65. Memorandum From the Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon, Washington, March 23, 1971.1 2

[Page 1]


March 23, 1971

FROM: Henry A. Kissinger [HK initialed]
SUBJECT: Change of Government in Argentina

Growing tensions between General Alejandro Lanusse, Commander in Chief of the Army, and President Robert Levingston, who had been hand-picked for the job by Lanusse last June, led to Levingston’s ouster from the presidency today. The basic differences between the two chief figures in the Argentine power structure revolved around when and how the country should be returned to civilian rule. Lanusse and the Army High Command favored a relatively early return to civilian rule (one to two years) while Levingston talked about a five year period. In addition, Lanusse and others in the High Command were increasingly concerned about Levingston’s economic policies and the increasingly populist image of his Administration. There is no indication that the junta composed of the service chiefs will move quickly to appoint another President in Levingston’s place, and in fact the junta may rule in its own right until an elected civilian regime can be installed in a year or so from now. It is also possible that they may appoint a civilian President, who might be more easily controlled than another general, and who could better act as midwife for a new constitutional regime. In either case, we would probably not consider that there had been an interruption of government and hence the problem of diplomatic recognition would not arise. The State Department is studying this question.

The outlook is for no great change in the domestic or foreign policies of the Argentine Government, at least in the short run. The new government may be somewhat more conservative in its economic policies and some of Levingston’s economic team may choose to resign out of disagreement with a more conservative line. There are no discernible implications for our interests, either positive or negative, in the short run arising from the change in Government.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 768, Country Files, Latin America, Argentina 1969–71. Secret. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Hewitt of the NSC staff sent this memorandum to Kissinger on March 23 with the recommendation that Kissinger send it to the President. On March 30, Kissinger cleared a congratulatory message from Nixon to Lanusse. (Ibid.)
  2. President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger concluded that General Alejandro Lanusse’s takeover would not result in any significant change in policy, and did not represent a threat to U.S. interests.