81. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1

SUBJECT

  • Costa Rican Election

At your request I have looked into the Costa Rican electoral picture. This is what I have found:

1. Essential Facts

The election is scheduled to take place on February 6, 1966. It is a general election, covering the Presidency, Legislative Assembly and Municipal Councils.

The principal candidates are Daniel Oduber Quiros of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (the party now in power) and Jose Trejos Fernandez, representing a coalition of opposition groups (Partido Republicano, Partido de Union Nacional, and Partido Union Republicana Autentica).

The Presidential inauguration is scheduled for May 8, 1966.

2. The Candidates

Full, up-to-date biographic sketches of the two Presidential candidates are at Tab A.2 They are staunch democrats. Both are friendly to the United States and can be expected to work closely with us. Both have the right orientation on the communist threat, although Oduber’s views are better known because of his role in the OAS on this issue. The principal difference seems to be one of background and political outlook. Trejos comes from a prominent and well-to-do family. He is described as a “moderate conservative”. Oduber comes from a modest background and is clearly left of center.

3. The Outlook

The campaign is just beginning to get under way in earnest. The reporting is scanty, so it is hard to get a very clear picture of issues and trends. This is being corrected.

The Embassy last month expressed the view that Oduber had a “reasonable edge” over Trejos, but declined making any firm prediction [Page 200]on the probable outcome.3 Ambassador Telles in a recent letter reported that Oduber was still favored to win.4

State/INR last August did a roundup on the elections (Tab B).5 Their estimate was that the race would be close but that Oduber had an edge. The INR Costa Rican analyst has recently come back from a trip to Costa Rica. He states that the August estimate is still valid, with Oduber’s chances slightly improved. He found Trejos to be a lackluster campaigner and Oduber the same old spell-binder.

4. Degree of U.S. Assistance

No USG assistance has been given to Trejos.

[1 paragraph (7 lines of source text) not declassified]

[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Oduber has been in touch with AFL–CIO leaders. [2 lines of source text not declassified] Oduber has informed [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that Victor and Walter Reuther invited [1 line of source text not declassified], to go to Detroit about November 1 to pick up funds for the political campaign. We have no further details on this.

5. My Recommendation

I think we can live quite comfortably with either candidate. Our interests would be better served, however, by an Oduber victory. He would give Costa Rica progressive, left-of-center leadership more closely attuned to the aims of the Alliance for Progress. He would have the support of a single party. Trejos would be leader of an unstable coalition, with all the problems that this could bring.

I do not think that we should choose sides to the extent of bankrolling Oduber. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] He knows that we are pulling for him—Jack Vaughn told him so, and I imagine the Vice President conveyed the same impression. The AFL–CIO seems to be helping him out. [3½ lines of source text not declassified]

WGB
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Costa Rica, Vol. I, 4/64–10/68. Secret; Sensitive. Bundy wrote the following note on the memorandum: “Bill: Good, this makes sense to me.”
  2. Attached but not printed.
  3. In airgram A–179 from San Josè, October 12. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 COSTARICA)
  4. Not found.
  5. Dated August 16; attached but not printed.