657. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, April 23, 1969, 10:45–11:15 a.m.1 2

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ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20301

In reply refer to: I–4611/69

MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION

SUBJECT: Visit of Venezuelan Minister of Defense

Participants:
Venezuelan Side
Minister of Defense - General Garcia
Head of Venezuelan Delegation to the Inter-American Defense Board - Admiral Torrealba

Inter-American Defense Board
Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board - Lt General Alger
Aide to Chairman, Inter-American Defense Board - Major Montemayor

United States Side
Secretary of Defense - Melvin R. Laird
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (ISA) - Richard A. Ware
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa and Western Hemisphere (ISA) - William E. Lang
Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense - Colonel Hixon

Time: 10:45–11:15, 23 April 1969
Place: Secretary Laird’s Office, Pentagon

1. Inter-American Defense Board

General Garcia expressed his appreciation of the usefulness of the Inter-American Defense Board as a forum for high ranking officers from the nations in the Hemisphere to establish personal relationships and to work together on common security problems.

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2. Insurgency in Venezuela

General Garcia noted that the problem of insurgency in Venezuela is under control. There are two or three major insurgency groups, but they are not effective. The Venezuelan armed forces have gone into isolated areas of the country, where they have engaged in civic action projects and give the local populace a chance to voice their problems to representatives of the government. The armed forces also work very closely with the police and civilian officials, with the common objective of trying to prevent insurgencies and other forms of unrest before they arise. President Caldera had offered amnesty to the insurgents which, while not applicable to common crimes, affords a large number of the insurgents an opportunity to lay down their arms without fear. The President has also legalized the Communist party, which should have the effect of dividing the insurgents from those who wish to follow a peaceful course. In sum, the General noted that both the political and military authorities are working towards the common objectives of peace.

3. US Assistance

General Garcia said that his tour in the United States had given him a good feel for US public opinion of his country. He was aware of the limitations that confront the Executive Branch in dealing with the US Congress, particularly on matters relating to the Latin American military. While he recognized that the American public is concerned about the role of the military in political affairs, he hoped that it would take a broader view of the problems facing the Hemisphere and give due recognition to insurgency as a common problem. Mr. Laird commented that not all Latin American military men knew so well the problems that confront the Executive Branch when dealing with the Congress. Despite these problems, however, Mr. Laird thought we would be able to continue the types of help that we have given Venezuela in the past. General Garcia noted that when Venezuela had not had help from the United States in the past, it had been forced to go to Europe. He asked whether Mr. Laird thought subversion should be treated as an internal or an external problem. Mr. Laird replied that subversion is a problem for all the Hemisphere and, for this reason, he was confident that we would be able to continue our programs of assistance. He noted that the NSC is currently reviewing all of our programs but felt that the review would point up the need to continue to help. He believed that we would be able to continue the level of sales to Venezuela at about $5–$7 million annually.

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4. Public Attitudes

Mr. Laird remarked that our problems with the US Congress stem in large part from the war in Vietnam. For lack of a better understanding of the war, there also was a growing lack of public respect for men in uniform, a problem which is growing increasingly serious and hard to be countered. The problem is not limited to the US but is growing throughout the world.

Mr. Laird noted that after World War II public opinion had called for a large-scale reduction in our armed forces. We could not afford, in his judgment, to let the same thing happen now. The United States must maintain its deterrent forces on which its security, and that of the rest of the world, relies.

Memorandum of Conversation Prepared by:
William E. Lang

Approved by:
[signed]
Richard A. Ware
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)
Date: 25 April 69

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OASD/ISA Files, FRC 330–72A–6309, Venezuela, 1969, Confidential. It was drafted by Lang and approved on April 25 by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Ware. Copies of this conversation were sent to the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, DASD–IA (ISA), IAW (ISA), OASD, IXR (ISA). The meeting was held in Secretary Laird’s office in the Pentagon.
  2. Department of Defense officials and their Venezuelan counterparts discussed insurgency in and U.S. assistance to Venezuela.