43. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), the President’s Assistant (Haldeman), and Secretary of the Treasury Connally 1 2

Nixon: And, I just got Henry in this morning. He was in New York yesterday, that’s why he couldn’t join us last night. But, his [unclear]. And, and I reminded him—I told him to remind you that you would talk to him, and he can talk to you [unclear]. But [unclear] and I said, “I wanted to be sure that you understood that, when I—on that Allende—on that Chilean thing, that I have not yet asked your position.” I said, “Treasury, Senate, and everybody else.” We’ve got to string Agnew to get Congressmen [unclear] and all those for a variety of reasons [unclear]. The—My, my feelings about it are, are pretty—are very strong. That, first of all, I [unclear]—First, I realized—Let’s start with this proposition: that everything we do with the Chilean Government will be watched by other governments and revolutionary groups in Latin America as a signal as to what they can do and get away with. Therefore, I tend to be against doing anything more. The second thing is that I feel that, as you do, that it’s—the American people will, at the appropriate time, they’ll welcome our taking a goddamn strong position against one of these things. The people, I mean publicly, and, of course, there’s a lot in this for us to do that. They’re calm, but the thing that confuses them from time to time is—always to have this thrown up to us. It’s particularly the argument that is made by the State people, and it, it would be convincingly said that they always made, and that is that, “Well, you’re going to help ‘em more than you hurt ‘em by tearing ‘em down.” The point being that you make martyrs of them, and everybody’s watching us to see whether we’re being fair, and all that sort of thing. I told Henry this morning that I was a little tired of hearing that argument. Now, let—let’s leave that line and go to one other subject.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Latin America.]

Nixon: Despite Allende, you know, trying to make us the goat of the assassination of the, of the Christian Democratic Secretary of the Interior down there—First, if we had attempted it, we’d have done it. If we did it—If we were participating, we were just doing a goddamn poor job. And I just don’t think we’re [unclear]—We’re poor at the CIA, but not that poor.

Connally: [Laughs]

Nixon: But, nevertheless, coming back to the India-Pakistan thing—

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Latin America.]

Nixon: You see, here’s the thing we face in Latin America, it seems to me that if the virus spreads, we also have the problem that—looking at the State Department, one of the reasons we have raised [unclear]—it’s not Bill, it is Flan—Flanigan. Just getting somebody over there, at State, that will take a hard-nosed view on this. Henry, tell John that the disaster area that the Latin American Division at the State Department is. In fact, I’ll tell you. One of the—one—You remember old Henry Holland?

Connally: Sure.

Nixon: He was a good man.

Connally: That’s right.

Nixon: He knew what this was all about.

Connally: Yeah.

Nixon: The Latin American Division of the State Department, today, is a damn disaster area. They are a disaster area. They’re nice people. Meyer—Meyer couldn’t be nicer, but now [unclear] a helluva lot.

Kissinger: Well, they have this ideological preference for the left-wing Christian Democrats. Now, the left-wing Christian Democrats very often agree with the Communists on almost everything, except certain—

Nixon: Except foreign policy.

Kissinger:—democratic procedures.

Nixon: That’s right.

Kissinger: But even those—and their religion. I mean, for example, Meyer told me the other day, when Somoza was here—He told me full of pride, he had told Somoza that if he didn’t liberalize his regime, he’d go the way of his father. Well, you know, now—

Nixon: Well, you sure can’t say this. I—Well, then frankly, I don’t want him to liberalize his regime; I hope he keeps it like it is.

Connally: My God, I would hope so. He’s the only friend we’ve got down there.

[Unclear exchange]

Kissinger: So, on issue after issue—We have had—the President’s now invited the Brazilian President, Debayle.

Nixon: Médici.

Kissinger: Médici

Nixon: Oh, but the final rejection is the same.

Kissinger: Well, we have had a hell of a time getting any sort of confidential exchange with the largest country in Latin American that’s basically on our side.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 517–20. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording published here specifically for this volume. The conversation took place between 2:05 and 2:38 p.m.
  2. In a discussion on the communist threat to Latin America, President Nixon characterized the Department of State’s Latin American Division as a “disaster area.”