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

189662. Subject: Posture Toward Pereda. Ref: La Paz 5933.2

1. You are authorized to see Pereda confidentially and informally.

2. Clearly our goal is to encourage Pereda to get the process of democratic political development back on the track promptly and to preserve earlier gains in personal human rights. We do not, however, want to put ourselves in the position of being a party to an qte agreement unqte between the Pereda government and ourselves on a political timetable.

3. It appears to us that Pereda may not be set in concrete as to the electoral calendar, and that he might be able to move it forward. He is quoted in a Juan de Onis interview in today’s NYT, for example, as saying that elections might be held in 18 months if the electoral law and voter registration can be reformed in time.3 In your discussion with him you should congratulate him on his forthcoming position but urge that he shorten the time span, arguing that this is important to Bolivia’s image and his regime’s credibility in the hemisphere and in the U.S. It would be very desirable if elections could be held in a year, but in any case, recognizing the work that must be done in preparing, he should try to keep that span as short as he can. In sum, we want to press him to shorten meaningfully the time span (which we think important for its effect on other hemisphere countries) but not so hard that we discourage him from this hopeful course.4

4. You should also suggest that Pereda ought to be looking to build some consensus behind his plan and assume that therefore he is doing this with the opposition.

5. We also suggest you turn around his argument on the War of the Pacific and point out to him that under the right circumstances [Page 424] 1979 could be a year of progress on the access to the sea issue making it a good year for elections.

6. Tell Pereda he should not be concerned about the recognition issue. We do not see the issue of recognition arising. Our practice is not repeat not to make announcements of recognition or non-recognition, but to make clear that we are qte maintaining unqte relations after a decent interval has passed and we are satisfied as to government’s control and basic intentions. From our point of view, and we think from his, it would be preferable to indicate maintenance of relations in low key fashion after his speech. If we do it before his speech, it will be perceived as the result of some sort of preagreement between the United States and Pereda, precisely the sort of thing to which neither he nor we wish to become parties.

7. As far as aid is concerned, the degree to which he can work out something reasonable and credible to put Bolivia back on the path of democratic political development and preserve the gains in individual rights and announce it in his speech will be a significant factor in our consideration of future aid.

8. It would help the credibility of the new regime if Pereda would detail to some degree in his speech the protections he will give to personal rights in preserving the recent gains made in Bolivia, i.e., due process, full press, political and labor freedoms and the continued avoidance of detentions or expulsions from country on political grounds.

9. The foregoing is our position on the substance. You should, of course, tell him that the U.S. is greatly encouraged by the information you have received from Tapia that he intends to make a honest, thoughtful effort to put Bolivia on the democratic track and clean up corruption. His idea of a new electoral court with independent powers consisting of representatives of all the major political parties with the powers he has in mind offer the objective hope that the next Bolivian election could have the legitimacy and credibility denied the last one. To the extent that he can spell out a concrete timetable of steps between now and election date, it would help establish credibility for the new process at home and around the hemisphere. While we regret the interruption of the process and remained concerned, we appreciate his efforts and want to be helpful if he can work something out.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840140-2059. Confidential; Flash; Nodis. Sent for information Immediate to the White House. Drafted by McNeil and Vaky; cleared by Pastor, Schneider, and in S/S; approved by Newsom.
  2. See footnote 7, Document 133.
  3. Juan de Onis, “Bolivian Says Elections Could be Held in 1980 if Reforms are Made,” New York Times, July 27, 1978, p. A8.
  4. In a July 27 memorandum to Carter, Christopher indicated that Boeker had been instructed “to urge Pereda to speed up his timetable for the restoration of democracy. The Ambassador will also tell him that our thinking on assistance will be conditioned on the actual steps Pereda takes toward democratic rule.” Next to this paragraph, Carter wrote, “ok.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Evening Reports (State): 7/78)