181. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, May 20, 19591


  • 1. Argentine Financial Needs
  • 2. United States Ban on Salt-Cured Meats


  • Argentine Ambassador César Barros Hurtado
  • Assistant Secretary Rubottom
  • Assistant Secretary Mann
  • James F. O’Connor, Jr., EST/A

[Ambassador Barros Hurtado returned to Washington from consultation in Buenos Aires on May 19. He had left Washington hurriedly, statedly on urgent instructions from President Frondizi, on May 6.]2

The Ambassador first said that he wanted to express President Frondizi’s appreciation for the sympathetic reception given former presidential advisor Rogelio Frigerio during the latter’s recent visit to the United States. Frondizi was particularly grateful for this because Frigerio was actually his special representative, [remainder of paragraph (2 lines of source text) not declassified]

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Barros commented that he and Frigerio shared the same economic views. Both had been instrumental in planning Frondizi’s liberal economic policy. Barros did not, however, share Frigerio’s political orientation, [remainder of paragraph (3 lines of source text) not declassified]

The Ambassador also made brief reference to the status of the Foreign Ministry in the recent Cabinet shuffle in Argentina.3 He said that President Frondizi had discussed with him his becoming Foreign Minister, with now resigned Foreign Minister Florit coming to Washington. He considered, however, that he could be more useful by continuing as Ambassador here at this time. When he left Buenos Aires it was in the belief that Florit would continue as Foreign Minister, but that he and Florit might trade jobs in a few months time. He had been in Rio de Janeiro when Florit’s replacement [by Diógenes Taboada]4 had occurred. From discussion with President Frondizi Barros thought that it was still possible that he might be taking over the Foreign Ministry and Florit coming to Washington as Ambassador after some time had passed.

Coming to what was obviously the principal reason for his call, Ambassador Barros referred to the discussion on Argentina’s economic situation which President Frondizi had had with Assistant Secretary Mann during the Operation Pan America meeting in Buenos Aires, at which Embassy Chargé Bernbaum and Frigerio had also been present.5 He himself had not been present, said Barros, because he had had an engagement with an important general at the same time. Frondizi was in a difficult position because of the reaction against the austerity effects of his economic policies. He was at this point the most unpopular man in Argentina. He needed further United States assistance to see his program through. Prior to Barros’ departure from Buenos Aires, Frondizi had instructed him to seek an interview with President Eisenhower upon his return to Washington to explain the critical situation of the Argentine Government. Following discussion, however, this matter had been left to Barros’ discretion. He was to explore the possibility of further financial assistance with principal U.S. economic officials before deciding whether this matter should be brought to President Eisenhower’s attention. Barros had asked Frondizi whether he was satisfied with Barros’ work as Ambassador and with the state of economic cooperation between the United States and Argentina. Frondizi had assured him that he was. It was just that matters had now reached a critical pass.

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The Ambassador said that the Frondizi Government’s situation had important implications for the United States. When he had been in Rio de Janeiro en route back to Washington he had talked to Brazilian economic representative Schmidt. Schmidt had told him that Argentina had gone about its economic relations with the United States in the wrong way and that he, Barros, should resign. Argentina was in fact, continued Barros, the only nation in Latin America which kept its word and did what it said it was going to do. Frondizi had taken difficult action on matters like petroleum, the American and Foreign Power situation, the DIME case,6 and other problems. He now needed continued United States cooperation.

Frondizi had given him an outline memorandum of Argentine needs. He ran through its contents briefly and then gave Messrs. Rubottom and Mann each a copy (attached),7 commenting that he was not, however, specifically authorized to do so. The Ambassador said that he hoped the Argentine needs could be carefully studied in appropriate quarters and some conclusions reached. He himself would be glad to discuss this further when U.S. officials found it possible to do so. The Ambassador was assured of U.S. interest in this matter.

Dr. Barros then turned to the subject of the ban recently imposed on the entry of salt-cured meats into the United States. He said that this was a difficult blow for Argentina to receive at this time. The trade in this meat was worth 30 million scarce dollars a year. There had been a strongly adverse reaction in affected trade circles in Argentina. It served to discredit the Frondizi Government’s policy of cooperation with the United States. The fact that the ban had been imposed on the basis of laboratory findings only was extremely unfortunate. This would serve to confirm once and for all the view widely held in Argentina that U.S. foot-and-mouth disease restrictions were political in nature. He had a ranch and he depreciated the charge leveled against the existence of foot-and-mouth disease in Argentina. He would have preferred to have had foot-and-mouth virus actually found in a shipment of Argentine meat. In that case the situation would be a concrete one and he could have told his government that there was a clear necessity for U.S. action. As it was the U.S. ban had been imposed suddenly, without notice or consultation. It was an unfriendly act. Mr. Rubottom reminded him that the United States did not engage in unfriendly actions against friendly nations like Argentina. The Ambassador said that it would be highly useful if the United States could take some step to counteract the effect of the ban in Argentina.

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The Ambassador said that Agriculture Minister Home had telephoned him in Rio de Janeiro and suggested that the President of the Meat Board, Marcos Monsalve, should come to Washington to discuss the ban. Barros said that he told Home he did not want any more special emissaries. He as Ambassador could handle things. He suggested that some scientific consultation on this problem—perhaps a visit by appropriate U.S. officials in Argentina—might be arranged and publicized. Mr. Rubottom said that he had been in contact with Under Secretary Morse to discuss what might be done to reduce the impact of the ban, and that Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Peterson had telephoned only a short time before the Ambassador’s visit to indicate that the Department of Agriculture would cooperate in scientific consultation on the problem.

During an absence by Mr. Rubottom caused by Ambassador Barros’ having overstayed his appointment, Mr. Mann cited instances of the havoc wrought by foot-and-mouth disease when it suddenly struck. Mr. Mann also suggested to Mr. O’Connor that Mr. Turnage of OFD was the individual in the E area indicated to look into the matter of Argentina’s interest in additional financial assistance, following his return to the Department from Panama. He asked Mr. O’Connor to have his office coordinate with Mr. Turnage on checking with other appropriate U.S. agencies on this when Mr. Turnage returned.

The meeting concluded on a general note of mutual desire for cooperation following Mr. Rubottom’s return to the meeting.

As they waited for the elevator Ambassador Barros re-explained to Mr. O’Connor his position with regard to requesting an appointment to see President Eisenhower. He would not necessarily make such a request. He was happy to try to work out Argentina’s current problem with Mr. Rubottom, Mr. Mann and those other officials in the United States Government with whom he had had such satisfactory and understanding relations. Mr. O’Connor said that he understood the situation perfectly and that he was sure it was clear to Mr. Rubottom and Mr. Mann also.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 835.10/5–2059. Confidential. Drafted by O’Connor.
  2. Brackets in the source text. On May 6, O’Connor presented Barros Hurtado with an aide-mémoire summarizing the status of the military aid question and advising the Argentine Government to submit a diplomatic note indicating the essential equipment and service requirements of all three branches of the Argentine services. Text of the aide-mémoire was transmitted to Buenos Aires that same day. (Telegram 1399; ibid., 735.5–MSP/5–659)
  3. It was announced on May 13–14 in Buenos Aires that changes would be made in two Ministries and three Secretariats. Diogenes Taboada replaced Florit as Foreign Minister. Angel Modesto Lagomarsino replaced Bernadino C. Home as Minister of Agriculture.
  4. Brackets in the source text.
  5. Not further identified.
  6. Reference is to a collection of confiscated German enterprises which the Argentine Government was preparing to dispose of by auction.
  7. Not printed. The memorandum, untitled and undated, dealt with the subjects of petroleum and general credits.