128. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal1
Washington, September 17, 1975, 0346Z.
221159. Subject: Portuguese Policy in Angola. For the Ambassador.
- As Secretary directed during your consultations here, we want you to go back to Antunes on your return and advise him, in connection with his earlier representations to you that we increase our airlift of refugees from Angola, that before reaching any decision to do so we frankly need some better understanding than we have now on Portuguese policy and objectives in Angola. We leave it to your discretion whether to make similar or supporting representations to Azevedo.
- For your discussion, you already have available (State 199405)2 general talking points with respect to USG policy in Angola. With that as background you should indicate to Antunes our hope and expectation that GOP actions in and with respect to Angola will in future more [Page 315] accurately reflect stated GOP policy of complete neutrality. You should indicate that in recent months it has seemed to us that GOP more often than not has departed from that policy. You should make clear that in our view a policy of neutrality with respect to Angola dictates that Portugal take steps to correct present posture which for example seems to be one of acquiescing in delivery of Soviet arms to MPLA and of pressuring Savimbi to come to terms with the MPLA at the expense of the former. We can appreciate GOP policy of seeking genuine accommodation among opposing factions in Angola in order to facilitate peaceful transition of power on November 11. However, we believe current GOP policy has amounted to one of pressuring Savimbi to come to terms with the MPLA on a coalition arrangement, a policy that serves more to serve MPLA objectives than it does to effect a genuine peaceful transition of the kind Portugal professes to seek.
- There follows our assessment of where we believe GOP policy has departed from one of neutrality and from which you may draw for your conversation with Antunes.
- Portuguese Assistance to the MPLA. There is little evidence of direct Portuguese assistance to the MPLA in the form of material support. However, Portuguese actions—or, more often, the failure to take appropriate action—have had the practical and sometimes intended effect of assisting the MPLA.
- Arms Control. Admittedly, the small number of Portuguese troops in Angola have been limited in their ability to monitor and control arms shipments into the territory by all three liberation movements. Nevertheless, even in those instances where the Portuguese were in a position to take action, they have not. This is particularly true of arms deliveries by air and sea to MPLA-controlled areas along the southern coast. For example, a recent clandestine report indicates that a large shipment of arms was delivered by a Soviet vessel to Porto Amboim south of Luanda in mid August. According to the report, Portuguese military officials advised the MPLA to use an inconspicuous route in moving the arms, which included a number of armored vehicles and tanks, to MPLA bases near Caxito. The weapons subsequently were used in the MPLA’s successful offensive to recapture Caxito on September 6. It is impossible to determine whether such actions are undertaken by local Portuguese commanders acting on their own initiative or reflect the conscious policies of higher officials. In either case, the result is the same.
- Security. Portuguese actions have also assisted the MPLA in gaining complete military control over the capital of Luanda. The deliberate policy of not intervening in the fighting in the capital resulted in the gradual erosion of the positions of both the FNLA and UNITA. In early August, the Acting High Commissioner forced the FNLA to sur[Page 316]render its one remaining garrison at the Sao Pedro de Barra fortress, ostensibly to remove the potential threat to shipping (specifically oil tankers) in the Luanda harbor. Despite Portugal’s announced intention to secure a similar withdrawal of MPLA troops and to “demilitarize” the capital, it has made no effort to do so.
- Indirect Political Assistance. The unwillingness and/or inability of the Portuguese to assure the safety of FNLA and UNITA politicial officials in Luanda was a major factor leading to the decisions by both movements to withdraw their representatives from the transitional government. When the MPLA subsequently moved to take over the abandoned Ministries, Portuguese officials voiced no objections. Later, in setting up the new Directorates General to replace the Ministries in the transitional government, the Portuguese High Commissioner relied almost exclusively on MPLA and pro-MPLA appointees. Despite an announced limitation on the authority of the Directorates General, the High Commissioner has interpreted the decree in such a way as to allow the MPLA appointees to make major policy decisions, such as assuming control of private banks and insurance companies.
- Diplomatic Activities. A number of high ranking leftists within the Portuguese armed forces movement have been lobbying for some time, both in Lisbon and with neighboring African states, for the creation of a coalition government in Angola that would exclude the FNLA. Recognizing that any accommodation between the MPLA and FNLA is out of the question, these officials hope that a nominal coalition of the MPLA and UNITA would at least allow Portugal to claim the presence in Luanda of a government representing a majority of Angolans when it withdraws from the territory on November 11. That view now seems to reflect official Portuguese policy for Angola.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 11, Portugal, State Department Telegrams, From SecState—Nodis (2). Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Laingen; cleared in INR, AF/C, and S; and approved by Hartman.↩
- In telegram 199405 to Lisbon, August 21, Carlucci was instructed to “draw out what GOP intentions and general policy are with respect to Angola” and to present U.S. objectives in Angola. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P850047–2496)↩