Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Barbour
BARBOUR: He thought we were doing Portugal a great injustice by imposing various kinds of limitations on what we were willing to do, on our cooperation, on our willingness to sell arms, that it was not getting a fair shake as a member of NATO, as an ally, and that sort of thing.
Q: So you might say it was this thing that we had for a very long time with colonial powers, and this was early into the decolonization.
BARBOUR: It was more than that, because I arrived in 1963, and revolts broke out in Africa in, I think, 1961, and the Portuguese reaction was rather severe. The Portuguese were not good colonizers; they went the farthest toward assimilation and integration, but they did not make the investments, the social investments, in education, health services, opportunities, that a couple of other European countries did. So the reaction was severe in its small ways, because the Portuguese couldn't afford to do an awful lot in Africa. They began repression of the rebellion which is ironic today because it is still going on in Angola—the same players, the same forces, the same issues. Then there was the Salazar factor. Salazar was a vestige of the 1930's; he wasn't by any means a Mussolini or a Hitler, but he was a very autocratic ruler. Very much an anachronism in his personal manners—his high top shoes, things like that. He ran Portugal with an iron hand, and Portugal, the m�tropole, was an oligarchy not doing too badly, but we didn't like his style of government and considered him and it out of date, especially in that idealistic period of American policy.
Q: Were we up against a basic problem of trying to keep people from going to visit Portugal? I am talking about high officials. Were we in a sort of “minimize” situation?
BARBOUR: No, we didn't need to keep people from going because nobody went. There was not much interest in going—or to Africa. There was a public relations firm in Washington hired by the Portuguese government called Selvage and Lee, something like that, I am not sure of the exact name. We were reluctant to have any dealings with them but once again it was decided that maybe we shouldn't break off all communications with these people who did want to see people in the Department. Let the desk officer deal with that, once again. I would agree in those days it was possible to go out to lunch with them, to listen to them, to write memoranda and let them unburden themselves, for which they collected a large fee, I am sure. And that was that. They organized tours to Angola and Mozambique, though of course we could never go on anything like that—I think that my successor may have gone.
Q: Were you able to get to Portugal or to Angola?