85. Backchannel Message From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Meyer) to the Ambassador to Bolivia (Siracusa)1 2

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1. From the thorough reporting from the field and from analyses here in Washington, we have concluded that the key, at least in the immediate future, to the direction that events in Bolivia will take is President Ovando himself and his responses to pressures put on him by radical and moderate elements both within and without the Bolivian Government. We are most interested in doing what we can to see that Ovando is stiffened to resist the radical pressures and to follow a moderate course.

2. As part of this process, I request that you identify for your own use and for the information of Washington agencies concerned moderate elements in the Bolivian power structure (both military and civilian) who are loyal to the President and/or who have influence on him. Please report your initial findings by January 20, supplementing and revising them as appropriate during the months ahead.

3. Our idea is that useful contacts with these persons believed to have a positive influence on Ovando should then be developed primarily by overt Embassy officers. The object would be to encourage their relative moderation for rub-off [Page 2] on Ovando, to provide channels of communication to him, and to put you in as good a position as possible to have a positive, constructive influence on him at a time when a deteriorating economic picture will be generating additional pressures on him and the Gulf-GOB relationship might require a more active role by the USG. The development of these relationships is obviously not intended to interfere in any way with but rather to reinforce the development of a close personal relationship between you and President Ovando, which should be fostered and extended, using the fine basis you have already established.

4. In carrying out the above, you will, I am sure, exercise care to avoid having the Embassy accused of interfering in Bolivian internal affairs. I want to make it perfectly clear that we do not have in mind preparations for replacing the present Government but rather working with moderate and constructive elements on the scene to influence the present Government.

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Box 19, Bolivia 1973–1980. Secret. Drafted by Chapin and Crimmins. The document is the draft of the message as authorized by Meyer.
  2. Assistant Secretary Meyer instructed Ambassador Siracusa to identify, by January 20, “moderate elements in the Bolivian power structure,” but without giving the impression the Embassy was interfering in Bolivian affairs.