73. Memorandum From Ashley C. Hewitt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger), Washington, November 29, 1971.1 2

[Page 1]


November 29, 1971


SUBJECT: US Representation in Argentina

While in Argentina with Counsellor Finch I received a call [text not declassified] he felt it was imperative that you have a clear picture of the situation in Argentina on an urgent basis. He asked me to transmit the following message to you:

-- We are all acquainted with Ambassador Lodge’s peculiarities and accustomed to a system which requires us to make do with Ambassadors (both political and career) who are sometimes less than qualified for their positions. However, the situation in Argentina has gone beyond all bounds. Ambassador Lodge and his Embassy not only fail to have any contact worthy of the name with the Argentine Government, but the Ambassador has also become an object of contempt with that Government. The country is paying a very heavy foreign affairs cost by retaining Ambassador Lodge in his present position. This is a cost we can no longer afford to pay given the sensitive situations in Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay as well as the key role of Argentina in the developing political complex in South America.

[text not declassified] provided me with a number of examples, two of which are sufficient to sum up the situation.

-- Ambassador Lodge gave a dinner for Counsellor Finch to which five Cabinet Ministers were invited. [text not declassified] all five planned to refuse the invitation, not out of disrespect for Finch or the US, but because of their refusal to spend an evening in Ambassador Lodge’s company, much less his house. [ text not declassified] President Lanusse learned of their plans and called all five individually telling them they simply had to accept. Four did so. The Minister of Social Welfare, Francisco Manrique, who is one of Lanusse’s closest friends and probably the second most powerful man in the Government, told the President that he intended to refuse and if the President wished, he could have [Page 2] his resignation. Manrique did not attend. The other four did, but left as soon as they gracefully could. You should ask Counsellor Finch for an account of this evening. I was not there but according to those who were, it fully justified the forebodings of the Cabinet Ministers.

-- [text not declassified] also said that when President Lanusse made his initial approach on the $500 million loan [ text not declassified] it took him almost a week to bring the matter to Ambassador Lodge’s attention and get him to focus upon it. The delay arose from the Ambassador’s social engagements and concerns which he places much more highly than any matters of substance.

My own observations tend to confirm [text not declassified] (I served for several years in Buenos Aires and still have many contacts there including some in the present government.) In addition, staff morale is plainly a shambles I am attaching a newspaper photograph (showing Lodge, Finch and President Lanusse) which appeared on the Embassy bulletin board the morning after Finch’s interview with President Lanusse. The picture was pinned to a card on which was written, “Guess who was the center of attention”? This is an example of what Ambassador Lodge’s staff thinks of him, which would not be too important except that this view is shared by nearly everybody in Argentina, including key figures in the Argentine Government.

Tab A - Photograph

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 769, Country Files, Latin America, Argentina 9/1/70 to 12/31/73. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information; Outside the System. Tab A is attached but not printed. In a February 7, 1972 telephone conversation, Flanigan stated to Kissinger, “The President wants to leave him [Lodge] because he is surrounded by competent people. The President wants another post for him.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File. No classification marking) Lodge left his post as Ambassador to Argentina on November 10, 1973.
  2. National Security Council staff member Hewitt noted Ambassador Lodge’s lack of contact with top Argentine officials and how many such officials held Lodge in contempt. In addition, morale at the Embassy was very low.