66. Special National Intelligence Estimate1

SNIE 80/90–2–68


The Problem

To estimate how US interests in Latin America would be affected by a US refusal to sell F–5s to certain Latin American countries.


Recent US foreign aid legislation (the Conte–Long and Symington amendments)2 directs the President (a) to deny grants or credits to certain countries for the purchase of “sophisticated weapons systems;” (b) to withhold economic aid from such countries in an amount equivalent to the cost of such equipment purchased by them; (c) to terminate [Page 160] economic aid to such countries if unnecessary military expenditures are materially interfering with economic development; (d) to use the US voting power in the Inter-American Development Bank to deny any loan which might assist in the acquisition of “sophisticated or heavy” military equipment.3 The full text of these amendments is set forth in the Annex.

For the purposes of this estimate, we have assumed a determination that such weapons as the F–5 and Mirage 5 jet aircraft are “sophisticated weapons systems” within the meaning of the Acts.


A number of Latin American countries, having put off replacement of obsolescent military equipment for some years, are determined to undertake early procurement of particular items. They see an especially urgent requirement for jet aircraft, and the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela have received recent assurances from US officials that the F–5 will be made available. If the US now refuses to provide F–5s, resentment in these countries will be strong. Some or all of them would almost certainly decide to acquire Mirage jets. They would also shift to greater reliance on European countries for the supply of other types of military equipment, and perhaps for military training as well.
Denial of the F–5s would be regarded in Latin America as but one part of a change in US policy—a change centered on the use of economic aid as a lever to restrict military expenditures. Most Latin Americans would consider this an affront to their national pride and an unwarranted interference by the US in their internal affairs; their reactions would be intense and adverse. US relations with the governments and the military establishments of major Latin American countries would suffer. The US would encounter increasing difficulty in obtaining cooperation under the Alliance for Progress and in the Organization of American States.
The loosening of ties with the Latin American military would endanger joint programs in specialized training and counterinsurgency, sharply increase US problems in carrying out contingency planning, [Page 161] and make it more difficult and expensive for the US to maintain facilities for space ventures and nuclear detection.4
Those Latin American governments which responded to the denial of F–5s by arranging to purchase Mirages or other “sophisticated” jet aircraft would then run the risk of curtailment or termination of US developmental aid. In this event, the effect on their economies would vary considerably: in Argentina and Venezuela, for example, they would not be severe; in Brazil, Chile, and Peru they would be more serious. In several of the major countries, there would be internal political effects, reenforcing existing tendencies toward more assertive nationalism and sharper anti-US attitudes.
Damage to US relations with Latin America from such developments would be severe and would persist for some time. How long relations remained clouded, and how widely such effects would spread through Latin America, would depend on many broader political and economic factors and on the general world situation.5

[Omitted here are the Discussion section and Annex of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, SIG, 29th Meeting, 1/9/68, Vol. 3. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on January 29. Hartman circulated copies of the estimate to SIG members on January 29. (Ibid.)
  2. Reference is to two amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended), one sponsored by Representatives Silvio O. Conte (R–Massachusetts) and Clarence Long (D–Maryland), the other by Senator Stuart Symington (D–Missouri). The Conte–Long amendment required the President to withhold economic assistance to any “under-developed country” that used military assistance to acquire sophisticated weapons systems. The provision did not apply to Greece, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Korea, or to any country that the President specifically exempted on the basis of national security. (81 Stat. 937 and 81 Stat. 940) The Symington amendment stipulated that the President terminate development loans and PL–480 assistance to any country that made military expenditures “to a degree which materially interferes with its development.” (81 Stat. 459)
  3. The SIG discussed the impact of the Conte–Long and Symington amendments on foreign assistance to Latin America at its meeting on January 9, and Katzenbach approved the suggestion for further consultation with Congress. He also asked Helms to prepare “an assessment of the political costs in Latin America of a withdrawal of the F–5 offer.” (Record of discussion, January 18; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/SSIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG/RA #29, 1/1/68, Strategy for Cyprus Settlement)
  4. Mr. Thomas L. Hughes, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State, believes that this paragraph overstates both the existing advantages of our Latin American military relationships and the potential jeopardy to them. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. The implementation of the Conte–Long and Symington amendments, particularly in Latin America, was discussed at SIG meetings on January 25 and February 15. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, S/SSIG Files: Lot 70 D 263, SIG/RA #30 & SIG/RA #31) The subject was also discussed at an NSC meeting on February 7 in which the President agreed to send Oliver to Latin America, including a stop in Peru to raise the F–5 issue with President Belaùnde. A record of the NSC meeting is in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. IX, Document 73.