27. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Luncheon Meeting with Argentine Foreign Minister Vignes


  • Argentina

    • Alberto J. Vignes, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship
    • Alejandro Orfila, Argentine Ambassador
    • Julio Carasales, Argentine Ambassador to the OAS
  • U.S.

    • The Secretary of State
    • William D. Rogers, Assistant Secretary, ARA
    • William S. Mailliard, Ambassador to the OAS
    • Carl E. Bartch, Country Director, ARA-LA/APU
    • Anthony Hervas, Interpreter

The Secretary: I can’t tell you how disappointed I was, and how much I regret that I was not able to visit your country last month. It was not any lack of interest on my part; it was due to events I could not foresee. If I had foreseen them, I would have resigned last year. I was most anxious to undertake the visit, but it was not possible in April. I plan to reschedule the visit in August, if that is satisfactory.

Minister Vignes: I am aware of the reasons you were not able to undertake the visit last month, and I understand the very great problems that compelled you to remain in the United States. We would be very pleased to receive you in August.

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The Secretary: Argentina has a tremendous capacity to put pressure on me, because I am a football fan, and I intend to remain in office until 1976, when the world football match will be in Argentina.

Minister Vignes: We’ll try to arrange a good match for you when you come to Argentina. They play in August there.

The Secretary: How do you see the situation in the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Minister?

Minister Vignes: I think the situation is good, but it could be better. I think it is important that we all try to resolve our bilateral problems in the hemisphere.

The Secretary: I agree with you.

Minister Vignes: There are also some difficult multilateral problems.

The Secretary: Such as Cuba?

Minister Vignes: Yes. I find that the trend now among several of our countries is to try to reach agreement on the amendment of Article 17 of the Rio Treaty, to give each country a free hand in deciding whether to have bilateral relations with Cuba.

The Secretary: We have had an exchange of correspondence on that. We don’t think the matter should be resolved during the current OASGA.

Minister Vignes: Neither do we.

The Secretary: Yes, the question can be decided at a special meeting.

Minister Vignes: It would be possible to decide it at a special meeting, with no debate on the subject at the OASGA.

The Secretary: A debate would have an unfortunate reaction here, as far as U.S. public opinion is concerned.

Minister Vignes: Yes. Some countries are opposed to lifting the sanctions—Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

The Secretary: Wouldn’t they take the same position at a special meeting?

Minister Vignes: That’s a good question. Yes, they probably would, but perhaps their positions would not be as intransigent at a special meeting. The fundamental idea of some other countries is to resolve the question now, once and for all. Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Peru and Panama are of this opinion.

The Secretary: Can you handle this for us? Can the Latin American nations handle this for us?

Minister Vignes: What would be the U.S. attitude if we were to do so?

The Secretary: It would have to be done at a special meeting, with no advance announcement of what is to be done. It shouldn’t be delayed [Page 80]too long. Perhaps it should be done by the end of June, or early July, at the latest.

Minister Vignes: Would the U.S. vote affirmatively on the lifting of sanctions at such a meeting?

The Secretary: Not to lift sanctions, but to permit each country to exercise freedom of action in deciding on the matter.

Assistant Secretary Rogers: Yes. At the OASGA, we would support the idea of a special meeting called to consider the question of whether each country should have a free hand to decide for itself.

The Secretary: We’d vote in favor of that.

Minister Vignes: Can I handle it like that, then?

The Secretary: How much of this would get out to the public?

Minister Vignes: It could be handled confidentially, with no advance announcement about what is to be done.

The Secretary: If it is to be done in that way, what I told you about how we will vote must remain confidential.

Minister Vignes: A special meeting could be convened solely to arrive at a solution to the Cuban question. It should not be constituted as an organ of the OAS. It is possible to do it in that way. The Foreign Ministers would not have to attend.

Assistant Secretary Rogers: Ambassador Mailliard could represent us.

Ambassador Mailliard: Foreign Minister Facio has already offered Costa Rica as a site for a special meeting.

Minister Vignes: This is essentially a political question. We should agree that the meeting should be convened and straighten out the legal questions later.

The Secretary: I agree. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Minister Vignes: I’m not going to make a speech. U.S.-Argentine relations are at an optimum point, and we should attempt to achieve something concrete and important to our two nations.

The Secretary: If that is so, why did it take two divisions to guard me when I planned to visit Argentina? Those who handle Latin American Affairs in the Department are under instructions to pay special attention to Argentina.

Minister Vignes: Then I’ll be more specific. We have certain financial problems, and we need help. And we need help from the United States.

