181. Telegram From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State1

2637. Subject: Conversation Between Vice President Mondale and Brazilian President Figueiredo

1. S–Entire text.

2. Following is memorandum of conversation of March 22 between Vice President Mondale and Brazilian President Figueiredo. Meeting took place in Brazilian President’s Office in the Planalto at 1530 March 22 and ended at 1630.

3. Tone of meeting was unusually friendly and President Figueiredo was very forthcoming and spontaneous although we know that he was briefed beforehand on several specific points in accordance with a list of topics we had provided the Foreign Ministry (State 069060).2

4. The President began the meeting by expressing appreciation for the visit of Mrs. Mondale who had headed, with Ray Marshall, the US delegation to the inauguration of the President.3 He also referred to the letter and telephone call from President Carter.4 He appreciated the picture. He welcomed the visit of the Vice President. He said that he interpreted all of these acts as a strong desire on the part of the United States to strengthen the traditional friendship and cooperation between the United States and Brazil, which he reciprocated.

5. The Vice President said that these words were well received. The United States wanted the best possible relationship with Brazil and President Carter wanted a strong relationship with the new Brazilian administration. President Carter wanted to meet personally with President Figueiredo and he extended an invitation to President Figueiredo [Page 556] to visit the United States on a state visit and suggested that the US summer might be a good time. (At this point the Vice President handed President Figueiredo a letter from President Carter inviting him to visit the United States in the summer or autumn of 1979.)5

6. President Figueiredo said that he was very honored with these words and that President Carter’s wish was also his. He said that the United States and Brazil had always been staunch friends and that he wanted to keep it that way. He said that he could not be precise on when he would visit the United States but that it would be a privilege to accept the invitation. He wanted it to be truly an objective visit (which we took to mean not protocolary) and that he was looking forward to talking to President Carter. He understood that President Carter was very businesslike and he appreciated that. He also said that we would work through diplomatic channels on a date and on preparations for dealing with the issues.

7. The Vice President said that President Carter had asked him to tell the Brazilian President that the United States was pleased that Brazil had decided to send its former Foreign Minister to the United States as Ambassador and he officially extended the agreement. President Figueiredo said that he appreciated this prompt response from President Carter. (The Brazilian Government announced the appointment on March 23.) The Vice President said that Ambassador Silveira knew the United States very well and the current issues in our relations. He also noted that Secretary Vance knew Foreign Minister Guerreiro. So he thought that these appointments of the Figueiredo administration boded well for US/Brazilian relations.

8. The Vice President then asked President Figueiredo how he saw the memorandum of understanding of 1976, the sub-groups that had been created under it, and the nature of the consultation between the US and Brazil. President Figueiredo said that he wanted to intensify the consultation. He noted that the three active groups were on agriculture, energy, and trade and finance. He wanted the ones on agriculture and energy to meet more often.

9. The Vice President said that he was pleased to hear this and he agreed on the usefulness of the consultation on trade and finance because this was exceedingly important. He thought that Brazil had made an unusually strong contribution at the MTN which would not have been possible but for the close relationship between Secretary Blumenthal and Secretary Simonsen. He also noted that trade was a highly political matter and that it needed constant and unceasing [Page 557] attention. He then proposed a visit of the President’s adviser on science and technology (Frank Press). He suggested that this would immediately intensify the work of the energy subgroup. The Vice President gave equal emphasis to transfer of technology and energy and said that the group that Mr. Press brought with him should be in areas in which Brazil expressed a specific interest. He suggested that the details be worked out through diplomatic channels (i.e., the US Embassy and the Foreign Ministry).6

10. President Figueiredo said that he agreed with the Vice President’s words on trade and finance. He was well aware of the close consultation and he appreciated the Vice President’s words on Brazil’s role at the MTN. He only wanted to emphasize that the two problems with which his administration had to grapple immediately were agriculture and energy. We must feed our people, he said, and therefore we must do better on agriculture. And we have to have alternative sources of energy. As you know we import 80 percent of our energy used for transport. We rely heavily on hydro power for industry but that is not inexhaustible. We are also working on nuclear energy. So we must press on these two areas and we would welcome working with you if you are interested. He said that he was also interested in renewable energy sources (biomass).

11. The Vice President said the United States would go to work immediately on this. We were also interested in biomass and the other sources of energy and he was certain that the Brazilian President knew the views of the United States on nuclear energy.

