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301. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Message to President Franco

Ambassador Hill called to report that he had gotten your message through to President Franco prior to the Spanish announcement of commutation of the six death sentences.2 Ambassador Hill was unable to say for certain whether your message was a decisive factor in President Franco’s decision but he believes that it was, based on the timing of events leading up to the announcement.

Recommendation

In view of the uncertainty as to whether your message was an operative factor, I recommend that we use the same telephone channel to convey to President Franco your great admiration for his statesmanship and demonstration of humanitarianism in this difficult situation.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 762, Presidential Correspondence, Spain Franco corres. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for action.
  2. The December 1970 trial of 16 Basque separatists accused of involvement in the 1968 murder of a senior police official resulted in death sentences for 6 on December 28. Franco commuted these sentences to 20 years imprisonment on December 30. In telegram 312 from Madrid, December 31, Hill reported that Senator Edward Kennedy had telegraphed Franco urging clemency “well in advance of decision” and had subsequently cabled his congratulations. Hill believed Kennedy would use his actions for political advantage. (Ibid., Country Files, Box 705, Country Files—Europe, Spain, Vol. III) In a telephone conversation with Haig, summarized in a December 31 memorandum from Haig to Nixon, Hill had urged that the President refrain from publicizing his parallel efforts to secure clemency. (Ibid.)
  3. The President initialed the Approve option, and a note by Haig below it reads: “Hill called 9:15 a.m. 31 Dec. ’70. AH.”