The Secretary: I understand that you are seeking help from private U.S. banks.

Ambassador Orfila: We are seeking $600 million in loans from U.S. private banks and the IBRD.

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Minister Vignes: Yes, but the banks need to know that the U.S. Government morally supports Argentina in its request for loans.

The Secretary: We are prepared to extend such support. Bill, will you call David Rockefeller? I could call Robert McNamara; he is a good Democrat.

Minister Vignes: Do you intend to make public the fact that you morally support Argentina’s efforts to obtain financial assistance?

Assistant Secretary Rogers: Let’s see what we can work out along these lines.

The Secretary: We could say that we discussed Argentina’s financial problems and its efforts to obtain assistance, and that I promised you the moral support of the U.S. Government, as long as you don’t leave the impression that we exercise any control over the decision to extend the loans. Some formula would have to be worked out to make it clear that we are only using our influence.

Minister Vignes: Yes, that the U.S. Government is extending its moral support to Argentina’s attempts to find a solution to its financial problems.

The Secretary: You see, I am too easy for you.

Minister Vignes: I thought you were going to say a lot more. Another matter. We need a small sum of money for housing investment guarantees. Housing is a serious problem for us, and we intend to undertake a program to resolve it.

The Secretary: How much?

Minister Vignes: The ideal sum would be $100 million. Is that a lot?

Assistant Secretary Rogers: We can do something for you, but we can’t go that high.

The Secretary: I don’t know about this, but Bill says we can do something.

Minister Vignes: We already have $14 million authorized for us in housing investment guarantees, but that is a very small amount. I hope you can give us more before I leave Washington.

The Secretary: Are you going to take all the credit for this, or will there be something left for me?

Assistant Secretary Rogers: Perhaps we could call it the Kissinger-Vignes Housing Project.

The Secretary: Can you have some houses built by the time I get there in August? Do I have to do housing projects for every one of the Foreign Ministers who are attending the OASGA?

Minister Vignes: No. Give the money to us, and there will be nothing left for the others.

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The Secretary: Good idea. I’ll tell them I gave it all to the Argentines. Is there anything else? Let me know which piece of furniture in this room you’d like to take back with you.

Minister Vignes: I’d like to raise the question of support for the candidates for election as OAS Secretary General.

The Secretary: We only know of the official candidates. We want to see how the first few votes go. For whom will you vote?

Minister Vignes: On the first ballot, and the first ballot only, we’ll vote for Sapena Pastor. This is because of a commitment President Perón made personally to President Stroessner. In the second round, we’ll vote for the Argentine candidate, who will be nominated by another country. We expect Sapena Pastor to receive no more than five votes on the first ballot.

The Secretary: We won’t support anyone on the first ballot unless someone nominates me.

Minister Vignes: Will you support the Argentine candidate on the second round?

The Secretary: We won’t oppose him. We won’t support anyone else, and we won’t organize votes for any candidate. We’d like to wait until I have had a chance to talk to a few other Foreign Ministers. We’ll talk about this again at the reception on Saturday. That should not be unhelpful to you.

Minister Vignes: The next Secretary General should be very active and capable of making the changes in the OAS that need to be made. He should be a good friend of the United States, and able to serve the interests of all of the members of the OAS. He must be independent from the influences of his own country and not reflect the political orientation of his government.

The Secretary: If a reasonable consensus emerges, we won’t oppose it. I don’t want to make a positive commitment before talking to others but at a minimum you will have our neutrality. We’ll do nothing against your candidate, and it may be that we will be able to do more. I’ll talk to you again on Saturday evening, and I won’t make a decision until after that.

Minister Vignes: The new Secretary General should not reflect a trend to the left.

The Secretary: I agree.

Minister Vignes: We think that is important.

The Secretary (proposing toast): Mr. Minister, personal friendship means much to me, and I am very pleased to recall how pleasant everything went when we met in Mexico. There is a strong special relationship between our two countries. We are interested in strengthening our relations with Latin America, and Argentina occupies a [Page 83]crucial place in these relations. I propose a toast to the continued friendship of our two peoples and governments.

Minister Vignes (responding): I was also pleased at our meeting in Mexico, Mr. Secretary, and at our meeting here in Washington. The solidarity of our two governments is at an optimum level, and there is a sincere friendship between our two countries. I propose a toast to the maintenance of our mutually beneficial relations, and to your personal happiness, Mr. Secretary, and to that of Mrs. Kissinger.

