199. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rogers) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

FMS Sales to Chile

The Problem

At our meeting with Ambassador Popper before your trip, you said you wanted to reflect on the question whether to consult with Congress about resuming military sales to Chile during the interim before Congress enacts the FY 1976 legislation.


In FY 1975, our lawyers and DOD’s had concluded that Section 25 of the Foreign Military Assistance Act prohibited all military aid, including both sales and credits, to Chile. DOD’s lawyers also agree with our own that Section 25 expired on July 1, and that we are therefore legally free to resume cash military sales to Chile. (We cannot extend credits. There was no legislative authority for credits in FY 1975, and therefore the continuing resolution does not continue any credit authority.)

Congress, however, is not of one mind about sales to Chile. The issue is a contentious one. Congressman McDonald, who recently visited Chile has sent us a letter, signed by 100 of his colleagues, saying that we had authority to make sales during FY 1975 and he hopes we will jolly well get on with it now. On the other hand, Kennedy and Brooke had a colloquy on the record, during the continuing resolution [Page 535] debate, the burden of which was that the continuing resolution maintained the ban on sales from FY 1975 into FY 1976.

Since then, there has actually been a hardening of positions, in Congress and in Chile.

Some backsliding has occurred in human rights practices in Chile in recent months. The National Security Law, which had a difficult birth last May, has not been fully implemented. Families have not been notified about arrests of relatives. Habeas corpus has not been observed. There are even some indications of the possible basis in fact for current newspaper allegations that the GOC may be behind the recent disappearance of some 119 opposition figures. President Pinochet personally has taken some of the hard-line decisions on human rights, such as the one to bar the UN Human Rights Commission Working Group.

The Chile military aid issue will be on the table when Congress returns in September. Final consideration of this year’s legislation is scheduled to begin then. We can be certain that McDonald and Kennedy will be at each other’s throats. There is little doubt that Fraser will try to repeat his success of last year in banning all military aid of any kind. Some Congressmen may even try to cut off any deliveries of equipment which are begun but not completed during August, and reduce economic assistance. Chile could well become a test case of the Department’s intentions in the human rights field.

Chile has pending about $50 million of contracts for various kinds of equipment. Whether they would want to carry out all of these contracts immediately is questionable. The most important are the anti-tank weapons, the sidewinders for their F-5’s, and the spare parts they need to keep their present equipment moving. This $6.3 million package, rather than the full $50 million, would clearly have a better reception on the Hill just now.

The Legal Adviser and H, however, counsel against any sales in the present circumstances. They are concerned that a resumption of sales to Chile following Pinochet’s rejection of the UNHRC Working Group would be perceived by many in Congress as a reward for conduct inconsistent with U.S. human rights policies, as set forth in the Foreign Assistance Act. The combination of members opposed to security assistance for Chile on human rights grounds, those ideologically opposed to the Pinochet government, and those who would see the issue as one of Executive Branch compliance with expressions of Congressional policy such as Section 502 B of the Foreign Assistance Act, would pose a genuine risk of legislative action to preclude even delivery of the items proposed to be sold to Chile. Moreover, the anticipated negative Congressional reaction might well extend to other issues. This could weaken the prospects for favorable action on Turkey and produce new and stronger provisions on human rights in the pending foreign assistance bill, according to H and L.

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They believe that our ability to avoid legislation that would be counterproductive in our policy toward Chile, and perhaps other countries as well, could be enhanced if the Government of Chile could be persuaded to take minimal steps to improve human rights first. In that event, we could then defend limited cash sales to Chile as a reasonable response to positive steps and designed to encourage further progress, they suggest.

ARA agrees that there is much to be said for postponing military sales to the Chileans now, until after Congress has had a chance to consider Chile’s turn down of the UN Working Group and the furor now brewing over the 100 plus dead Chilean Leftists in connection with the FY 1976 legislation. Ambassador Popper would prefer to have some sales for the Chileans, but he would not feel his task was utterly compromised if there were none just yet. He has recently advised Pinochet that the GOC can use its past credits for certain military items.

However, if we are to go forward with sales during this short interregnum between the expiry of Section 25 and the passage of the new legislation, then ARA thinks we should do so with a discreet package, that we should talk frankly to the Chileans about the relationship of future military aid and the GOC human rights image, and that we should tell Congress what we are doing before we do it.

There is a good deal to be said for both measures—that is, talking plainly to Congress and Chile. If we make a clear, though quiet, statement to the Chileans, they will not conclude that they face clear sailing in the U.S. now, in spite of their recent human rights record. And if we tell the Congress that we are making some limited sales, but are also doing some plain speaking to the Chileans, we will avoid the danger that Congress will find out after the fact, and denounce us not only for bad policy but for duplicity as well.

