173. Memorandum From Viron P. Vaky of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

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  • CIA Report on Soviet Hold on Costa Rican President-Elect Figueres

Dick Helms has sent you the attached memo outlining information that the Soviets have “loaned” Figueres some $200,000. In return for this the “contact”, the Secretary General of the Costa Rican Communist Party, asked for certain appointments and simple actions regarding diplomatic and commercial relations with the Bloc. Presumably, other demands may be made in the future.

[text not declassified]

We have also known for some time that Figueres was in deep business and financial troubles and did need money. There is some presumption that this may have been a motive for accepting the funds.

Alex Johnson will want to talk with you after the Department has thought out its position. He will probably wish to do this soon. I believe you should have a “40 Committee” meeting on this very soon.

There seem to me to be the following options:

Do nothing, just watch and take precautions. Not a very satisfactory course since this would just let the Soviets get a stronger hold.
Try to neutralize the situation by publicly exposing the link. However, we could not do this credibly without prejudicing our sources [text not declassified] In any case it may not be necessary to be that humiliating or brutal to achieve the same objective. Moreover, Figueres will be President for four years, and we will cut ourselves off from him by this course.
Neutralize Figueres by letting him know privately we know what he has been doing, stating we will not humiliate him, but we will watch him and expose him if he acts pro-Soviet. We would have to make this credible by revealing to him how much we know, and it would have to be done carefully (see below).
[text not declassified]

I personally favor 3 above, but think we ought to consider 4 later. However, Course 3 would be tricky to do. It ought to be done by someone who knows Figueres and whom Figueres likes and trusts. My suggestions for tactics are as follows:

  • The perfect person to do this is Governor Rockefeller. Figueres is a good friend of his, and has said he trusts the Governor implicitly. The Governor could effectively talk turkey to him and convince Figueres we mean what we say.
  • —The perfect opportunity would be to have the Governor head the U.S. delegation to Figueres’ inauguration which is scheduled May 8. (State, as it turns out, has already proposed this and paper work is in the mill.)

I would like to talk to you about this before you meet with Johnson and Helms.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 779, Country Files, Latin America, Costa Rica. Secret; Sensitive. Kissinger placed a checkmark next to Vaky’s recommendation to go with Option 3 and suggested that the person to carry it out would be Governor Nelson Rockefeller. At the bottom of the page, Kissinger wrote: “OK. HK. Let’s just have Helms & Johnson keep out of Defense.” No record of a 40 Committee meeting was found. In Telegram 2872 from San José, June 7, the Embassy reported that Figueres had made a secret agreement with Costa Rican Communist Party Secretary General Manuel Mora, that Figueres was “deeply in debt,” and that the agreement might have been motivated by “both political and financial” concerns (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 14 COSTA RICA)
  2. Vaky forwarded and analyzed Document 172 under a covering memorandum in which he recommended a 40 Committee meeting to discuss the matter and provided four options for dealing with the situation.