58. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • Conversation Between Henry A. Kissinger and Mexican Foreign Secretary Emilio Rabasa


  • Dr. Kissinger
  • Secretary Rabasa
  • William J. Jordan (NSC)

After opening pleasantries, Rabasa opened the discussion by referring to the problem of salinity in the waters of the Colorado River. He praised the choice of Mr. Herbert Brownell as the U.S. negotiator and said the talks had gone well with most problems solved. The one outstanding problem not yet resolved was the matter of a differential in water quality between that at Imperial Dam and the water delivered to Mexico. He argued that a differential of 115 parts per million (PPM) as proposed by the U.S. could not be accepted. He argued that the solution thus far negotiated would be “permanent” and “definitive”—as promised—but would not be “just”—as also promised. The Rabasa argument was essentially that made in the attached memo which he handed to Kissinger (Tab A).

Kissinger promised Rabasa that he would look into the matter. He noted that in reaching the proposal made to the Mexicans, “we overruled everybody and the blood is still flowing.” He said he wanted to talk further with experts on the budget aspects and on the technical elements. He promised to get back to Rabasa after studying the matter further. He said that the two sides, and he and Rabasa, had committed [Page 189] themselves so strongly to a solution that we could not afford to have it fail now. He felt sure that “we can work it out.”

The two men then discussed the recent trip to Europe and to Moscow and Peking by Mexican President Echeverria. Rabasa noted that he had been surprised by the absence of any criticism of the U.S. in the two Communist capitals. He said that “American imperialists” had been mentioned no more than once. He said the Mexicans found the Russians and Chinese both preoccupied with their rivalry with each other.

Referring to the Treaty of Tlatelolco (nuclear-free zone in Latin America), Rabasa said he felt that the French and Chinese would both sign on, but the Soviet Union would not. He said they gave several reasons but the Mexicans were certain the heart of the matter was Moscow’s refusal to eliminate totally the possibility of one day putting nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Rabasa said he had talked with Deputy Secretary of State Rush about the problem of illegal Mexican immigrants moving into the U.S., and did not wish to raise this with Kissinger. He noted the two sides will be discussing the problem in Washington next week.

The other matter he wishes to raise, Rabasa said, was the matter of the Echeverria Doctrine (rights and duties of developed and developing countries). He said Mexico knew it had to work both ways, that both developed and developing countries had rights. He said the Group of 40 would be discussing this in meetings at Geneva beginning the following Monday. He said he hoped the U.S. would not obstruct the effort and that Mexico would be allowed to get some kind of charter that could be presented to the UN General Assembly. He said that Ambassador Olloqui would provide us with a detailed description of Mexico’s views on the charter.

( Kissinger asked Jorden to prepared a paper for him by Friday giving the current state of play, the parliamentary situation, etc.)

Rabasa also mentioned the OAS meeting in Lima which has been discussing the organization and possible restructuring of the OAS. He said the Mexicans would give Jorden a paper on Mexico’s views. He said they felt the OAS Charter was outdated.

Rabasa then said he had received a call from President Echeverria and that he had urged Rabasa to try to see President Nixon. He said he would review briefly what is coming up in Latin America and offer Mexico’s support to President Nixon on important issues. Kissinger said he would look into the possibility and get back to Rabasa by noon the following day.

Rabasa closed by noting that August 23rd would be the 25th anniversary of his marriage. The Rabasas were planning a party and would [Page 190] like Kissinger to attend. Kissinger promised to do so—noting that he would be in California at the time.

Rabasa said he wanted a private word with Kissinger and Jorden left the room. The meeting ended at 5:45 p.m.

  1. Summary: In a July 11 meeting, Kissinger and Rabasa discussed the state of negotiations on the salinity problem, President Echeverría’s recent international travels, and the Mexican proposal for a charter of economic rights and duties.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Box 788, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. IV, 1973. Secret. Sent for information. The men met in Kissinger’s office in the White House. The memorandum is dated July 16. Attached but not published is a July 10 memorandum on the salinity problem that Rabasa handed to Kissinger at their meeting. In a July 10 memorandum to Kissinger, Jorden pointed out that meeting Rabasa’s request for concessions in negotiations over the salinity problem would be costly in both political and budgetary terms. (Ibid.) A July 16 memorandum from Rush to Nixon provided a summary of the issues that remained outstanding after the conclusion of July 6–9 talks between Brownell and Rabasa on the salinity problem. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 33–1 MEX–US)