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Digital Archive International History Declassified

May 21, 1963

COMMUNIST PARTY OF CZECHOSLOVAKIA, RECORD OF CONVERSATION WITH FIRST SECRETARY OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF BOLIVIA, MARIO MONJE, PRAGUE

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    In a conversation with the head of the CPCz international department in May 1963, PCB First Secretary Mario Monje reveals the extent of his party’s modus vivendi with Paz Estenssoro’s governing Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR). According to Monje, the Bolivian president was "heavily involved" with Operation Matraca, an ongoing Cuban-sponsored guerrilla operation targeting the military governing in neighboring Peru.
    "Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, Record of Conversation with First Secretary of the Communist Party of Bolivia, Mario Monje, Prague," May 21, 1963, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Inv.č. 94, ka. 74, Komunistická strana Československa, Ústřední výbor, Kancelář 1, tajemníka ÚV KSČ Antonína Novotného-II. Č, Národní archiv, Prahu. Obtained by Thomas Field with help from Vlasta Měšťánková; translated by Jiri Macek. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/123806
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Record of Conversation with First Secretary of the Bolivian CP Mario Monje

[Prague, Czechoslovakia, 21 May 1963]

The First Secretary of the CC [Central Committee] of the Bolivian CP was passing through Prague in recent days on his way to the USSR with two comrades from the Bolivian CP leadership.  During his passage through Prague he met with the head of the international department cde. [comrade] Černík.

[The memorandum begins with one page regarding internal Bolivian politics]

A characteristic feature of current developments in the country is the constant strengthening of the military and the rise of its influence on the political life of the country and in many cases, the direct interference of the army in political life.  A number of Bolivian military officers recently underwent training in the USA, or at the training center in Panama, and the military has been armed with much more sophisticated and modern weapons.  In many cases, the United States directly organizes and performs activities in Bolivia through the army, directly circumventing the central government.  In doing so, the USA takes pains to ensure that the army is seen to operate as a benefactor, if possible, in order to gradually gain general public approval.  For this reason, the army often carries out activities which ordinarily fall entirely under the jurisdiction of civilian authorities, e.g., the construction of kindergartens and schools, playgrounds, and medical centers.  These kinds of activities are carried out by the army, but they are directly funded by the United States.  The military’s strengthening position is recently evidenced by the fact that entire regions of the country are increasingly being subject to declaration as so-called military zones, which are under the direct control of the army.  In these areas, strikes and demonstrations are strictly prohibited.  In addition, there is increased pressure to appoint more members of the military to administrative positions such as Prefects, who then take state administration into their own hands.

The ultimate objective of the United States is to see the army take power into their own hands.  For now, they focus on this fact occurring peacefully, without a military coup.  Specifically, the United States and certain military circles seek for the next president to be a directly-elected representative of the armed forces with former President Paz Estenssoro running only for the office of vice president.  Only in the event that this plan does not come to fruition will they consider provoking a government crisis and establishing military rule through a coup.

Presidential elections and the selection of candidates has become one of the central political issues. The governing MNR [Revolutionary Nationalist Movement] party candidate will most likely announce the candidacy of President Paz Estenssoro.  While it was previously thought that the official presidential candidate would be former vice president Juan Lechín, who represents to some extent the leftwing of the MNR, his candidacy has become very problematic.  In many MNR organizations in many areas of the country, there is strong pressure that Lechín run for the office of president.  Pressure for his candidacy was organized primarily by members of the MNR rank-and-file, who were influenced by Lechín’s demagogy and believe his candidacy would guarantee some improvement in the status of workers.  In the opinion of the Bolivian comrades, in the current situation Lechín will not expend too much effort in regard to his candidacy, because he is not interested in a candidacy that would be opposed by the rightwing of the MNR and contrary to the interests of the USA in Bolivia.  He originally assumed that his candidacy would be supported by both the MNR and the USA.

Lechin, who currently holds the post of ambassador in Italy, continues formally as vice president of the Republic.  In consideration of the foregoing, Lechin was invited to visit the ČSSR and also the USSR based on information provided by MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs].  According to Bolivian comrades, Lechin will visit neither the USSR, nor ČSSR until his candidacy for the presidency is clearly decided.  It is said that he would undertake the journey when his candidacy for president is ruled out so as not to be politically compromised for the visit.  Taking into consideration that Lechin’s invitation was based on his presidential candidacy, his visit will need to be reconsidered given current circumstances.

In addition to that, Bolivian comrades assume a strong domestic policy aggravation in the coming months given developments in Peru, which could cause Bolivia to experience a serious governmental crisis. Recently around 40 Peruvians, who were trained in Cuba in order to lead guerrilla wars, crossed the border from Bolivia to Peru.  After being partially armed in Bolivia, their movement to Peru was secured.  The CP Bolivia participated in the whole operation, and the President of the Republic Paz Estenssoro was also heavily involved, including financial support.  He allegedly provided $20,000.  Due to the fact that it was the first operations of its kind, it is very likely that the operation was not sufficiently classified.  In the opinion of the CP Bolivia, the American Embassy in La Paz has been informed about the operation, including the participation of Paz Estenssoro, although it probably does not know the amount of financial assistance.  In addition to that, the whole operation could be given away after the eventual arrest and interrogation of several members of the group.  The group’s activity and launch could occur within the next 1-2 months.

In this way, the Bolivian government, especially President Paz Estenssoro, could become immediately embroiled in any armed conflict in Peru.  It is not ruled out that this could possibly lead to the beginning of a deep governmental crisis that could result in President Estenssoro losing most of his influence to the army. Discontinuance of the economic aid provided by the United States would complicate the current government’s situation, perhaps a portent of future attack against Paz Estenssoro.

21.5.1963

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