1964: CIA COVERT SUPPORT IN FREI ELECTION DETAILED;
OPERATIONAL AND POLICY RECORDS RELEASED FOR FIRST TIME
Security Archive Commends State Department, CIA for Declassification
WASHINGTON D.C.: For the first time in forty years,
CIA and White House documents
on covert political intervention in the 1964 Chilean election
were declassified yesterday. The documents, which detail Washington's
political and operational decisions on covert action "directed
at the defeat of Salvador Allende" by "increasing the
organizational efficiency and campaigning ability of the Christian
Democratic Party," provide a comprehensive historical record
of U.S. efforts to sway the election to candidate Eduardo Frei
between January and September 1964.
The records were published in the new volume of the State Department's
Relations of the United States (FRUS), Foreign Relations, 1964-1968,
Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico.
National Security Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh hailed the State
Department for "filling in a dark historical hole on the
secret efforts by the United States to intervene in Chile's political
process." The release, he said, "demonstrates the power
of a congressional mandate for the State Department to systematically
declassify the full record, including on covert operations."
Although a special Senate Committee headed by Frank Church had
viewed these records and written about them in a 1975 report on
"Covert Action in Chile: 1963-1973," Kornbluh noted,
"there is no substitute for the actual declassification of
this long hidden history."
According to the declassified reports, covert support for Frei's
Christian Democrats began in April 1962, at the suggestion of
Kennedy aide Richard Goodwin and the U.S. Ambassador to Chile,
with a series of secret payments on "a non-attributable basis"--meaning
that the source of the funds was kept a secret from Frei and his
party officials. In preparation for the 1964 campaign, in December
1963 the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division proposed a concrete
"political action program in Chile" to bolster the Christian
Democrats chances of winning. The CIA's Chief of Western Hemisphere
Division, J.C. King, recommended that funds for the campaign "be
provided in a fashion causing Frei to infer United States origin
of funds and yet permitting plausible denial," so that the
CIA could "achieve a measure of influence over [the] Christian
The documents record that on March 26, 1964, Frei's campaign
managers met with U.S. embassy officials to go over their campaign
budget of $1.5 million for which the party only had $500,000.
A memorandum recording the meeting noted that "The Chileans
suggested that the U.S. government make up this difference which
amounts to one million dollars for the period from now to election
time." The "Special Group" which approved covert
actions met on April 2 in the White House situation room and authorized
CIA financing of the campaign and a compromise with the CIA in
which the U.S. source of the secret funding "would be inferred"
but with "no evidence of proof."
On May 14, the Special Group approved an increase in covert spending
to $1.25 million to allow the Christian Democrats to "campaign
at its full potential." On July 23, the Johnson administration
approved another $500,000 for Frei to "maintain the pace
and rhythm of his campaign effort." A secret memorandum to
National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy from an aide noted that
"we can't afford to lose this one, so I don't think there
should be any economy shaving in this instance."
The CIA spent a total of $2.6 million directly underwriting the
campaign. An additional $3 million was spent on anti-Allende propaganda
activities designed to scare voters away from Allende's FRAP coalition.
The documentation ends a long standing debate in Chile as to
whether Frei himself was aware of this funding. On May 4, 1964,
Frei met with the deputy chief of mission in Chile. In a memorandum
of conversation sent through CIA channels to Washington, the DCM,
Mr. Jova, stated that Frei had expressed his "gravest concern"
that an unidentified businessman had been indiscrete in openly
discussing the $1 million dollars of funding due to come from
the U.S. government. Frei "hoped that all concerned would
be extremely careful on any loose talk on any matters connected
with financial assistance," Jova reported, "because
any linking of him to USG or U.S. private sector financial assistance
After Frei's victory on September 4, 1964, the "303 Committee"--the
new name of the interagency group responsible for covert operations--met
and discussed the U.S. contribution. According to minutes of the
meeting, "Mr. Bundy indicated that a vote of commendation
should be extended to those responsible for the successful outcome
of the Chilean election." CIA Director John McCone "remarked
that the voters, themselves, in Chile deserved some commendation."
A special report prepared by the CIA on Chile's new president-elect
noted that "with some good fortune and tactful handling,
Frei could become an outstanding leader and statesman in Latin
America and an exceptionally valuable, if occasionally carping,
friend of the United States."
In the aftermath of the election, the CIA and the State Department
continued to fight over whether and how to exercise U.S. influence
over Frei. In a September 30th meeting between State Department
and CIA officials, the head of covert operations, Desmond Fitzgerald
was told that Secretary of State Dean Rusk "doesn't want
us in our dealings with the Frei Government to use leverage acquired
through support of the CD [Christian Democrats]." "Fitzgerald
said this made him very unhappy," according to the memorandum
of conversation. The Assistant Secretary of State, Thomas Mann,
told the CIA that he doubted Rusk's directive "was as sweeping
as it sounds."
The new FRUS volume also includes more than a dozen State Department
documents on U.S.
policy leading up to the 1964 coup in Brazil, but
none of the hundreds of CIA records on covert support for the
military coup plotters believed to exist. In the spirit of the
CIA’s decision to declassify some documents on the 1964
Chilean election, the National Security Archive called on the
Agency to release the entire record on Brazil, and all other documents
on covert action in Chile during the 1960s.
According to Kornbluh, “After four decades, there is no
conceivable justification for continuing to cover up this history.”
here for a selection of documents on the 1964 election in Chile