For Asst Secretary Meyer, Deputy Asst Secretary Hurwitch and Country Director Breen
- Conversation With President Jose Figueres Ferrer
1. President and Mrs. Figueres dined at the residence with Mrs. Ploeser and myself on the evening of November 4. No others were present. It was principally a social evening, but some comments such as the following took place.
2. Re the LACSA hijacking, Figueres did not believe there would be any more trouble on this matter. Although he supported publicly the action of Dr. Manuel Aguilar Bonilla, the acting President, he said he would have acted otherwise, that he would have taken a hard line, and should there be any reoccurence he would so act. He did not elaborate on what his hard line would be.
3. Re Salvador Allende and his recent inauguration as President of Chile, Figueres said he sent a non-government citizen as representative to the inauguration and did not repeat not send a congratulatory telegram. Figueres referred to Allende as a demagogue and opportunist, and does not believe he will carry out his Marxist theories. He stated, however, the flight of capital and [Page 2] capable business and professional people as very serious.
4. We agreed to meet at his office on the afternoon of November 9 to discuss some business matters of mutual interest. The following are the results of the meeting. It took place from 1500 to 1630 on November 9.
5. I expressed the U.S. appreciation of Costa Rica’s total cooperation in the UN on the Mid East resolutions. The President said we could rely on Costa Rica to continue its position of cooperation with us to the fullest.
6. I then made it plain that we were taking a close look at the new proposed dols 12 million road equipment program. I pointed out that this could affect our dols 7 million AID highway maintenance loan, and that I wanted him to understand that it was neither a political overtone nor undertone at all that would cause us to re-evaluate the whole situation. My main concern, I said, was that the GOCR did not misunderstand our approach—our approach was in accordance with AID statutes and rules to pull out of the entire dols 7 million AID commitment. He said he understood. He never once attached any political significance or commitment to this.
7. Figueres also commented that there was not any assurance that the Russians were going to sell all of the highway maintenance equipment. He said one of his technicians said they could use all equipment from both sides. (Personal Ploeser comment—Embassy intends to hold to the hard facts of the evaluation.)
8. I said regardless of what his aide had told him, our people were strongly of the opinion that which is not the case either in need nor in capability of absorbing it, maintaining it, and [Page 3] using it. As far as the road maintenance equipment is concerned, he said he rather expected Japan would have lower estimates than Russia, [garble] West Germany was intended to bid, and they would welcome US bidders. He [garble] that he did not believe US manufacturers would get their prices low enough to compete, although he considered US products the best.
9. I did not discuss the Assembly action of the last couple of days concerning the Russian commercial treaty because it speaks for itself. I did press the point as to what was going to constitute Russian representation here, and he told me two or three commercial members. He said no Embassy and that if there was to be a Russian Ambassador he would be accredited here, but cover several nations in the Western Hemisphere, one of which would be Costa Rica. “This is a year or more off and I am playing this thing slowly and carefully.” Figueres said the Russians were not fooling him—he is on the US team. He foresees the unrest—the unsettled conditions in Latin America will persist until there is something greater than the Alliance for Progress, and this cannot be expected as long as the US is so heavily involved financially and otherwise in the Near East and Far East. He believes the only remedy for the political chaos is development—there is no other remedy.
10. Figueres said he must sell his coffee surplus, and that Eastern Europe has the greatest coffee potential, plus the Russians. El Salvador could sell all their surplus coffee today to Romania if they would just go about it right.[Page 4]
11. I showed him the article entitled “Interpretations” by Jeremiah O’Leary of the Washington Star of November 6, 1970. This was the cause of much discussion. He asked me if I would mind if he wrote a letter to be published by the Washington Star to set Mr. O’Leary straight on his loyalty to the US. I said I would like to see him do just that, since O’Leary seemed to be a friend of his. He said he could not understand one sentence from O’Leary’s article—“However, the climate is such in Costa Rica, that has no army, that Soviet intelligence officers are increasingly seen.” He said “Have you seen any?” I said no, and that I probably would not recognize any if I did. He asked, “Have your people seen any?” I said that I could not report on this. He reopened now what has become a rather old theme, asking if there were any here, what could they learn. He again emphasized the fact that what he was doing might help in a small way to end the Cold War. I said I did not exactly follow his logic. I was concerned about the strength of his leadership because other Central American countries might want to follow [Page 5] his lead and to do business with the “Bloc.” I brought this subject up three or four times as there were opportunities to do so. He did not deny that he was the leader (he admitted he was the leader in Central America), but had no answer as to what the other Central American countries would do. Neither could he vouch for their ability to handle the situation.
12. I talked very straight by saying that much of my concern on the whole situation in Costa Rica was a worry over what I thought was the lack of capability of handling a true Russian plant in this country. I stated I had come to like him and wanted to see his administration succeed. I did not want to see a Soviet political cancer grow in Central America. It is my job to take care of American interests and because I am deeply concerned, I came to lay the cards on the table. I am worried about him and the possible political entanglements in his country. It would be a shame for “the example of democracy” to get snarled up in a Soviet spider web. I repeated I was not acting under instructions. Figueres said, “I am very glad to have a businessman and practical politician as the US Ambassador because he had never known a career diplomat to act so frankly”. He said that he, Figueres, is also a practical politician and businessman.
13. We parted with strong feelings of respect and cooperation mutually expressed.