314. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1


  • Allende’s Visit to the United Nations

Through press leaks and indirect feelers in Santiago and from information obtained from a member of the Chilean delegation to the United Nations, it seems clear that the Government of Chile is fishing for an invitation for Chilean President Salvador Allende to meet with you during his intended visit to the United Nations General Assembly, probably in early December. The Chilean U.N. delegation source said that the real purpose of Allende’s trip was to meet with you to discuss serious bilateral problems at the highest level, and that the tenor of Allende’s speech at the U.N. would reflect the way in which the U.S. Government responded to his request for a meeting.2

The central bilateral problem between the United States and Chile is Chile’s uncompensated expropriation of large U.S.-owned investments. The Chilean Government has taken the position that international law does not regulate the payment of compensation and that controversies relating to compensation are subject exclusively to its internal jurisdiction. Despite a commitment by Chile in the Paris Club Memorandum of Understanding of April 1972 to enter into direct negotiations to determine appropriate financial arrangements for the payment of all debts of the Government of Chile and to find a prompt solution to problems which may arise as regards payments of compensation between the Government of Chile and the governments of interested countries or their nationals, the Chilean Government has been equivocal in its response to our urgings to comply with the Paris Club commitment. The Chilean Government, whose credit-worthiness in Western financial sources is virtually nil because of its own economic and financial policies, has accused “United States imperialism” of deliberately withholding resources to which Chile is entitled. It has charged the Kennecott Copper Corporation with waging “illegal economic aggression” against Chile, for having begun litigation in European courts on Chilean Government copper shipments in an effort to recover compensation for its expropriated properties. (Decisions by the [Page 833] Chilean special copper tribunal have denied Kennecott any effective judicial remedy in Chile against a presidential finding on excess profits which eliminated any possibility of compensation.)3

We believe that Allende’s purpose in seeking a presidential meeting in the United States is to elevate his own prestige at home and abroad, thereby strengthening his government and weakening his domestic opposition.4

There is no evidence on which to base any expectation that Allende is prepared to offer meaningful concessions with respect to his government’s position against compensating the major expropriated U.S. investors in Chile, nor any strong reason to believe that he could deliver on such concessions as he might promise, over the resistance of powerful hardline elements in his coalition. We expect that he would plead for termination of the Kennecott litigation on the Chilean copper shipments and for new flows of resources from international financial institutions in which the U.S. Government has influence.

The benefit of a presidential meeting would go to Allende in heightened prestige at home and elsewhere, with little or no concrete progress likely on the central issue of compensation or on Allende’s policies.

Therefore, we believe that, if we receive a concrete inquiry from the Chilean Government about a presidential meeting, our position should be that it is impossible for scheduling reasons for you to receive Allende. We might suggest as an alternative that Ambassador Bush or a Departmental official meet with Allende in New York.5 Ambassador Davis concurs in this view.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 CHILE. Secret. A typed notation on the top of the page reads, “Per call [illegible] Amb. Bush is to call on Allende while in N.Y.; courtesy call only. 11/25/72.”
  2. As reported in telegram 4686 from USUN, November 15. (Ibid.)
  3. On August 11, the Special Copper Tribunal released its decision denying Kennecott’s appeal of Allende’s ruling on Kennecott’s “excess profits.” The tribunal denied Anaconda’s appeal on September 8.
  4. In a November 23 meeting with Davis in Santiago, Letelier made a strong appeal for an invitation to Allende to visit Washington or to meet Rogers or Kissinger in New York. Letelier described the Allende trip as a “crossroads,” a critical opportunity that the United States should take to preserve its relations with Chile from serious damage. Telegram 5921 from Santiago, November 23, is Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–16, Documents on Chile, 1969–1973, Document 125.
  5. On November 17, Kissinger approved a meeting between a U.S. official and Allende. On a memorandum from Jorden that was forwarded to Haig, Kissinger wrote, “Make sure Pres. recommendation for approval is no one above Asst. Sect.” In an attached memorandum to the President, Kissinger recommended Ambassador to the United Nations George H.W. Bush, “or an official of the State Department.” (Memorandum from Jorden to Kissinger, November 17; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 776, Country Files, Latin America, Chile, Vol. VII; and memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, undated; ibid.) A December 4 telegraphic report of Bush’s discussion with Allende is Document 315.