12. The Vice President then said that he wanted the Brazilian President to know that President Carter was impressed with the Brazilian President’s inaugural address.7 As farm boys, both President Carter and he welcomed the words on agriculture. But he wanted the Brazilian President to know that President Carter especially welcomed the passages on democratic government and human rights. The Brazilian President addressed himself to this point after the Vice President had briefed him on international issues by saying that he was pleased to hear that President Carter had read his speech and was happy with his words on democracy and human rights. He appreciated that there might have been some abuses during administrations over the past fifteen years but such acts had never been the policy of these administrations. Rather [Page 558] these isolated acts had been a response by security forces to subversion. He also said that his comments on agriculture and social programs in general were made in keeping with his own strongly held views that Brazil must do better for the poorer people.

13. The Vice President briefed the Brazilian President on US policy and actions in the Middle East, on SALT, the PRC and Cuba. The details of the briefing on the first three will not be repeated here because they are well known to the recipients of this memorandum. Because the Vice President had received earlier in the day a lukewarm response from the foreign minister to his representations on Cuba, he pressed very hard on this issue. His general line was that the world community should not reward the irresponsibility of Cuba by giving it a seat on the Security Council.

14. President Figueiredo said that Brazil could only applaud President Carter’s courage and persistance on the Egyptian-Israeli agreement and he was pleased that this had borne fruit. Brazil had always favored pacific settlement of disputes. But given the political instability in Iran on which Brazil depended for oil, Brazil’s general dependence on Arabian oil, etc., that Brazil had to be very cautious on any public statements.

15. On Cuba, the Brazilian President said that he regretted Cuba’s attitude, its export of revolution, and its violation of the principle of self-determination of people. He was against Cuban troops in Africa or anywhere else. Personally he did not like the idea of Cuba on the Security Council but he would have to consult the foreign minister on what Brazil might do. The less we see of Cuba on the international scene, the President concluded, the better.

16. On China, he said that Brazil agreed. Brazil also had trade interests in China which it intended to pursue.

17. The Brazilian President said that Brazil will support US efforts on disarmament. You should not expect perfect results, he said. With specific reference to SALT, he said that we should avail ourselves of Breshnev’s good will.

18. The Vice President then said that he had one private matter which he wanted to discuss with the Brazilian President and at that point the respective staffs withdrew.8 During this interim, Ambassador Sayre cleared with the Brazilian Foreign Minister language which would permit the Vice President to state that President Carter had [Page 559] extended an invitation to President Figueiredo to visit the United States and that the Brazilian President had accepted with details to be worked out through diplomatic channels. The Ambassador also agreed with the Foreign Minister that the Brazilian government was free to announce at a time of its choosing the appointment of Ambassador Silveira to Washington. Ambassador Sayre had obtained agreement from the Foreign Minister at lunch that the Vice President could announce the visit of Frank Press at a time to be worked out through diplomatic channels. The Ambassador also discussed the possibility of negotiating tax and consular treaties with the foreign minister at lunch and the latter agreed that we should work on these through the normal channels, i.e., treasury and Fazenda on the tax treaty and the Embassy and foreign relations on the consular convention.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790144-1049. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. March 20. Potential bilateral issues for conversation included “maintenance and strengthening of the consultation process, including energy cooperation, agriculture cooperation and trade. The Vice President would also be prepared to discuss the consular convention and the tax treaty in very general terms, indicating our hope that these things will progress. We do not wish to raise either the Peace Corps item or the security issues.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790128-0944)
  3. Joan Mondale and Marshall traveled to Brazil March 14–16 for Figueiredo’s inauguration. (Telegram 2294 from Brasilia, March 16, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790121-0827)
  4. Joan Mondale delivered Carter’s March 7 letter of congratulations to Figueiredo on his inauguration. Figueiredo’s March 20 reply was transmitted in telegram 70402 to Brasilia, March 22. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790131-0839)
  5. Dated March 20. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 5, Brazil, 1979–1980)
  6. Press visited Brazil October 10–12, 1979. (Telegram 8788 from Lima National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790471-0683)
  7. Figueiredo’s inaugural address, March 15, “reaffirmed his earlier promise to make Brazil a democracy and stressed his determination to improve the material well being of all Brazilians.” (Telegram 2363 from Brasilia, March 19; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790127-0772)
  8. Mondale offered Figueiredo occasional intelligence briefings on world events. (Memorandum From Aaron to Clift, March 20; Memorandum from Turner to Brzezinski and attachment, March 20; Draft cable from Mondale to Carter, undated; Carter Library, Donated Historical Material: Mondale, Walter, Box 44, Foreign Countries: Brazil, 1979–80)