347. Memorandum of Conversation1 2

[Page 1]


  • Guatemalan Request to Purchase Military Arms


  • Foreign

    • Julio Asensio Wunderlich, Ambassador from Guatemala
  • United States

    • The Honorable William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
    • Robert A. Hurwitch, Deputy Assistant Secretary
    • John R. Breen, Director, Office of Central American Affairs

1. Ambassador Asensio came in to inform the Secretary of Guatemala’s request for a sale of military equipment, including A37B aircraft, and to request, through the Secretary an appointment with President Nixon. Ambassador Asensio explained that he had instructions to deliver to President Nixon a letter from the President of Guatemala requesting speedy consideration of Guatemala’s request for a sale of military equipment. Ambassador Asensio handed Secretary Rogers a copy of the letter.

2. After reading the letter the Secretary regretted that President Nixon was so occupied with Congressional matters that he could not see the Ambassador. However, he assured Ambassador Asensio that President Nixon was aware of Guatemala’s problem and wanted to do everything in his power to help. In this connection, Secretary Rogers informed Asensio that the United States Government had approved in principle the arms sale request made by the Government of Guatemala including the request for A37B aircraft, and that the Department of Defense was actively engaged in preparing price and availability data in order to be [Page 2] able to make a formal offer to the Government of Guatemala. The Secretary went on to say that the Ambassador had won his case before the appointment with the President could be set up; unless there were other matters to be taken up, a Presidential appointment could not accomplish more than had already been achieved.

3. Ambassador Asensio thanked the Secretary and went on to say that Guatemala had great financial problems and wondered whether the United States Government could not provide some or all of the arms requested in the form of aid rather than as a cash sale. He mentioned the possibility of obtaining a grant of several A37B aircraft which, he was informed, were being returned to the United States for moth-balling. Mr. Hurwitch explained that the Department had investigated that possibility previously, and had determined that the aircraft were being returned for active use by the U.S. Air Force and were thus not available for Guatemalan needs. The Secretary indicated that the Department of State would pass on his request to the Department of Defense and ask them to do whatever was in their legal power to do to reduce the cost to the Government of Guatemala.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files, FRC 330–73A–1975, Guatemala 1970, 000.1. Confidential. Drafted on December 31 by Breen and approved in S. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office. In a December 23 briefing memorandum for Rogers, Crimmins provided detailed background on the Guatemalan request for $12 million in arms purchases. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GUAT–US)
  2. Secretary of State Rogers met with Guatemalan Ambassador Julio Asensio Wunderlich to discuss Guatemala’s request for the sale of military equipment, including 8 A–37B aircraft to be used in counterinsurgency operations.