145. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Presidential Message to Bolivian President Padilla (U)

Bolivia held presidential elections yesterday and it appears that none of the three major candidates received a majority. Leftist-oriented Siles Suazo received about 40 percent of the vote; Paz Estensoro polled 26 percent; and Banzer got 20 percent. Because no one received a majority, the contest must now go before the Bolivian Congress which will select one of the front-runners as president. The military are nervous about the Siles plurality and are worried that the Paz and Banzer partisans may maintain their divisions to enable Siles to win Congressional approval. There are some intelligence reports that certain elements in the military may feel compelled to take pre-emptive action by carrying out a coup.2 (C)

We want to encourage the Bolivians to stick with the legal, constitutional route. To indicate the level of our concern, State has drafted a cabled message from the President to President Padilla. It has been cleared by the speechwriters, and I strongly recommend that you approve it.3 A similar message from the President to Ecuadorean Admiral Poveda last year helped a lot.4 (C)


That you approve the message at Tab A from the President to President Padilla.5 (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 5, Bolivia. Confidential. Sent for action. Gates and Denend initialed the top right-hand corner of the memorandum. Also in the top right-hand corner, an unknown hand wrote, “critical date: today–7/3.” At the bottom of the page, Aaron wrote, “I think this is premature. DA.”
  2. In telegram 5004 from La Paz, June 8, the Embassy reported that “Banzerites” in early June “boldly proclaim that they have sufficient support in the armed forces to bring off a coup at will, but ‘conditions are not right.’” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790260-0808)
  3. Tab A, a draft message from Carter to Padilla, is attached but not printed. It read in part: “I am sure you can understand why I am deeply apprehensive over reports that some elements in Bolivia are trying to prevent a constitutionally-elected president from taking office in August, and sincerely hope these reports prove unfounded.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 5, Bolivia)
  4. See Document 280.
  5. An unknown hand checked the disapprove option for Brzezinski and wrote, “7-3-79 ZB”.