The Secretary: I agree with the guidelines you have set forth, that the new Secretary General should not be too far to the left, and that he should have a position of some independence. After talking to the others, we won’t do anything until I talk to you again. I can see no circumstances in which we would oppose the Argentine candidate.

Minister Vignes: Fine. What about the airlines?

The Secretary: I don’t know anything about that. Perhaps that is a subject Mr. Rogers or the Country Director deals with.

Ambassador Orfila: There are negotiations for frequencies and the treatment of the airlines involved on both sides. We found some rigidities on the part of both countries in dealing with these problems. We want to do our best to become more flexible and we hope you will do the same.

The Secretary: I haven’t looked into this, but we’ll do the best we can.

Minister Vignes: I’d also like to mention the Malvinas. We are engaged in negotiations with Great Britain about these islands, which have only 1,800 inhabitants. We consider this a remnant of colonialism in our hemisphere.

The Secretary: Do we have a consulate there? There are lots of people I’d like to send there.

Minister Vignes: There was a statement about the Malvinas that was drafted in Buenos Aires that was to have been included in the joint communiqué issued at the end of your visit to Argentina. We were pleased by the language in the statement, and we hope it can be issued.

The Secretary: We’ll see what can be done. Can we do that in August?

Ambassador Mailliard: You don’t intend to raise the Malvinas in the OASGA, do you?

Minister Vignes: No. If someone else raises issues of that kind, then we would have to say something about the Malvinas, but we don’t intend to initiate the subject.

The Secretary: Do you think the Panama Canal negotiations will be raised?

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Minister Vignes: Yes, but only to request a report on the progress of the negotiations.

Ambassador Mailliard: Foreign Minister Tack wanted the Secretary to know that Panama has no intention of raising a fuss about this at the OASGA. He is having lunch with Ambassador Bunker today.

The Secretary: We have a difficult domestic situation. It won’t do Tack any good to get an agreement with us if Congress objects to it, so we have to bring Congress along with us, and that isn’t easy. We’re trying to get a treaty negotiated as soon as possible.

Ambassador Orfila: There is the question of credit for Argentina and statements about Argentina’s credit worthiness. I have had two letters from the Comptroller of the Currency about this, and he seems to agree that Argentina is not a “problematic” country as far as credit is concerned. Nevertheless, the examiners of the Federal Reserve District of New York continue to list Argentina as “problematical”, and they are under the jurisdiction of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The Secretary: I’ll talk to Secretary Simon about it this afternoon. I don’t know what can be done about it.

Minister Vignes: Our negotiations with Chile are very delicate. There was an agreement in 1971 to refer the Beagle Channel boundary dispute to arbitration, but this was not well received by Argentine public opinion. There was a military government in power in Argentina at that time, but now there is a democratic government with popular support. I’ve attempted to suggest a direct agreement between Argentina and Chile to avoid arbitration. An arbitrator could decide against the interests of either country. We have to undertake an internal dialogue about this. We may have trouble with our Congress.

The Secretary: We welcome the improvement of relations between Argentina and Chile, as evidenced by the recent meeting of President Pinochet and President Perón in Argentina. We don’t think it desirable to ostracize Chile.

Minister Vignes: Nor any other country in the hemisphere. That is the reason we reacted against the attempt yesterday to make decisions about OASGA matters without having the United States present.

  1. Summary: Kissinger and Vignes discussed sanctions against Cuba, financial assistance, housing investment guarantees, selection of the OAS Secretary General, civil aviation, the Malvinas (Falklands) Islands, Argentina’s creditworthiness, and Argentine-Chilean relations.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P820125–0187. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Bartch and approved in S on October 29. The meeting took place in the James Madison Room at the Department. A summary was sent to Buenos Aires in telegram 115928, May 18. (Ibid., D750174–1209) On May 2, Rogers and Vignes agreed that a special conference should be set up to adopt a resolution providing for freedom of action regarding Cuban sanctions. (Memorandum of conversation, May 3; ibid., P820125–0139) The referenced exchange of correspondence on Cuba is in telegrams 93365 and 106096 to Buenos Aires, April 23 and May 7, and in telegram 3026 from Buenos Aires, May 1. (Ibid., P850056–1648, P850059–1528, and P850081–1937) In a May 8 memorandum to Rogers, Bartch listed follow-up actions to be taken as a result of Kissinger’s May 8 meeting with Vignes. (Ibid., ARA/ECA Files: Lot 78D56, POL 15–3 ForMin Vignes, 1975)