61. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary of State Kissinger
  • Mexican Foreign Secretary Emilio Rabasa
  • Mexico’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Garcia Robles
  • Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States Jose Juan de Olloqui
  • Assistant Secretary of State Jack Kubisch
  • Ambassador Robert McCloskey
  • William J. Jorden, NSC Staff (Latin America)


  • Conversation Between Secretary of State and Mexican Foreign Secretary Rabasa

Following warm greetings on both sides, and after the photographers had recorded the meeting on film, Secretary Rabasa presented [Page 196] Secretary Kissinger with two picture books of Mexico for the Kissinger children and a silver necklace for the Secretary’s daughter.

Secretary Rabasa then said he wanted to come down to business.

The Secretary of State said with a laugh that “it’s no good settling problems with you because you just bring up another one.”

Rabasa said he had been consulting with other foreign ministers—Douglas Home of the UK, Gromyko of the Soviet Union, and others—regarding the future of the proposed charter of economic rights and duties. He said that the “sensitive issue” at the moment was the legal nature of the document.

Rabasa continued that Mexico’s hope was that the charter could take the form of a treaty. The British favored a declaration. He said Gromyko was “indifferent.” He said the majority of non-aligned nations shared the view that the matter should be handled in a treaty. He said this had been especially true of Chile. He said he was talking about the “legitimate government” of Chile, not a “guerrilla government.” He underlined his strong feeling on the matter by turning to the note-taker and saying: “Be sure to put that down.”

Frankly, Rabasa said, his President wants a treaty. But he admitted that was not realizable now.

Secretary Kissinger said he thought that was right.

Rabasa said he hoped it would be possible eventually to work toward a treaty in gradual stages. He added that “as we all know” a declaration is completely different from a treaty. Even if the Secretary and President Nixon agreed to a treaty, there would be “the problem of Congress.”

“Exactly,” the Secretary said.

At this point in time, Rabasa said, it would be sufficient for the General Assembly to merely take note of the “fine work” done by the working group. (As an aside he noted that the United States had a “good man” on the working group but he did not recall his name.) He said he foresaw two further working sessions of about 3 weeks duration each, one in February and one perhaps in July. He said there were still many details to be worked out and the present was “no time to vote.” He said he expected the II Committee (at the UN) would be spending about five days later this month on UNCTAD matters and that perhaps one or two days of that would be devoted to the Charter. Secretary Kissinger asked if he was right in interpreting Rabasa’s remarks as meaning that Mexico “did not want us to be active.” Rabasa said that was correct, but he wanted the U.S. to vote for the final resolution, not abstain.

In other words, the Secretary said, Mexico would get someone to propose the declaration, that they did not want the U.S. to do it, but [Page 197] they did want us to support it. Rabasa said that was correct, and the Secretary said “we can do that.” He then said jokingly that he hoped he got out of office before Rabasa raised any border issues. Rabasa asked whether the U.S. was going to give Texas back to Mexico. The Secretary said with a laugh that the question confirmed his fears. The Secretary then turned back to the Rabasa proposal and said he would give the appropriate instructions to our people. He said he assumed that we did not have to do so immediately.

(At this point, Ambassador de Olloqui entered. He had thought the meeting was to be held in another place.)

The Secretary turned to Mr. Kubisch and instructed him to see that the proper actions were taken “without leaks.”

Rabasa said there should be a mandate to the working group to work out a declaration. He said it would go to the Assembly from the Commission. He noted that the Assembly normally accepts 99% of the Commission proposals.

Rabasa said a declaration would make it possible to put in many things “that your Congress won’t accept.”

The Secretary responded by saying that he would not accept anything that the Congress wouldn’t. For example, he said we would oppose any declaration that was an indictment of developed countries. Rabasa said quickly that it was not his idea to put in things that attacked the U.S. or other developed countries.

The Secretary noted that “we are supposed to be relieved that it’s a declaration and not a treaty when it wasn’t going to be anything.” He then said that the way to proceed was to have the Mexicans work with Kubisch and Jorden, and between them make sure that there would not be “big differences.” Rabasa said he would be able to tell the Secretary in January who was going to work on this matter for his government.

Secretary Kissinger said the work should be done in a “constructive and far-sighted spirit.” It was an opportunity for developed and less-developed countries to work together. The process put Mexico in an unique position and he thought the Mexican leaders could go down in history. Rabasa said his government’s view was that the declaration should be “positive and constructive.” The Secretary said that a declaration could be couched in broader language than a treaty and not be so legalistic. Rabasa promised to come back to the Secretary in January with further ideas.

Rabasa then turned to the problem of illegal immigrants. He said that as a Mexican it hurt him deeply to have to face the fact that so many of his people wanted to leave Mexico to work in the United States. He said that in the past, Secretary Rogers and others with whom he had discussed the problem had told him that nothing could be done. [Page 198] He said he realized that organized labor opposed the flow of illegals into the U.S.

But, Rabasa said, if you had a total sweep and picked up everyone now illegally in the U.S., you would soon be on your knees asking them to come back. The reason was, he said, that they do work—picking cotton, grapes, and other things—that no one else wants to do.

