65. Telegram 5131 From the Embassy in Mexico to the Department of State1
5131. Subject: Rabasa’s Concern re Press Attacks.
1. Today Foreign Minister Rabasa sent for me urgently and in some agitation told me of his concern regarding attacks in the press that he had sold out on Chile and that he was “a creature of Kissinger.” He was now concerned that on Friday, June 21, Gaston Garcia Cantu (an elderly left-wing columnist who also was very critical of my own assignment to Mexico) would publish in Excelsior a column critical of Rabasa. This column would purportedly claim that just while Rabasa was sycophantically praising Kissinger’s role on salinity and other matters, the U.S. was not only supporting the concentration camps in Chile but in effect itself maintains similar setups in the so-called “detention camps” in which Mexican illegal immigrants were held and allegedly mistreated, and even tortured.
2. Rabasa said that he wished to give me advance notice that in order to counteract the Cantu column he was sending me a note this evening which would review the salinity matter with all the positive aspects of its solution, and would lay out all outstanding matters on the bracero problem and would make a plea that some agreement, perhaps similar to that recently concluded with Canada (Mexico 5076), be negotiated between our two governments. Such agreement should take into account the factors of supply and demand as regards Mexican labor, which would insure equal wages and treatment for Mexican laborers, would assure that the so-called “detention centers” be changed or perhaps be eliminated entirely and would speak of improved consular [Page 216] access to the detainees, in order to investigate allegations of ill-treatment, etc. Rabasa proposed to release the text of the note to the press more or less simultaneously with its delivery to us in order that it can be carried in tomorrow’s papers, thus undercutting the Cantu column which is scheduled to appear the day after tomorrow. In his comments to the press he would make clear that Mexican consular access to the “detention centers” had already improved and would give examples.
3. In answer to my query, Rabasa assured me that the note would be couched in elevated language and would be factual in approach. It would carefully avoid lending credence to allegations of mistreatment and particularly torture at the “detention centers.” He asked that I keep secret the fact that he had given me advance warning of the content of the note as this would undermine his credibility with the press, but that despite this he wished “to play fair” with us by telling me of the circumstances that had led to the note and the nature of its contents. He suggested that when it was published and I was queried by the press, I limit my reply to saying that I had transmitted full text to the Department for study and thus could comment only after I had received instructions.
4. Despite fact that last comment seemed gratuitous, I thanked Rabasa for his courtesy in giving us advance warning and said I would await receipt of note this evening. I told him that I wished him to know that we also had problem regarding treatment of American prisoners in Mexican jails and that I wanted him to understand that this already existed and would be the subject of informal, friendly conversations between us later in order to obviate any suspicion that we were raising this matter in “retaliation” for allegations concerning our own “detention centers.” He assured me our motives would be above suspicion but he pleaded that we not take up the American prisoner issue concurrently with the “detention centers” in order to avoid any suspicions on the part of his collaborators or others. I told him that actually I had refrained from submitting this matter in writing precisely in order to avoid leaks and to give him adequate forewarning, as some of the prisoners’ complaints included allegations of mistreatment and even electric shock and other means of torture. I had felt that this was matter that had best not be put in writing at this stage and moreover discussed at a lower level prior to my raising it with him officially at some later date.
Summary: Ambassador Jova reported on a meeting with Rabasa in which the Mexican Foreign Secretary stated his intention to present a new note on the salinity and immigration issues in an effort to counteract charges in the local press that he was not sufficiently critical of the United States.
Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Country Files, Box 788, Latin America, Mexico, Vol. IV, 1973. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Rabasa delivered his note later on June 19, and the Embassy transmitted an informal translation in telegram 5172 to the Department, June 20. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740161–1062) In telegram 5239 from Mexico City, June 21, Jova deplored Rabasa’s “employment of this tactic critical of USG” but observed that the points raised in Rabasa’s note had been “repeated by GOM in many fora over past two years.” (Ibid., D740163–0709) Allegations of mistreatment of Mexican migrants in INS detention centers had previously been raised by Subsecretary of Foreign Relations González Sosa, as reported in telegram 3341 from Mexico City, April 19. (Ibid., D740092–0695) In telegram 5660 from Mexico City, July 5, the Embassy reported it had delivered a memorandum expressing concern about the treatment of U.S. prisoners in Mexican jails to the Foreign Ministry. (Ibid., D740179–0783)↩