29. Memorandum of Conversation1
- Secretary’s Meeting with Argentine Foreign Minister
- Angel Robledo, Argentine Foreign Minister
- Rafael Vasquez, Argentine Ambassador
- Carlos Ortiz de Rosas, Argentine Ambassador to UN
- The Secretary
- William D. Rogers, Assistant Secretary, ARA
- Carl E. Bartch, Country Director, ARA/ARU
The Secretary: When do you return to Argentina?
Minister Robledo: Tomorrow evening.
The Secretary: We were talking about a number of steps we could take, the last time we met.
Minister Robledo: I think there are some fundamental things we could do. Perhaps one of them is to frame our relations within the broad projection of Latin American policy. Not the policy of Latin American integration, but the policy you defined as emphasizing relations with three or four countries in the area. Our first priority is the question of stability, especially with regard to the guerrilla problem. The guerrillas are part of an external process; that is, all of their practical direction is received from the outside, especially their ideological direction, corresponding to an international plan. We are going to fight them aggressively, and not only by taking repressive measures, but fundamentally, within our whole nation and society. To this end, we believe it necessary to undertake a great public information effort in all popular sectors within the country. Within this context, we shall have to provide a new meaning, to renew the significance of the meaning of relations with the United States. This is necessary also because of the image the United States projects throughout the world as a great stabilizing force. To accomplish this, it would be useful for the U.S. Government or the Department of State to issue a public statement expressing your sympathy and support for the survival of constitutional and democratic institutions, and also for the authentic participation of the majority of the people in the political process. Naturally, this should refer specifically to the Argentine case. We believe a declaration of that kind would help create a good climate within the U.S. and international financial institutions. In addition, this would be interpreted as a good gesture toward relations with Latin America. At present, the United States receives the support of certain sectors in Latin America, but these are minority sectors; and I think we have to project an image attractive to the majorities.
The Secretary: Do you think my remarks at the Latin American luncheon next Tuesday would be an appropriate occasion for such a declaration?
Mr. Rogers: Perhaps a brief statement today, after you have concluded your meeting with the Minister.
The Secretary: I could insert a few sentences in my toast at the luncheon.[Page 93]
Minister Robledo: It is important that the declaration receive coverage in our local press.
The Secretary: Is it better to say something today or Tuesday?
Ambassador Ortiz: The Minister believes it would be better to issue a declaration today. It would not be fair to the other Latin American nations who will be represented at the Tuesday luncheon to say something only about Argentina.
The Secretary: OK, we’ll do it today. This will appeal to the missionary instinct of the Latin American Bureau. After a few years with the Department, I am more qualified to head a church than a foreign office. My associates like to reform other countries, especially allied countries, because it is too dangerous to try to reform unfriendly countries.
Mr. Rogers: You are bucking for Pope.
The Secretary: Yes. The work is steady and there are no press conferences.
Minister Robledo: Yes, it is easier in church.
The Secretary: I think I have more talent to be a renaissance Pope than a modern one.
Ambassador Ortiz: Especially because the procedures for electing Popes were much easier in those days, before the College of Cardinals prescribed present methods.
Minister Robledo: I think it is important to demonstrate a new approach which will be extremely valuable to Latin American policy, reflecting a greater effort to become closer in our relations, using fewer labels, such as the “Good Neighbors” and other slogans. We have always had labels of this kind in the past, but the results have not measured up to the hopes they engendered. At the present time I believe we should take the first practical steps to implement a new policy and only consider expectations later.
The Secretary: As I said in our previous conversation, the traditional U.S. approach to Latin America is no longer going to be possible. I don’t think it is possible to find one policy that applies to all of Latin America and one label for that policy. The interests of the various countries are too different. Except for language, Nicaragua has no more to do with Argentina than with us, and in many respects less. What we are going to do is to concentrate on a few key countries, and not have any label, such as the “New Dialogue,” and say that takes care of everybody. And of course we place great stress on our relations with Argentina for many reasons including the fact that the world football matches will be held there in 1978, and I will need free tickets. I know Argentina will win, because otherwise it will take an army division to protect the winners. There is a limit to heroism. I talked to your predecessor about means of improving our relations with Argentina and there are even more urgent reasons for doing so today.[Page 94]
Ambassador Ortiz: This conception that you have relates to Argentina’s long-standing aspirations. It was discussed with President Kennedy in Palm Beach, the idea that the United States ought to establish especially close relations with four key countries in Latin America, and concentrate its efforts on them.
The Secretary: Which ones?
Ambassador Ortiz: About the same ones as now. Argentina, Brazil, and now Venezuela, and perhaps Peru or some other country on the Pacific coast. This would be important for the national interests of these countries, and would contribute to the prosperity and stability of their neighbors.
Minister Robledo: I think we should start working to create a climate of intensified cooperation and publicize our intentions in Argentina. Mr. Secretary, we don’t want to take up any more of your time.
The Secretary: I have found when a general statement is made, it is important to have it translated into specific form. I think we should find a way to exchange ideas on what should be done because otherwise with the pressure of work each of us has the momentum may be lost.
Minister Robledo: We are sending a memorandum with a few suggestions regarding specific matters, including the efforts we are making with international and U.S. financial institutions. We are going through a very difficult financial period. Our economic problems will be resolved with our own means and by our own efforts. We will need a relaxation in the due dates for certain loans that are becoming due. In principle these requests are being accepted and are being resolved in a spirit of good will in Washington.
The Secretary: Treasury working with good will? Secretary Simon is a diplomatic master. I can’t get him to show good will in working with me.
Minister Robledo: We are also interested in the informal working groups we discussed.
The Secretary: Yes. I decided to go ahead with that the other day.
Ambassador Vasquez: We have already had talks with the Department about that last Friday, and we will continue our efforts.
Minister Robledo: I believe we are creating conditions that will enhance our relations and resolve our problems, by taking action on (1) economic and financial matters, (2) informal working groups, and (3) the declaration we spoke of earlier today.
The Secretary: We have a great interest in Argentina’s stability and development, and in a strong Argentina. We want to maintain good relations, so it is up to us to find a way to implement our intentions.
Minister Robledo: I have great confidence the means will be found.[Page 95]
The Secretary: Thanks for your confidence.
Minister Robledo: When may we expect to see you in Argentina?
The Secretary: I have had to postpone several visits to Latin America, and I have decided that I never will be able to get away long enough to do it all in one trip. So I hope to make two shorter visits, one in November and the other in February, and I intend to include Argentina.
Minister Robledo: Then I’ll see you in Buenos Aires.
The Secretary: Yes.
Summary: In a meeting with Foreign Minister Robledo, Kissinger stated that U.S. policy toward Latin America would focus increasingly on relations with Argentina and a small number of other key countries rather than on the region as a whole.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P820125–0019. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Bartch and approved in S on October 21. The meeting was held at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. In Kissinger and Robledo’s previous meeting in New York, September 23, Kissinger stated that he was coming to believe that the United States should “pay particular attention to two or three key countries [in Latin America] and be generally helpful to the others.” Robledo proposed setting up informal working groups in Argentina and the United States to study the possibility of establishing economic, cultural, and technological exchanges. The Foreign Minister also stated that the Argentine Government was planning to place greater emphasis on measures to fight subversion. (Telegram Secto 13024 from USUN, September 23; ibid., D750331–0908)↩