182. Memorandum From Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff and the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) to Vice President Mondale1


  • Strike in Sao Paulo2 (U)

Ambassador Sayre has provided a number of good arguments for why we should adopt a more relaxed position with regard to the Sao [Page 560] Paulo metal worker’s strike.3 We agree with most of his points. The problem has been cooled-down, but one cannot be certain whether the government will continue to behave in a restrained manner. We believe that it is necessary for us to register our concern not only because of the coincidence of Figueiredo’s decision and your trip, but also to encourage restraint in the future. (C)

We don’t believe it would be helpful, as we originally envisaged, for Sayre to convey your concern directly to Figueiredo, but we would recommend the following three actions:

Sayre should be instructed to use an appropriate opportunity with an appropriate official of the government of Brazil to make clear how the action of the Figueiredo government is likely to be viewed internationally. Labor rights are, of course, an important element in human rights, and Figueiredo’s forthright inaugural address therefore includes this concern.4 The decision to intervene in the metal workers’ union could be viewed internationally as detracting from that commitment, and would therefore be a source of concern to all those countries that view Brazil’s positive steps toward liberalization. (C)

—We understand that there have been some press reports suggesting that you spoke to Figueiredo about this labor strike, and implying that we condoned the decision. If the Embassy is asked, it should make clear publicly that this issue was not discussed with you, and we do not condone such actions.5 (C)

—Our consul-general in Sao Paulo should follow developments closely and should use appropriate opportunities to show U.S. support for labor rights. (C)


If you approve, we will convey these three points in a message from you to Ambassador Sayre.6

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 5, Brazil, 1979–1980. Confidential. Sent for action. Sent through Clift, who did not initial the memorandum. A handwritten notation indicates that it was also sent through Aaron.
  2. Three metal workers’ unions in Sao Paulo were on strike during Mondale’s visit to Brazil, March 21–23. The Brazilian government intervened to halt the strike on March 23. (Telegram 2636 from Brasilia, March 26, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790140-0141)
  3. In telegram 705 from Brasilia to the White House Situation Room, March 27, Sayre explained that Figueiredo’s “first priority is to bring the rate of inflation under control.” Sayre noted that the Brazilian government considered the strike to be “technically illegal,” that “the government’s intervention in the three unions was in accordance with Brazilian law,” and that negotiations among labor, management and government were continuing. Sayre commented, “the government has, on the whole, acted with restraint. I see no departure in this action from what President Figueiredo committed himself to publicly on democratic government nor in what he repeated to you personally. Nor do I agree that this action casts any shadow on your visit.” He concluded, “I do not think it would be advisable for us to interject ourselves into this internal matter.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 5, Brazil, 1979–1980)
  4. See footnote 7, Document 181.
  5. Aaron highlighted this paragraph and wrote in the margin, “Mr. Vice President—I would stick with this. Otherwise, letter from Figueiredo or the Teamsters. DA
  6. There is no indication of approval or disapproval of the recommendation.