63. Telegram From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson in Texas1

CAP 67764. This lively memorandum to me from Covey Oliver on counterinsurgency developments in Latin America will give you some satisfaction.

“As you know, we and the Latinos have our ups and downs in the counterinsurgency business. But I want to call to your attention an unusual series of successes which have taken place in three Latin American countries during the past few weeks. They are particularly significant in that they follow close on the heels of the militant and optimistic pronouncements by Castro and his fellow Latin American revolutionaries at the recent Havana meeting of the Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO).

1.
Bolivia:
A.
An important cache of passports, signal plans and other documents was discovered by a Bolivian Army element. Inter alia, the documents provide solid evidence that Che Guevara earlier this year was in Bolivia operating with the guerrillas.
B.
On August 31, a Bolivian Army patrol executed an imaginative and sophisticated ambush of the guerrilla rearguard, killing several key Cubans and Bolivians, and taking prisoner a knowledgeable Bolivian who is cooperating well under interrogation.2
2.

Venezuela:

In early August, Venezuelan police learned that the principal action arm of the Communist subversives in Caracas was a 50-man terrorist unit called Strategic Sabotage Command. Since that time, the unit has been ‘decapitated.’ The commander was captured and his four lieu-tenants killed in a series of police raids. A roundup of the lower echelons is now underway.

3.

Nicaragua:

On August 12 the Guardia Nacional began a sweep of an area of north central Nicaragua on the basis of fragmentary reports of guerrilla training camps. Insurgent basecamps were located and we estimate that in a subsequent series of firefights at least 14 Castro-oriented [Page 153]guerrillas were wiped out. The survivors are reported fleeing the area on an ‘every-man-for-himself’ basis.

The situation in Guatemala continues to improve, while in Colombia there have been no significant contacts between government forces and insurgents recently.

All in all, while one swallow doesn’t make a summer, August 1967 has been a vintage month for the COIN forces in Latin America.”

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. VI, 6/67–9/67. Secret. James R. Jones, Assistant to the President, wrote the following note on the telegram: “9–7–67. Sent copy to Christian & he might leak it.”
  2. Documentation on the subsequent capture and death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara de la Serna is in Documents 170 173.