126. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Bolivia1

81744; Tosec 30085. Subject: Bolivia: Elections and Tin Sales. Ref: (A) Tosec 30055;2 (B) Tosec 30063;3 (C) La Paz 2529.4

1. In your March 30 noon meeting with Banzer you should reiterate importance USG attaches to early elections. You should use your judgement on whether to press for existing (July) schedule or to press Bolivians to specify early new date for elections.5

2. With respect to tin, you might draw on following points:

A. The U.S. now has very limited authorization to sell tin and consequently no substantial tin sales will be made before a July election.

B. Other tin producers are worried about the long-term prospects for tin and wish to see reasonable U.S. sales in order to mitigate supply shortfalls over the next several years.

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C. The U.S. has promised to consult fully before we sell and, to avoid undue market disruptions.6

3. If you think it would be useful in avoiding postponement of election or deflection of blame in event of postponement of election, you may advance USG offer that tin sales in the remainder of 1978 would be made in the light of market conditions. Furthermore, with legislative concurrence we would not sell more than 5,000 tons in the remainder of 1978, unless the market is firm (i.e. prices are above present price and rising).7

4. The U.S. considers highly desirable that Bolivian election be held as scheduled. We will not accept the blame should the Bolivian government decide to try to attribute postponement to our tin sales. We wish to be helpful about Bolivia’s economic problems, but the U.S. cannot be labeled as the cause of them. If President Banzer postpones election, the U.S. would be forced to withdraw this offer. You may warn Banzer that if he attempts to blame election postponement on USG, the U.S. would be forced to respond in public about the existence of this offer.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163-0218. Secret; Nodis; Niact Immediate. Sent for information Immediate to the Secretary’s Delegation. Drafted and approved by Cooper, cleared in S/S. Vance was in Brazil accompanying Carter on an official visit.
  2. March 29. ARA, S/P and HA proposed: “President should authorize Ambassador Boeker tell GOB on Friday that US tin sales will not begin before July elections and that maximum of 5000 tons will be sold in calendar 1978 provided electoral schedule is held.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780136-0934)
  3. March 29. Katz advised: “Believe it would be a serious mistake to offer a commitment to Bolivia at this time on either the timing or amount of disposals as ARA proposes or to indicate that we are prepared to reconsider our support for disposal legislation as Boeker suggests. Thus, in my view, we should advise Banzer that if our tin policy is cited in connection with postponement, we will be forced to go on record in refutation of this totally unwarranted linkage.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163-0395)
  4. March 29. Boeker advised the Department: “Postponement of elections appears almost certain at this point.” He continued: “The main issue remaining in which we may have some small influence is whether the government takes the high road or the low road on postponement.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780136-0584)
  5. In telegram 2511 from La Paz, March 29, Boeker requested guidance before his meeting with Banzer and recommended that he “make one final effort (most likely unsuccessful) to talk Banzer out of postponement. Equally important to US interests, we need to protect ourselves from the rap that the US sank Bolivia’s democratization plans.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840153-1882) In telegram 2535 from La Paz, March 29, the Embassy reported on Boeker’s March 28 conversation with Pereda regarding the elections. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780136-0947)
  6. In telegram 2604 from La Paz, March 30, Boeker noted that in a telephone conversation, Cooper had suggested that he “amplify” paragraph 2c. To do so, Boeker “chose to maintain some image of an offer, but with no price and quantity specification, by simply challenging the Bolivians to tell us what they think they need and offering to do our best to meet a legitimate Bolivian need. This is a surrealist picture of our consultation obligation but I believe its generality and qualifications protect us. I hope I have not stretched the import of our hurried conversation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840153-1885) For the Embassy’s full report on the meeting with Banzer, see Document 127.
  7. In telegram 81860 from the Department, March 30, Cooper instructed Boeker “to drop paragraph 3” of this telegram. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780138-0467)