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

Mr. President:

I had another good round yesterday with Covey Oliver and other members of the inter-agency working group on Cuban subversion in Latin America.2

This time we examined the adequacy of current DOD, CIA and AID/Public Safety (police) programs in the seven countries with active or potential insurgency movements.

Our conclusions were:

Bolivia

This is our most serious problem, not because of the size of the guerrilla movement, but the weakness of the security forces and fragility of the political situation. Given Bolivia’s limited capacity to assimilate our assistance, we should for now:

  • —press forward with the training of a second Ranger Battalion, and develop an intelligence unit to work with the Battalion.
  • —expand our police program in rural areas.
  • —start contingency planning for dealing with a situation which Barrientos can no longer control.

Colombia

President Lleras Camargo is concerned and working for better coordination and action by his security services. We have good on-going military, intelligence and police programs. We agreed that:

  • DOD would review equipment needs of the armed forces in the light of CINCSO’s recommendations.
  • —Covey Oliver would consider a modest expansion of the rural police program.

Dominican Republic

With the full cooperation of Balaguer and the armed forces, we have made good progress in our internal security programs. No additional measures by us are necessary. It would help if Balaguer got rid of his thuggish Chief of Police. Covey Oliver will ask John Crimmins to make the pitch.

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Ecuador

There is no active insurgency, but this is a good time to help the Ecuadoreans improve their grossly deficient rural police. Covey Oliver will work out an expanded program with AID/Public Safety.

Guatemala

Covey Oliver will pursue this.

Peru

There is no active insurgency. The security forces have demonstrated their ability to handle insurgent bands in the past. Our current programs are adequate.

Venezuela

We have done what Leoni asked you for at Punta del Este: to expedite delivery of equipment for 9 new Ranger battalions. [1½ lines of source text not declassified] Additional support for the National Guard (police) in rural areas is needed and Covey Oliver will work this out with AID/Public Safety.

Another decision reached by the group is that henceforth Covey Oliver will organize a group (probably the same people who attended yesterday)3 which will meet on a regular basis to:

  • —keep a close watch over Cuban insurgency trends throughout the hemisphere.
  • —review individual country situations and requirements.
  • —expedite decisions on increased assistance, as necessary.

As a starter Covey Oliver will write each Ambassador to impress upon him the importance which you attach to alertness to internal security requirements and communicating needs to Washington in a timely way.4

From the review which I have made, I am convinced that at the present level of insurgency in Latin America, the important elements of the equation are:

1.
For the most part, the institutional base for internal security in Latin America is primitive. The opportunities we have to build it up [Page 149]vary with the local officials in power. We must be alert to every chance given us to advance the building process.
2.
If the President of the country is concerned over the problem and willing to act, the armed forces will back him and, with our assistance, they can produce impressive results. This has been the case in Guatemala. We hope to repeat it in Bolivia.
3.
The cost to us in furnishing “preventive medicine” assistance is small, but our Ambassadors and their country teams must understand the key importance of “preventive medicine” and exploit every opportunity which presents itself.
4.
The “Establishment” in Washington must be geared to keeping a continuous review of the problem and acting quickly on assistance requirements.

Walt
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. VI, 6/67–9/67. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. A memorandum of the meeting, drafted by Bowdler, is ibid.
  3. Documentation on the IRG/ARA Counter-Insurgency Subgroup is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, IRG/ARA, 1966–68: Files: Lot 70 D 122.
  4. Copies of the letter and subsequent replies are ibid., ARA Files, 1967–69: Lot 72 D 33, Military/Security Policy.