255. Telegram From the Embassy in Portugal to the Department of State1

1663. Eyes Only for General Goodpaster USCINCEUR. Subject: Initial conversation with Prime Minister Caetano.2

1. Summary

A) Azores: Prime Minister Caetano throws out suggestion that U.S. compensation for continued use of Azores might be essentially in form of loans for economic purposes in metropolitan Portugal at low interest rate.

B) Deslandes memorandum: Prime Minister said Deslandes memo was military document provided Goodpaster within NATO context. Caetano’s thoughts concerning military hardware limited to up-to-date matériel for one brigade which would be intended to train other Portuguese metropolitan forces “just in case.”

C) Portuguese Africa: Caetano seems to have few illusions concerning difficulties facing Portugal in Africa. Faced with racial polarization now rampant in that continent, he sees no alternative to Portugal defending itself until—hopefully—saner and more moderate perspectives open up. Meanwhile he expressed determination to further economic and political progress.

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D) Fall 1969 elections: while Prime Minister Caetano remains firmly of belief that full-fledged parliamentary system and complete political freedom inappropriate for Portugal, he expresses apparently sincere hope that all currents of Portuguese political thought except those he considered extreme will express themselves during limited period of political campaign, that opposition candidates will actually run and, if elected, take their seats. End Summary.

2. I had my first talk with Prime Minister Caetano evening August 13. Conversation lasted just under an hour. We spoke in French and were alone since no interpreter needed. After brief exchange of courtesies during which I reiterated the President’s appreciation for Prime Minister’s presence at President Eisenhower’s funeral,3 we discussed Azores, Portugal’s policy in Africa and upcoming Portuguese elections this fall.

3. Azores: Caetano introduced subject referring to difficulty which Portuguese people had in understanding apparent discrimination against Portugal in U.S. base arrangements abroad. Whereas other countries seem to receive direct compensation therefor—in addition to U.S. protective umbrella—Portugal had received its share of post-Korean MDAP programs for NATO allies but had let matters ride since expiration of last Azores agreement extension in 1962.

4. Prime Minister referred to improved climate in U.S. re Portugal, looked forward to era of better relations and questioningly referred to friendly informal advice which GOP had received in Washington to effect it would be in Portugal’s own interest not to press Azores base negotiations at this time.

5. I told Caetano that U.S. position unchanged since note of February 44 and I would of course forward immediately any proposals which GOP might care to make. However, speaking entirely personally, I could not help but believe that advice to which PM had referred impressed me as being sound. I went on to add that while there was basic friendship for Portugal and great admiration for Portuguese people, there existed honest differences of opinion between us re policies in Africa. While we had no intention of telling Portugal what to do there were large segments of U.S. public opinion who felt strongly concerning the matter and that it might be a mistake on part of GOP to anticipate extensive changes in U.S. policy. I asked PM to accept my frankness as being caused only by my desire to avoid misunderstandings which could be dangerous.

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6. Prime Minister said [garble—he?] realized difficulties facing USG re US-Portuguese relations. He went on to stress difficulties for metropolitan Portugal which result from policies which both Portuguese people and Government, rightly or wrongly, believe to be in best interest of Portugal and her allies. There exist great needs in Portugal in the fields of public education, national health, agriculture, communication, etc. Might it not be possible to think in terms of U.S. loans to help Portugal over her temporary difficulties. Portugal’s credit was excellent; Portugal would repay these loans punctually. As to the advantage to Portugal (in terms of Azores negotiations), this could be in the form of low interest rates.

7. Deslandes memorandum: Since Prime Minister had made no reference to military equipment, I asked the PM about the memorandum given by the Chief of General Staff, General Deslandes, to General Goodpaster during latter’s recent visit as new SACEUR.5 I inquired whether the memo reflected only military thinking or whether he had seen it and memo represented government’s position.

8. Caetano answered that he had not seen memorandum. He had heard about it. He considered that it represented views of Portuguese military given to General Goodpaster under their respective NATO hats. Prime Minister went on to say that since taking office last fall, he had reviewed situation of armed services with senior Portuguese military personnel. As result, he had come to personal conclusion that Portugal could perform her role adequately at sea, could do a reasonable job in the air but that her capability for land operations in Europe had dropped to zero. It was, therefore, his understanding that what the Portuguese armed forces wanted most was modern equipment for one brigade. (Prime Minister said he wasn’t quite sure of right terminology but that in any event what he had in mind was considerably smaller than a division.) This brigade’s essential role would be to train other Portuguese units which would thus be able to handle modern matériel should this be received at a later date either after the outbreak of hostilities in Europe or at any time when the Alliance might decide to increase ground capability.

