75. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sayre) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1
As you know the President asked for task force reports on Guatemala, Bolivia and Colombia.2
As I mentioned in a meeting at the White House while I was still on your staff,3 ARA had set up a committee to study the counterinsurgency problem in several countries. When I returned to ARA, the first country I tackled was Guatemala. We had three or four meetings with Defense, CIA, USIA and State participating. The actions outlined on page 6 are essentially those proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee, but they have been brought up to date.
The assessment is current.
As I understand it what the President wants to know is the current situation and what the United States should be doing to help maintain and improve the situation. I believe the attached paper provides this information but would appreciate your reaction as to whether you consider it adequate.
Mr. Vance thought we should also go into all the contingencies should the present Peralta government fall. I would agree that we should do this if we thought that the government would fall within the immediate future. However, the situation in Guatemala is such that we do not anticipate any sudden or violent change down there in the near future, that is, the next 60 or 90 days. Accordingly, my own feeling is that an attempt to determine contingencies at this time would not be a very profitable exercise. We have, however, asked CIA to come up with a list of all of the leading personalities in the political arena in Guatemala with an indication of their political complexion. As soon as this is done and discussed with us here in State, it would become an annex to the attached paper.[Page 182]
Colombia and Bolivia are slightly different stories. On Colombia especially, I think we will want to give serious consideration to contingencies. We are working on those papers and hopefully will have them to you next week.
In the meantime, after you have looked over the Guatemala paper I would appreciate an indication from you that we are heading in the right direction.4
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. III, 1/65–6/65. Secret.↩
- The President asked Mann on June 5 to set up a task force “to develop plans for what we do in Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia.” “We should have a special task force on top of it with the best names,” Johnson said, “and be prepared in advance instead of waiting until they are shooting at us.” (Memorandum of conversation, June 5, 12:10 p.m.; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, May 2, 1965–June 2, 1966)↩
- Sayre returned to ARA in May 1965 after serving 1 year as the Latin American expert on the National Security Council staff.↩
- According to a June 22 memorandum from Vaughn to the Secretary, Bundy advised the Department on June 18 that the report on Guatemala would satisfy “current requirements provided biographic data were included.” Vaughn also wrote: “In general, Ambassador Bell regards the situation in Guatemala as reasonably satisfactory over the short term (the next two to three months). We are not as optimistic about Guatemala as the Ambassador, but we do not regard the situation so serious as to require contingency planning.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23 GUAT) The Department officially forwarded the report to Bundy on June 18, noting that the biographical information would be sent at a later date. (Memorandum from Read to Bundy, June 18; ibid., POL 2 GUAT)↩
- According to The New York Times, June 3, Peralta said: “I will absolutely not be a candidate for the Presidency.”↩
- The initiative in this matter evidently came from Ambassador Bell, who urged the U.S. Government to move quickly against Alejos. (Telegram 965 from Guatemala City, May 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL GUAT)↩
- Airgram CA–12888 to Guatemala City, June 2. (Ibid., POL 23 GUAT)↩