59. Memorandum From the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Scali) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Report on Scali Conversation August 23 with Mexican Foreign Minister Rabasa in New York

At a meeting, which Rabasa requested, he expressed delight at HAK’s appointment as the new Secretary of State. He said without elaboration that this could make a substantial difference. He said, based on his knowledge and conversations with Henry, that he knows that when Kissinger says “yes” it means “yes.” He credits Henry with being the catalyst who solved the salinity problem after 12 years of impasse. He also spoke very highly of the U.S. negotiator, Brownell, but said the agreement would not have been possible without HAK’s personal interest and involvement. He said he looks forward with the greatest of pleasure to seeing Henry again in a few days.

Rabasa’s main pitch was to appeal for U.S. support for President Echeverria’s proposed Charter of Economic Rights and Opportunities which he has been seeking to promote on his world travels. (Echeverria discussed this with me in Mexico for almost an hour on my way back [Page 191] from Panama last March. The fervor and the dedication that he has to this as an objective is clearly obvious.)

The United States position toward this Charter, as you recall, has been basically a medium-positive attitude, even though most of our industrial allies are highly skeptical. It is already being discussed in a United Nations committee but the progress has been slow partly because the British particularly are suspicious. On instruction, I said that our attitude continued to be a positive one, but that because the subject was so complex and far-reaching we obviously would have to move cautiously. Nevertheless, I said, we were prepared to continue discussions in a positive spirit by favoring a continuation of the UN committee where the Charter is being examined.

I showered enough kind words on the objective, while stressing it, of course, has to be a realistic, moderate document—one which does not give the less-developed countries all the rights and assign all the duties to the industrialized countries.

Rabasa said that Echeverria understands this perfectly; that after all Mexico, as a fairly well-industrialized country already, is not about to sacrifice or give away all its gains merely to satisfy the have-not countries who are inclined to demand more of the good things of life without working too hard to gain them.

Rabasa said, however, that adoption of such a Charter has now become almost “a holy crusade” on Echeverria’s part and that he is appealing for American support even while recognizing that much difficult bargaining will lie ahead before there is agreement. But, Rabasa said, his main purpose was to encourage us not only to adopt a basically positive attitude but to allay suspicions of other industrialized countries as well. I told him we, of course, must necessarily be cautious in our approach because of the enormous implications, plus the attitude of some of our long-standing allies of the industrialized world, particularly Britain. (At this point, Rabasa said that Echeverria detected two months ago, when he visited London to talk with Heath, a more receptive British attitude.)

At this point, Rabasa came to what I suspect was the main objective of the meeting: to appeal to President Nixon to personally champion the Echeverria Charter idea on the grounds that it is basically not just a Mexican idea or initiative but one that the President of the United States believes will benefit the entire world. (Of course, Echeverria in the process inevitably would receive credit.) Rabasa said a Nixon embrace of this idea would have a dynamic effect in all Latin America, disprove the widespread belief that the United States no longer cares about Latin America, while at the same time persuade the Third World countries that the United States is not a selfish stand-patter that is interested only in making the rich countries richer.

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I again stressed the complexities of the project, while exuding all sorts of confidence that Echeverria is one of the few moderate world leaders who understands both sides of the problem and who could conceivably be the man to find an acceptable formula bridging the gap separating both sides. But, I cautioned that it was unlikely that the current General Assembly, which has this item on the agenda, could take final action because much work remains to be done, even though the U.S. has a basically positive attitude.


The kind words about Echeverria and Rabasa clearly pleased Rabasa no end. Rabasa says he hopes to take this up with you at the earliest opportunity, perhaps this weekend, because you have the vision to see the far-reaching possibilities. He mentioned in passing that the Chinese promised all-out support for the Echeverria idea when Echeverria visited Peking two months ago. My personal view, based on a preliminary study of this concept, is that it is one which we might well study seriously to see whether we could not come up with an acceptable Mexican-American formula which gives nothing away but which puts us on the side of the angels. Echeverria is already very proud of the fact that Mexico has been the author of the Treaty of Tlateloco making the Central America-Caribbean a nuclear-free zone and is clearly anxious to enhance his reputation as a world statesman. The good will obviously flowing now from our settling the salinity problem with Mexico may offer an opportunity for Mexican concessions on this score so that Echeverria can maintain his world statesman momentum. The concept, however, conflicts somewhat with another rival, somewhat foggier idea being advanced by the Brazilians—something called “the principle of collective economic security.” The Brazilians have not yet spelled this out, but insist in answer to our questions that it is not a rival to the Echeverria plan but supplementary to it. In any event, it is clear to me that in the months ahead there is to be intense, perhaps prolonged discussion about some kind of code of economic rights and opportunities and it would be well for us to consider how best we can embrace some formula or other, making us look as a continuing champion of the downtrodden while giving little or nothing away as long as it helps our foreign policy objectives.

  1. Summary: Permanent Representative to the United Nations John Scali reported on a conversation in which Rabasa appealed for U.S. support for a charter of economic rights and duties of states, an initiative put forward by President Echeverría.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Box 788, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. III, 1973. Confidential; Eyes Only. The text of the memorandum was transmitted to the Embassy in Mexico City. The memorandum, which was not initialed by Scali, was sent to Kissinger under a handwritten note from Scowcroft, which indicated that Scali “wanted you to have this to read on the plane.” Kissinger wrote on the note, “This would have helped before the trip. I want to see Scali the week of Sept. 4. Can he draft Charter we could accept?” In telegram 644 from Mexico City, August 30, the Embassy noted that Kissinger made a 2-day visit to Mexico City in late August. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number])