9. Portuguese Africa: Caetano expressed his deep concern re situation developing in Africa which he sees as becoming increasingly racist—white racist in South Africa and Rhodesia and black racist elsewhere. If he believed various elements of population could cohabit peacefully—as they do in Brazil—he would favor independence for Angola and Mozambique in immediate future. Under present climate, however, he did not think neighbors of Portuguese territories would [Page 804] permit such development and that as a consequence the non-blacks would be forced out. This, of course, he—and no Portuguese Government—could accept. Thus Portugal had no alternative but to defend itself against what was essentially aggression from abroad. Waiting for a better time in Africa when perhaps more sensible and less extreme solutions would be possible. At the same time, Portugal would continue her considerable efforts toward improving the conditions of all the inhabitants of Portuguese Africa. Likewise, as he frequently told Salazar, “a mother can stifle a child in her embrace.” Children grow up and must be given more freedom and he—Caetano—is determined to travel down this road as best he can, bearing in mind the other considerations which he had set forth.

10. During this part of the conversation, I commented that I had been personally involved in or had very closely followed events and developments in French North Africa from 1941 on,6 and whereas it was my personal view that French policy in Algeria had been theoretical and meaningless and the Algerian integration into France only consisted of words, I did believe French policy in Morocco had been on the whole liberal and farsighted. Yet regardless of these differences, the urge for immediate independence had been as great in Morocco and this quite apart from resulting economic hardships and vast unemployment. Thus, unfortunately, we are dealing with a problem area in which emotions overpower logic. (Caetano commented in the above connection that he was fully aware of futility of French fiction that the Algerian departments were “just other French departments,” and that he would strive to avoid the same mistakes.)

11. Upcoming national elections: I introduced this subject saying that I was a newcomer to the Portuguese scene and would welcome any comments which he might care to make so as to help me understand the elections better.

12. Caetano prefaced his remarks by reminding me of Portugal’s parliamentary instability between 1910 and 1926. Full-fledged parliamentary democracies might work in other countries but not in Portugal in view of the potential volatility of the Portuguese character. This situation is compounded by the characteristics of today’s youth—characteristics which are also prevalent in Portugal. Majority of youth is attracted by the left either by the traditional Marxist or increasingly by the anarchist tendencies which characterize the New Left, be it of Marxist or Catholic inspiration.

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13. Therefore, it is not possible to permit complete political freedom at all times. He did, however, want to encourage the presentation of different political points of view during the limited period of the electoral campaign. He specifically wants the opposition to run and to sit if elected. He specifically criticized what he called the opposition’s tactics under Salazar of campaigning and then refusing to run at the last minute. I told Prime Minister that I had heard that provincial governors had unlimited de facto powers to refuse slates of candidates; I wondered how elections could be meaningful if the governors used any such authority extensively. Caetano answered that in Portugal, as in many other countries, candidates could be forbidden from running but that such action had to be motivated and justified. He recognized that in Portugal more candidates were debarred that in any other non-Communist countries but he vigorously contended that it was much easier to run for election than the international press made out. In sum, Caetano expressed hope for a fair expression of national opinions and political tendencies “while preventing demagogic excesses that could only breed chaos.”

14. Comment: While Prime Minister Caetano put no direct question to me, it is obvious that he hopes for some reaction to his suggestion of loans as principal compensation for Portugal’s extension of Azores base agreement. It is becoming increasingly apparent that we have entered pre-negotiation phase during which Prime Minister—and other elements GOP—are exploring what might be most productive approach for them. It is equally obvious that we are dealing with an extremely cautious and conservative gentleman who nevertheless is giving some indications of flexibility both in domestic and foreign policy. Would appreciate Department’s instructions.7

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PORT–US. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to USCINCEUR.
  2. Ambassador Knight presented his credentials on July 30. Ambassador Bennett left post on July 21.
  3. See Document 253.
  4. The note was transmitted in telegram 16700 to Lisbon. (National Archives, RG 84, Lisbon Embassy Files, DEF 15 Bases (Azores), 1969)
  5. Not found.
  6. Knight’s service included four years in Oran during World War II as a technical adviser, and two tours in France, 1945–1949, 1955–1957. He had also served in the Bureau of European Affairs and held the post of Consul General in Damascus, 1960–1961, and of Ambassador to Syria, 1961–1965.
  7. In telegram 139315 to Lisbon, August 19, the Department of State responded that it was not yet able to formulate specific instructions for dealing with the issues raised by Caetano. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL PORT–US)