Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Dale M. Povenmire
POVENMIRE: The left-wing Catholic organization, the Latin American Confederation of Workers, CLAT , had its headquarters for all of Latin America in Caracas. CLAT was headed by the very anti-American Argentine, Emilio Maspero. I had some useful contact with CLAT's foreign affairs guy, Henry Molina, who was from the Dominican Republic.
I had a bit of an entree there. Back when I was doing labor reporting in Paraguay, besides the tame government-aligned CPT, there was also a very small CLAT-affiliated organization. [The CLAT was then known as CLASC but it later dropped “Christian” from its name.] Because it was the only alternative labor organization in Paraguay, I proposed one of its founders for a leader grant and, surprise, he was approved. He was probably the first CLAT-affiliated leader grantee ever. His name escapes me now but he eventually became the head of the CLAT training school in Buenos Aires. He even came through Caracas one time while I was there, which was helpful for my relations with CLAT.
Emilio Maspero, on the other hand, avoided all contact with me. I understand he had had a bad experience with the authorities during one of his early visits to the U.S. Whatever the reason, he was bad news. I did make sure that both Washington and the West German Embassy's labor reporting officer, who was a Christian Democrat, were fully aware of the virulently anti-European and anti-NATO pronouncements and publications put out by CLAT and Maspero. The Federal Republic's Embassy was apparently not previously aware of some the radical positions endorsed by CLAT. The West German Christian Democrats were, of course, by far the biggest financial supporters of CLAT through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
I believe that my work in Caracas regarding CLAT eventually paid off. I understand that the Konrad Adenauer Foundation later exercised better control over CLAT's subsidies. I know that Maspero and Molina eventually came to Washington and met with some senior AFL-CIO officials. The result was less antagonism and a somewhat better understanding between ORIT and CLAT.
I had another experience in Caracas which was instructive. On one occasion I was standing on the fringes watching a labor demonstration organized by the small communist-controlled confederation. There were perhaps four or five thousand demonstrators in the plaza. I saw one of the organizers of the demonstration edge back into a corner, facing away from the plaza so that his voice would be reflected off the buildings, and he began shouting slogans to incite violent responses from the crowd. This was a calculated action to manipulate the crowd while not being seen doing so.