195. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Chile1

123807. Subject: The Deputy Secretary’s Meeting with Ambassador Cauas.

1. The Deputy Secretary met with Ambassador Cauas at 3:30 p.m. May 26. Also attending were Mark Schneider, D/HA, Frank Devine, ARA, and Desk Officer Driscoll.

2. After an initial exchange of pleasantries, Mr. Christopher inquired into Cauas’ economic program. Cauas gave him a brief run-down of the program. Mr. Christopher commented that Chile had achieved “real progress” considering the higher price for energy. Cauas then replied that Chile hoped to produce 50[%] of its oil within a year or two. The Deputy Secretary asked if there had been any problems [Page 595] with blowouts on their off-shore platforms. Cauas said that no blowouts had occurred yet. However, one problem was that their fields had a high percentage of gas. The problem was in transporting it to market. Several LNG projects were currently under study.

3. The Deputy Secretary then said that he wanted to put the events of the last few days into perspective.2 The point was that all new administrations want to meet the leaders of political parties that are out of power. The U.S. was not casting aspersions on anybody. We were not assuming a prejudiced attitude towards anybody. We think this sort of dialogue is healthy. He noted that he had seen opposition leaders from Italy, France and Germany during the past weeks. He emphasized that we were not taking sides. He hoped that the GOC could see these meetings in the same perspective.

4. Then Mr. Christopher turned to the human rights issue. He emphasized the deep concern in the U.S. about human rights. He said that he tended to think in terms of trends. The trend in Chile during the first quarter of 1977 had been good. During the second quarter we may be seeing a trend for the worse.3 He said that he hoped he was wrong. Returning to the Frei and Almeyda meetings he once again emphasized that he had wanted to put these meetings into perspective for Ambassador Cauas.

5. Cauas replied that he could understand meeting with Frei. However, the Almeyda meeting was a matter of concern for the GOC. Almeyda represents the Allende government. He was Allende’s Senior Minister. Chile does not want to return to the Allende period. Turning to the human rights issue, Cauas allowed that there were many problems. He hopes and is personally doing everything he can so that the GOC can “improve the fabric of society.” He hopes that this trend accelerates. What is needed is an atmosphere of calm. “The task of the Government is to restore the full functions of a ‘normal’ system.” The best approach, in his view, is to create the conditions so that the GOC can move quickly toward normalization.

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6. The Deputy Secretary reminded Cauas of the President’s remarks to him about his desire to improve bilateral relations.4 Candidly speaking, however, the human rights issue is a “barrier” to our relations with both the executive and the congress. Thus, he saw it in the GOC’s interest to improve its human rights practices so that bilateral relations could improve. Further, he said there were three areas which greatly concerned us: the lack of due process, the state of siege and the activities of the intelligence services.5 He expressed the hope that the situation in Chile was at the point where the GOC could move to “normalcy.” Government, he noted, exists for the well being of the people. It has the task of creating the conditions necessary to live in liberty. Thus, he wanted to work with Cauas toward the improvement of our relations.

7. Cauas replied to the Deputy Secy point by point. On due process there have been problems. People in the Government are working on these problems. He, personally, could see some progress. On the state of siege he noted that the GOC had said that it was not to be permanent. It has to be renewed every six months. The discussions leading up to a decision on whether or not to extend the state of siege are useful because it makes people in the GOC justify its continuance. He, again personally, hoped that it would be eliminated in September. But up to now the GOC has considered the maintenance of domestic tranquility to be the most important factor. On the intelligence services, Cauas remarked that every country has a need for intelligence. He noted that President Pinochet had publicly prohibited any illegal actions by these services. He also stated that many prisoners convicted under the state of siege had been given amnesty or allowed to leave the country; that trials for others were taking place; and that only one prisoner was being held without charge at the present time in Chile.

8. Cauas then turned to the problem of the disappeared. In his opinion this was the greatest human rights problem Chile had. He said that many people had assumed multiple identities. This makes tracing people alleged to have disappeared more difficult. Also people were killed in the days following the coup, many of whom were never identified. Others have left the country. Others still have been found living in places different from those they lived in previously. And some, he allowed, have really disappeared. This is a source of great [Page 597] concern for the GOC. It is a very damaging situation for Chile. His recommendation to the GOC had been to follow-up each case.

9. The Deputy Secretary thanked him for his explanation. However, sources that he respects have made him concerned about the recent trend in human rights practices in Chile. “You can’t achieve freedom by denying it, except in the short term. You and I, intellectually, can accept that.” Mr. Christopher asked Cauas to keep in touch with him, to let him know about progress made. He invited Cauas to telephone him or to call on him if he had any problems. In closing he emphasized our desire to better bilateral relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770190-1009. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Driscoll; cleared by Devine and Schneider and for information by Feinberg in S/P; approved by Christopher.
  2. A reference to Mondale’s meeting with Frei on May 25 and Christopher’s meeting with Almeyda on May 27. (Memorandum of Conversation, May 24, 1977; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 9, Chile, 2-8/77) See Document 194.
  3. In a May 25 briefing memorandum to Christopher regarding the meeting with Cauas, Todman wrote that DINA told U.S. officials that it “had discovered a Socialist/Communist guerrilla plot” and “therefore, DINA had decided on a series of illegal arrests and interrogations. During the past few weeks we have heard stories of suspects being arrested and tortured for as little as a few hours to a few days and then released. We also have confirmations of new ‘disappearances.’” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1976–1977 Human Rights Subject Files and Country Files, Lot 80D177, Box 2, Chile—January-June 1977)
  4. See Document 192.
  5. Todman called these three areas “the three basic defects of the Chilean system which allow security authorities to operate with impunity.” (Todman to Christopher, May 25, National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1976–1977 Human Rights Subject Files and Country Files, Lot 80D177, Box 2, Chile—January-June 1977)
  6. Vance informed Carter of Christopher’s meeting with Cauas in a May 28 memorandum, writing that Christopher “emphasized our readiness to continue a constructive dialogue with the Chilean Government and work toward improvement of their human rights situation.” Vance also wrote that the meetings with Frei and Almeyda “demonstrate our willingness to communicate with all segments of Chile’s body politic.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, box 18, Evening Reports [State], 5/77)