267. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans (Karamessines) to Director of Central Intelligence Helms1 2

[Page 1]

SUBJECT:

  • The Use of intelligence for Political Purposes, The Dominican Republic: Events of 26 February 1969

Summary. The Dominican Popular Movement (MPD) attempted to organize an armed uprising against the Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR) on 26 February 1969. The MPD did this more as a tactic for improving its position among other revolutionary parties than in hope of actually overthrowing Balaguer’s GODR that day. The uprising did not succeed, partly because there was inadequate support given to the attempt and partly because [text not declassified] information on the MPD plans to the GODR, who put security forces on the street. [text not declassified] enabled the GODR to frustrate the attempt and [text not declassified] the information, also counseled its contacts in the GODR to avoid overreacting to the provocation by such harshness as mass arrests, shooting, and by provoking students to rash acts. This may have had an effect for the GODR dealt with the trouble comparatively coolly.

1. The U.S. intervention in 1965, [text not declassified] Ambassador Bunker to help pull off a free and secret election, and the hope for another election and orderly succession in the Dominican Republic next year, aside from other interests, give us a continuing stake in heading off attempts to overthrow the Government of the Dominican Republic (GODR).

2. As early as June 1968, [text not declassified] had reports [text not declassified] of the formation of a five-man paramilitary “commands” by the Dominican Popular Movement (MPD), which is the aggressive, China oriented, Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group. The so-called commands were being assigned terrorists tasks and [text not declassified] learned that 15 October 1968 would be the date for an attempt at a coup. (As you will see below, “coup” is the term used by the [Page 2] MPD but, [text not declassified] has pointed out in commenting on these reports, “coup” is too strong a word, for it is doubtful that the MPD has thought it could quickly and by itself overthrow the GODR). The October date was then changed to sometime in January 1969 and throughout December and January there was constant reporting [text not declassified] on MPD plans and activities. Much of this information was passed to several high Dominican officials and all of it has gone as well to our embassy [text not declassified] We have been watching with considerable interest because the MPD has been working at cultivating Dominican military personnel as well as sounding out other possible allies; among these the MPD has been willing to work with the extreme right as well as the radical left and other communist groups, and has worked among laborers and students.

3. [text not declassified] learned on 25 February of the MPD’s plans to attempt an uprising or, as the leaders often described it, a coup, on the very next day. As you know, [text not declassified] the government responded quickly by guarding places which the MPD intended to seize, such as a radio station, from which it would have broadcast revolutionary appeals, and military installations in the city of Santo Domingo. Not only was the government prepared [text not declassified] but it handled its security work well. [text not declassified] had counseled the officials of the GODR with whom it was working to avoid harsh measures such as arbitrary and mass arrests, handling crowds brutally, and provoking the students at the university. We cannot be sure that this advice on security tactics determined the way the GODR handled the situation but the government did put its police and troops on the alert, had them in the right places, and showed force without having to use it. In the tense situation, this itself was a victory.

4. Without going deeply into the why’s, the MPD appears to have moved on 26 February partly to take advantage of an angry mood at the university over the size of the budget granted by the government. Its aim, despite the use of the terms “coup” and [Page 3]overthrow” was highly tactical in trying to show itself dramatically as the most revolutionary of a number of rival revolutionary parties in this small country, feeling thus it could build a larger following and show that it deserves support from Cuba or China. The MPD made a number of now obviously exaggerated claims of support among the military and in other political parties and revolutionary groupings. Some individual members of other parties, including the followers of Juan Bosch, did join in agitation, but they seemed to have done this in a highly opportunistic way, hoping to capitalize on victory. Their lack of commitment made their help insignificant.

5. In conclusion, the “coup” attempt has been dropped by the MPD for the moment although trouble may continue because of the quarrel over the budget of the university. [text not declassified] We predict that there will be more agitation and more attempts to overthrow the Balaguer government before the 1970 election. As in many countries of Latin America, our information was passed to the government as fast as it could be. This is a recent example of the use of intelligence to protect these often fragile administrations from the shock of organized violence.

Thomas H. Karamessines
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, ODDP Registry, Job Number 80–B01086A. Secret. The memorandum bears Karamessines’ typed signature with an indication that he signed the original.
  2. Deputy Director Karamessines reported that the Dominican Popular Movement (MPD) planned for an anti-government uprising which ultimately failed. CIA informed the Dominican Government, which responded by guarding the anticipated targets of the MPD and forestalling the uprising before it could get underway.