The Secretary asked what the problem was. Mr. Kubisch explained the opposition of Congress (noting recent passage of the Rodino Bill in the House) and of organized labor.

The Secretary said he did not understand the problem. He asked Rabasa to give him a few months to study the matter and said he would then go to Rabasa with “what can be done.” He said he would talk with George Meany and others to get their views.

Rabasa said he thought those who opposed action on this matter were “lying” and that they realized the United States needed the Mexican labor. The Secretary said he wanted to talk with his staff and find out what could be done. Rabasa said he would talk further about the problem with the Secretary in January.

Secretary Rabasa then handed Secretary Kissinger a personal letter from President Echeverria to President Nixon, plus a copy of the letter for the Secretary in English.

The Secretary said we should see if we can do something about the immigrant worker problem. The two men could talk further in January. He said he was approaching the problem “in the spirit that we can do something.”

The discussion then turned to more general problems. Secretary Rabasa unfolded a large map of South America and another of Central America. He said the Latins were “hurt” that the Secretary had not mentioned our relations in this area except in one paragraph. He said the Secretary had a chance at the luncheon for Latin diplomats the next day to say something more. He said that, of course, bilateral arrangements would continue to be important. But in addition, he suggested it would be good if the Secretary told them he wanted to hear their advice regarding policy in Latin America. They should be told that they should be the architects of the new policy.

The Secretary asked whether he might propose formation of a “commission on foreign ministers” to consider this matter and give us their advice.

Rabasa said he thought it would be better to do this individually. But he added that he thought the Secretary might suggest that a group of foreign ministers could get together and work on the problem. Rabasa said he thought the new Secretary had an unique opportunity to open a new period in U.S.-Latin American relations. He said that Secretary [Page 199] Dulles had been associated in Latin minds with intervention. Others whom he would not name largely ignored Latin America. From the Latin point of view, he said, “none of your predecessors has been a great Secretary of State.”

The Secretary said that he had a genuine affection for Latin America and that he truly wanted to do more to improve our policy and our relations. Rabasa said the lunch the next day afforded an excellent chance. The Secretary said that he would make a constructive statement.

Rabasa then reviewed the situation in the hemisphere country-by-country, noting how many governments were dominated by military men and how few still had constitutional governments.

There was a brief discussion of Argentina with the Secretary asking Rabasa’s views. Rabasa said he could not explain the situation in any detail. He said it was clear that Peron was going to die in the next year or so. The Secretary asked whether his wife would succeed him. Rabasa said he thought she would not. Rabasa pointed out that he was not going to attend the Peron inauguration. The Secretary asked whether he should go to Buenos Aires. Rabasa replied, “Unfortunately, I think you should.” There was then discussion of when the inauguration would be, and the Secretary pointed out that he could not go because he was travelling to Europe at that time.

Rabasa returned to the theme of the paucity of constitutional governments in the Western Hemisphere. He foresaw drastic consequences if this trend did not change. He thought the United States should take positive action in support of constitutional government. If not, he said that “blood will flow” and many Latins would blame the United States.

The Secretary said our problem was what the United States can do. How can we move from what you call neglect to cooperation without getting into every dispute in the hemisphere?

Rabasa said that this was a challenge “you can face.” He recalled the remarkable progress achieved in relations with China and with the Soviet Union. He thought the same could be done in the Western Hemisphere.

The Secretary said he was thinking of sending former Commerce Secretary Peterson to Latin America to visit a few countries and come back with new ideas. He said that Secretary Kubisch might go with Peterson.

Rabasa said he thought that would be all right provided there was no publicity and it was handled in low-key fashion. Rabasa recalled previous visits to Latin America by Governor Rockefeller, Secretary Finch, Secretary Connally and others. He said the Latin American impression was that these had accomplished little.

[Page 200]

On the question of Chile, the Secretary pointed out that we had nothing to do with it. Rabasa said that he had noted that the junta had specified that they had not told the United States in advance of the coup.

The Secretary said that as far as international corporations were concerned, he didn’t think they were smart enough to make a coup even if they wanted to.

The Secretary then said that he wanted to make a major speech on Latin America at an appropriate time. But he said he needed the right occasion—something must be happening. He said that he would be consulting with Rabasa and others on this subject. He said he thought we could “get moving” by the end of this year.

At this point in the discussion, Secretary Rabasa said he wished to have a private talk with the Secretary. The other participants left the room, and the two Secretaries continued their discussion for approximately ten minutes.

  1. Summary: During a bilateral meeting, Kissinger and Rabasa discussed Echeverría’s Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, illegal immigration, and regional matters.

    Source: Ford Library, NSC Latin American Staff Files, Country Files, Box 4, Mexico—Political, Military 1. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf Towers while Kissinger and Rabasa were in New York for an UNGA session. The Rodino Bill to which Kubisch referred during the discussion on illegal migration was legislation introduced in January 1973 by Representative Peter Rodino (D–NJ) that would have imposed sanctions on employers who hired undocumented workers. The personal letter that Rabasa delivered to Kissinger from Echeverria was not found.