298. Memorandum From Arnold Nachmanoff of the National Security Council Staff to the Senior Military Assistant (Haig), March 7, 1969.1 2

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March 7, 1969

TO: Al Haig
FROM: Arnold Nachmanoff [AN initialed]

SUBJECT: Suspension of Foreign Military Sales to Ecuador

Section 3(b) of the Foreign Military Sales Act (October 22, 4648) provides that:

“No defense article or defense service shall be sold by the United States Government under this Act to any country which after the date of enactment of this Act, seizes or takes into custody or fines an American fishing vessel engaged in fishing more than 12 miles from the coast of that country. The President may waive the provisions of this subsection when he determines it to be important to the security of the United States, and promptly so reports to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.”

On December 10, 1968 the US fishing vessel Day Island was seized by Ecuador. It was detained for four days and required to pay fines and port charges totalling $81,975 before it was released. Our Embassy protested the seizure and told the Ecuadoran Government that we would have to apply the provisions of the military sales act and the Fishermen’s Protective Act because of their action. Military sales were terminated on December 13, 1968. The Ecuadorans were officially informed of this decision on December 30. The amount affected was less than $1 million. The decision was made by the State and Defense Departments, not by the White House. This was the first instance of a ship seizure following enactment of the Foreign Military Sales Act and hence it was the first application of that provision. The legal view in State and Defense is that this provision is mandatory unless the President waives it in the interest of national security.

In the case of the vessel Mariner which was seized by Peru earlier last month, Defense suspended military sales de facto but we have not informed the Peruvians yet.

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There is a proposal under consideration in State to tell the Ecuadorans -- at the same time our emissary is in Peru -- that we will lift the suspension of military sales (via a Presidential waiver) if they agree to participate in a 4-power conference on the fisheries problem.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 784, Country Files, Latin America, Ecuador, Vol. 1, 1969–1970. Confidential. Haig wrote on the memorandum, “Arnie HAK[Kissinger] has seen—he doesn’t feel this should be used to pressure Peruvians. Al”
  2. National Security Council staff member Nachmanoff reported that because Ecuador and Peru seized U.S. fishing vessels, they could not receive U.S. military aid. He noted that the Department of State was considering lifting the suspension of military sales if Ecuador participated in a four-power conference on the fisheries problem.