96. Information Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Crimmins) to the Acting Secretary (Irwin)1 2

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  • Political Instability in Bolivia and Resumption of Commercial Sales of Tin from U.S. Stockpile

Mr. Williams raised the question yesterday whether Ambassador Siracusa’s latest assessment (Telegram 6098) of the situation in Bolivia, citing as it does the weaknesses of the Torres regime, does not conflict with our memorandum of December 2 to the President recommending an additional 90-day extension of the deadline for resuming stockpile tin disposals. The basic thrust of that memorandum was that Bolivian government should have the opportunity to continue to consolidate its strength and its basically moderate orientation in the hope that it will be in a position to better contain an extremist reaction to the initiation of tin disposals.

I believe the question that has been posed may be based on an oversimplified reading of both the La Paz telegram and our memorandum to the President. The telegram, as well as the memorandum, lists the positive and the negative aspects of the Torres government and the political situation in Bolivia. On the negative side, there are the continued divisions within the military in the aftermath of the October crisis, the renewed strength of the leftist forces of [Page 2] the country, the weakness of the government in the face of continued lawlessness, and its uncertain future. On the positive side our memorandum cited the ability of the military to unify sufficiently to deter Torres from bringing the extremists into his government, Torres’ difficult decision to respect the Gulf compensation agreement, and the government’s successful prosecution of a military campaign against the ELM guerrillas. Our memo concluded that with restraint on our part, the Torres government could be influenced to continue to strengthen a moderate orientation.

Both our memorandum and the La Paz Telegram 6098 emphasize the same essential argument that the government is weak, but inclined in a moderate direction, and that we need additional time to see whether it will be able to stabilize the situation sufficiently to reduce the risks inherent in initiation of U.S. tin disposals.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary, Subject and Country Files: Lot 73 D 353, JHC [John H. Crimmins] Chronological File, July, August, September 1970. Secret. Drafted by Freeman. The date is handwritten. Copies were sent to U, J, C, and D. The memorandum is an unsigned copy. Tab A, Telegram 6098 from La Paz, was not found. Attached but not published at Tab B is the December 2 memorandum. In a July 24 memorandum to Rogers, Crimmins predicted that sales of the U.S. Government tin stockpile “might well push President Ovando to the left, away from the political center of gravity which he has been seeking, would present new opportunities for exploitation by the USSR.” (Ibid.)
  2. Acting Assistant Secretary Crimmins argued that the U.S. Government should postpone tin sales for 90 days starting on December 7 in order to stabilize Bolivia’s economy and thus support General Torres’s inclinations towards political moderation.