671. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2

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  • Development of Southern Venezuela

Since our thirty-day progress report to you of June 30, in response to your memorandum of June 5 to the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the Agency for International Development, we have held extensive discussions with Venezuelans at the ministerial and technical levels, with representatives of international agencies and with officials of U.S. departments and agencies.

Phase I of our analysis, i.e. the assembly of relevant information so as to be able to make a preliminary assessment, is completed. Phase II will be to determine in specific terms how the United States can be helpful.

Stage of the Venezuelan Program. The Government of Venezuela’s current efforts to open-up the southern one-quarter of its country are modest and encompass collection of data, development of a prospective plan, some activity, e.g. construction of bush airfields. The Venezuelan budget for this program is about $1 million this year and will likely increase only incrementally for several years. The absorptive capacity of the program to efficiently use funds, dollars or local currency, is still relatively limited. The first internal-Venezuelan publication on CODESUR contains largely encyclopedia-type general information. It is descriptive rather than analytical and [Page 2] lacks suitable technical information on which a sound development plan can be advanced. This is stated as fact, not criticism. While the CODESUR program would be a suitable area for U.S. technical assistance, the Government of Venezuela at this point has considerable self-confidence in its own planning and operational capacity, and has sought modest assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank in preference to a bilateral approach to the United States. Under these circumstances we have not pushed ourselves forward other than to indicate our interest and desire to be responsive within our capabilities as and how we might be needed.

Needs. The most urgent requirements are for better: (1) technical information about the region, (2) mapping, and (3) cargo planes. Re technical information, we in the Department/A.I.D. have coordinated an extensive search in our intelligence and technical departments and agencies for studies, maps and information. There is little useful information about this virgin and largely unexplored area which is not already available to the Venezuelans. We have agreed with the Venezuelan Planning Minister to share data as to sources.

Re mapping, the Government of Venezuela is particularly interested in a side-looking radar mapping effort. The only operational system is owned by the Department of Defense but physically is in the possession of Westinghouse for commercial use. The commercial cost would probably be somewhere between $1.5–$2.0 million; Westinghouse is working out cost estimates for the Government of Venezuela. Again the Government of Venezuela has made direct contact with Westinghouse and has not sought our intervention, nor as yet, our financial help. We have considered other alternatives, e.g. U–2 flights, RC–135 aerial photography and more conventional on-ground means. The first would be fast but much less satisfactory than side-view radar. The latter two would at this point be too slow. The additional advantage to side-view radar is that cloud-cover is no problem. November is about the only suitable [Page 3] month for aerial photography in this region and then the ground is visible only on an average of three days out of thirty. An alternative to a commercial arrangement between the Government of Venezuela and Westinghouse would be for the Defense Department (under provisions of its arrangement with Westinghouse for recovery and use of the plane and system) to undertake the mapping with costs borne partially or in total by the United States Government. In view of the Venezuelan initiative and inquiry of Westinghouse, we are not in a position to make a recommendation in this respect at this time.

Re cargo planes, the Government of Venezuela has a definite preference for Lockheed Hercules planes (from one to six for use in the CODESUR region) which in civilian version is the L–100–20 and military version, C–130. The head of the CODESUR and the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington have approached the Export-Import Bank of Washington where they were warmly received. On presentation of required suitable technical information the Export-Import Bank could probably move promptly and responsively, bearing in mind, of course, the legislative injunction against financing equipment for military use. The alternative of obtaining C–130s through FMS credits and assigning them for use on the CODESUR program seems to be an unlikely possibility in the near term.

Conclusion. We anticipate being further along in the next two-three months and propose to submit a further progress report on December 1. We will in the intervening period consider additional means for providing support, e.g. support for Venezuelan initiatives re this program in multilateral institutions; high level technical experts (e.g. along lines of the Revelle Indus Basin Study), other technical/development-oriented teams. The new [Page 4] United Nations Resident Representative has also indicated an interest in obtaining the United Nations Special Fund financing support for the CODESUR program. Thus, interest is widespread. We can also report our belief that the Venezuelans regard our efforts to date responsive and helpful.

Theodore L. Eliot, Jr.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 796, Country Files, Latin America, Venezuela, Vol. 1, 1969–1971. Confidential. For the June 30 progress report, see Document 669. For the June 5 memorandum to the Secretary of State and Administrator of AID, see Document 668. The progress report discussed in the conclusion is referenced in Document 674, footnote 1.
  2. Eliot informed Kissinger that the Department of State had begun discussions with Venezuelan officials to come up with a plan to promote the development of southern Venezuela. He reported that the Venezuelans had found U.S. efforts helpful.