We have tried to design a quiet but clear statement to the Chileans. A draft letter from you to Foreign Minister Carvajal is attached. This tells him that we are going forward with a package of sales, including the anti-tank missiles and the spares, but also gives him some understanding of the situation in Congress and our assessment of the difficulty in the way of future military aid to Chile in the absence of some improvement in human rights practices. We would tell the key Congressional human rights advocates of the plan set out in the letter before it goes out.

Here, in summary, then, is the trellis of options as we see them, and the balance sheet for each. If you accept the first option—no sales now—then you need not address the second and third options. If you decide on sales during the Congressional interregnum, then you should address points two, three and four:

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The Options

1. To Sell or Not to Sell: In this uncertain interim period, before Congress considers the FY 1976 military aid legislation, authorize no military sales to Chile.


—A hold on sales would avoid a Congressional and public attack from some quarters that our policy is designed to support the Chilean junta in all circumstances and whatever its human rights practices;

—A hold would also avoid the charge that we acted behind Congress’ back;

—Chile would not think that we accept its decision to cancel the UNHRC Working Group.


—Leaves the issue to Congress, even though Congress has not yet spoken about FY 1976 military aid.

—May turn the GOC away from what it sees as its last remaining ally and increase its paranoia and possible radicalization.

—Forces Chile to seek the armaments it thinks it needs to counter the threat from Peru from other sources.

Bureau Views:

ARA, H, L, PM and D/HA recommend that we hold off on sales until Congress considers this year’s legislation, beginning in September.

Approve Interim Sales Disapprove Sales

2. A Small Package of Sales or a Big One: If we decide to conduct some sales before Congress acts, offer first a package of anti-tank equipment and spares.


—This package is easier for Congress to swallow. We can stress that the anti-tank weaponry is obviously not to maintain internal authority but to defend Chile against Peru, which is armed by the Soviets.

—We can move this equipment quickly.


—Does not give Chile everything it wants.

Bureau Views:

If you prefer this Option, ARA, H, L, PM and D/HA recommend that you approve the small package.

Approve Small Package

Approve Entire $50 Million

3. Talk to the GOC: If we go ahead with a package, couple the sales with a frank but quiet statement to the Chileans about their human [Page 538] rights image in this country, along the lines of the draft letter (attached) from you to Carvajal.


—Is consistent with our public position that we do engage in quiet diplomacy on human rights;

—Gets the point across to the Chilean junta that there is sincere concern with their human rights record at the highest level of the USG; and

—Avoids misunderstanding in Santiago that they have a clear field, and that the sales are a signal that we accept their treatment of the UN Working Group.


—Might be misunderstood by Pinochet as meddling in his internal affairs.

—Would seem to Congressman McDonald and others as an example of a double standard, and an unfriendly act against Chile in its hour of need and crisis.

Bureau Views:

If you approve Option 2, ARA, H, L, PM and D/HA recommend that you send the letter to Foreign Minister Carvajal.

Approve Letter Disapprove Letter


4. Tell Congress: In all events—whether we go forward with sales or not, whether we do a small package or $50 million, and whether we talk to the Chileans about their human rights posture or not—we should advise the Congress of what we are doing before we do it.


—Congress is concerned about Chile. To move on the vexed and disputatious question of sales now, behind Congress’ back, would not be well received.

—If we did, we might persuade Congress that the Department is not to be trusted on Chile and on human rights issues in general.

—To discuss the question with key Congressional actors will give us an opportunity to explain the Peruvian threat, make clear that we are not going whole hog and that we are presenting a balanced position on human rights to the GOC.


—Might inspire the liberals to move that much more quickly and decisively to cut any sales off at the pass;

—Congressional consultation in this instance might set an awkward precedent for other future cases.

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Bureau Views:

If you approve Option 1, ARA, H, L, PM and P/HA recommend that Congress be advised. If you approve Option 2, ARA, H, L, PM and D/HA recommend that Congress be advised prior to going forward with a sales package.

Approve Disapprove

  1. Summary: Rogers outlined the implications of different approaches to the problem of security assistance for Chile.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P830113–0540. Secret; Exdis. Sent through Maw. Drafted by Rogers. Gantz, Wilson, Richardson, and Vest concurred. Although the memorandum is dated August 5, the drafting date is given as August 11. Attached but not published is a suggested letter to Carvajal. There is no indication the letter was sent. None of the options for approval or disapproval were checked, although Kissinger wrote on the first page of the memorandum, “See me Tuesday.” In telegram Secto 9001 from Vail, August 16, the Secretary’s delegation informed the Department that Kissinger had taken no action on the memorandum but wished to see Rogers and Maw on Tuesday, August 19. (Ibid., P840126–2280) No record of a meeting has been found. A memorandum of conversation of the Kissinger, Rogers, and Popper meeting referred to in the first paragraph is published as Document 197. On August 19, Lord informed Kissinger that although the staff of S/P agreed with L and H that arms sales to Chile should be held up, Lord himself supported “a discreet program combined with candid talk and advance notice to Congress.” (Ibid., P830113–0469)