52. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1
- Mexican President Echeverria
When Dick Helms made his farewell call, you asked him for an assessment of Mexican President Echeverria—what is he up to? Is he basically anti-American? Helms promised to have CIA’s specialists pro[Page 177]vide their views. Jim Schlesinger has submitted the attached memo (Tab A) in answer to your request.
Its basic points:
1) Echeverria’s conduct reflects a balancing of pressures—relations with the U.S.; internal politics; his desire to be a leader of the Third World.
2) He knows cooperation with the U.S. is essential to Mexico’s economy (60% of Mexico’s trade is with us).
3) Pressures from the Mexican Left make it necessary for him to take a strong nationalist stance.
4) He wants tighter control over foreign investment—to meet Mexico’s needs as he sees them—but he intends to move gradually so as not to damage the investment climate.
5) Leadership of the Third World would enhance Mexican prestige (as well as Echeverria’s place in history).
6) Echeverria is not viscerally anti-American but reflects the traditional love-hate relationship of Mexico for the U.S. (with perhaps a little less “love” than some previous Mexican Presidents have felt).
The CIA memo notes that Echeverria tries to balance his aggressive public line with private messages reassuring us of his friendship and cooperation. And it concludes: “If he became convinced that the U.S. considered his words and actions too costly to its own interests—and intended to retaliate in some way—he would draw back.”
Summary: Kissinger summarized a March 19 memorandum from Director of Central Intelligence Schlesinger regarding President Echeverría’s attitude towards the United States, highlighting the conclusion that Echeverría would draw back from his often critical posture if it became clear that his policies were undermining U.S.-Mexican relations.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Box 788, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. IV, 1973. Secret. Sent for information. A note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Attached at Tab A, but not published, is Schlesinger’s unsigned memorandum of March 19. (Ibid.) An undated memorandum from Scowcroft for the President’s files summarized a February 14 conversation with Helms in which Nixon noted that Echeverría had been “particularly obnoxious” in recent public statements and asked if Echeverría was taking a “cheap shot” at the United States or if his actions reflected deeply held beliefs. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 1)↩