US agencies spied on Bosch, supported Balaguer
[Translation of an article from Listín Diario of Santo Domingo for February 17. See original here and related articles here and here. US troops landed in Santo Domingo on April 28, 1965, four days after an uprising against the coup government that had ruled the country since September, 1963, when Juan Bosch was deposed. The country was still under heavy military occupation in June, 1966, when presidential elections were held.]
By María Isabel Soldevila
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spied on and intercepted telephone calls of deposed Dominican President Juan Bosch between April and September of 1965, at a time when Bosch was in exile in Puerto Rico, and used its influence to put Joaquín Balaguer in office, according to revelations in a recently published book, Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Pulitzer-prize winner Tim Weiner, a 511-page account based, the author says, on more than 70,000 pages of declassified documents, with no anonymous sources.
J. Edgar Hoover himself, FBI director for 48 years, authorized the unlimited electronic surveillance, known as “tech,” under the responsibility of agent Wallace F. Estill, a man in Hoover’s confidence.
The espionage work carried out by Estill led him to describe Bosch as the leader of the “revolt,” both in name and in fact, although he realized that there was no concrete evidence to justify the persecution.
But Lyndon B. Johnson, the Texan president of the United States, continued the designation of Bosch as a communist, an assessment Hoover had held him in since 1961.
“We are really going to have to put this government in there and keep it and stabilize it in one way or another,” Johnson told Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Mann in a telephone conversation begun at 9:35am on April 24, 1965. “This Bosch won’t do.”
Balaguer appears on the scene
By mid-May, Johnson was becoming impatient. On the 14th, Weiner says, Hoover and the president exchanged three telephone calls; in the last of them, Johnson gave orders to approach Balaguer and he gave a maximum of 72 hours to strengthen the operation in Santo Domingo “unless you want to have another Castro.”
Three days later, the principal state department official for the Dominican Republic, Kennedy Crockett, and Johnson’s personal lawyer, Abe Fortas, met with Balaguer in the Regency Hotel, according to a memo from Crockett now in the national security archives of the Johnson library.
The purpose of the meeting? To fulfil the White House’s desire to have Balaguer meet with Bosch in Puerto Rico. Balaguer, still according to Crockett, used an FBI vehicle and was accompanied by his “handler” from the bureau, an agent named Heinrich Von Eckardt, who stayed with him as far as Puerto Rico.
Once in Borinquen [Puerto Rico], Hoover’s man, Estill, arranged his transportation and the meeting with Bosch.
“We arranged for a private taxi to pick him up at the airport and take him to a particular hotel… and we put microphones in the hotel room and we covered that damned conversation, to send it to DC… After that Von Eckhart put Balaguer on a flight to Santo Domingo,” Estill reported.
Worried that “the Dominican situation” would get out of control, Lyndon Johnson left it up to Hoover to choose the man he would give all his support to in the elections.
Johnson had dismissed Antonio Guzmán, characterized by the author as “a rich, pro-American businessman,” to lead the provisional government and began to show signs of impatience over the bad press and the ill will that were being shown him over the management of his troops in Santo Domingo.
Weiner notes in his book that Balaguer had won Hoover’s confidence on May 27, 1965, when he reported to the FBI all his conversations in New York with Kennedy Crockett, the State Department director of Caribbean affairs, before the diplomat’s reports got to Washington. That was a determining factor in his victory, the author says.
It was Hoover who insisted on an election between only two candidates and who ordered the training and provision of facilities for a “new Dominican national intelligence force, a department of special operations and a secret police force to combat subversion.”
Whatever it takes to win
A memo from December 29, 1965, from the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Richard Helms, to the chief of covert operations, Desmond Fitzgerald, reveals the level of involvement of the United States in Balaguer’s election. “I want to reiterate, for the record, that the president told me and the director on more than one occasion between May and July that he hoped the agency would dedicate the personnel and material necessary in the Dominican Republic to see to it that the candidate favored by the government of the Untied States won the election. The president’s statements were unequivocal. He wants to win the elections and he expects the agency to do what is necessary for that to occur. If you meet obstacles in carrying out this operation, I would appreciate your letting me know so that the difficulties can be identified for the president so you can use your influence in the allocation of financial resources to support the appropriate candidate.”