154. Memorandum of Meeting, Washington, June 13, 1969, 11:30 a.m.1 2

[Page 1]

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
(Part 5 of 5 parts)

MEMORANDUM OF MEETING
Held on Friday June 13, 1969 at 11:30 a.m. in the Office of the President

PARTICIPANTS - The President
President Carlos Lleras Restrepo of Colombia
Alfonso Lopez Michelsen, Foreign Minister of Colombia
Ambassador Misael Pastrana, Ambassador of Colombia
Dr. Rodrigo Botero, Private Secretary to President Lleras
Mr. Charles A. Meyer, Assistant Secretary, Department of State
Ambassador Emil Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol, Department of State
Mr. Viron P. Vaky, NSC Staff

SUBJECT: Farewell Call of President Lleras

PART 5 - The Church in Latin America

President Nixon asked President Lleras to expand on his comment yesterday that the Church in Latin America was the source of one of two radical trends in the continent. President Lleras said that many of the Bishops and Priests in the various countries had involved themselves in university, labor and student affairs, and used the same slogans and concepts as the marxists did. Thus, they spoke of “imperialism”, “capitalist exploitation”. Most of them were well meaning, many of them fuzzy and vague in their analysis, and all of them disturbed by the visible signs of poverty and social grievances. He thought that many of these radical churchmen were influenced by marxists. Foreign Minister Lopez observed that the churchmen and the marxists at least often used the same language. He noted, too, that some priests actually practiced violence and joined guerrilla [Page 2] bands. President Lleras observed that some of the foreign missionaries, e.g., some of the Maryknoll priests, had taken this kind of revolutionary line. It was not clear that all this was the result of any infiltration, but perhaps of a convergence of discontent, slowness in reform and desire to improve things which led the churchmen to simplistic thinking and to sympathy with the simplistic scapegoats the extremists suggested.

President Nixon said he would like the Rockefeller mission to report on the Church and the role it played in Latin America. He also asked Mr. Meyer to have a careful analysis prepared of the facts for him, and particularly what it is that appears to have caused parts of the Church to become radical. He would like to have this include reports from our various missions.

The President asked that President Lleras do him the favor of giving him a further analysis of this situation as he (President Lleras) saw it, and asked if he would write him on it. His views would, of course, be privileged and confidential. President Lleras agreed to do so.

Copy to:
John Walsh, State Secretariat

  1. Source: Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, VIP Visits, Box 913, Colombia, State Visit of President Lleras, June 12–13, 1969. Secret; Exdis. Part 5 of 5 parts. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted until 12:06 p.m. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) An attached covering June 14 memorandum from Vaky to Davis, indicated that special distribution of the memorandum was made to the Department of State and CIA. The conclusion of the Rockefeller Report is printed as Document 18 in the Regional Compilation. No record of Meyer’s analysis was found.
  2. President Lleras thought many radical Catholic clerics were influenced by Marxism. President Nixon requested the Rockefeller mission to report on the Church and asked Assistant Secretary Charles Meyer to prepare an analysis of why parts of the Church have become radical.