after he takes office.3

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Venezuela, Filed by LBJ Library. Confidential. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. In a December 3 memorandum to the President, Rostow reported that the election was “still too close to call,” with Caldera clinging to a narrow lead over Barrios, the AD candidate. Rostow noted: “Either man would be satisfactory from our viewpoint, although Caldera would probably take a somewhat more nationalistic position on economic matters.” (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 9245 from Caracas, December 10, the Embassy analyzed the election results. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files, 1967–69, POL 14 VEN) In airgram A–1366 from Caracas, December 13, the Embassy assessed the implications of the election for the United States. (Ibid., POL VEN)