197. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US

    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Habib
    • Mrs. van Reigersberg (interpreter)
    • Frances Armstrong (notetaker)

    • Foreign Minister Carvajal
    • Maria Eugenia Oyarzun
    • Sergio Diez
    • Diego Valenzuela

The Secretary began by noting that he appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with the Chilean Foreign Minister. His words of welcome were reciprocated.

The Secretary then moved to the issue of human rights. He said that in his view the heart of the problem between the United States [Page 599] and Chile related to differences over human rights. He noted that he felt he should be completely frank and indicate specific areas which have been the subject of concern for the USG. He mentioned three: 1) the existence of the state of siege, 2) the operation of intelligence organizations, and 3) due process, i.e., the issue of the desaparecidos.2

Carvajal thanked the Secretary for his frankness, commenting that from what the Secretary had said yesterday,3 he believed that there existed a lack of understanding concerning the origin of the human rights problem in Chile. He noted that the Secretary had said terrorism resulted from oppression—that it erupted when people became desperate because of bad social conditions and rebelled against the government. He recognized that the same idea had been expressed yesterday by the Foreign Minister of Venezuela. However, he said he believed that terrorism had been introduced into America from outside the continent—from the Soviet Union. He also insisted that the US had left other countries in the hemisphere without protection from terrorism by pursuing a policy of detente, which left the USSR with its hands free to attack them through ideological penetration, subversion, and terrorism, all of which the Soviets pursue with abundant financial resources.

The Secretary then clarified that he had not intended to suggest in his statement in the informal dialogue that oppression was the only cause of terrorism. He said he had tried to say that if terrorism was met in a way that destroyed human dignity it could lead to more terrorism. He recognized that terrorism existed through other causes and must be dealt with, but he emphasized that no country should respond to terrorism in a way which ignored human rights and actually furthered terrorism.

With regard to detente, the Secretary said that the United States had been seeking to lessen the likelihood of nuclear war—for the benefit of all. He said that the United States considered this a valid objective [Page 600] but that it was not so naive as to think that the Soviet Union no longer presented a threat. The Secretary noted that the United States remained economically and militarily strong and would deter any Soviet advance. He also drew attention to the fact that, in the field of human rights, the United States had shown no hesitation in addressing the Soviets in cases where it felt their action impinged on human rights. He concluded by saying that we had not acted to encourage terrorism throughout the globe while working for detente with the Soviet Union.

The Foreign Minister then explained why his country presented a special case. He said that the terrorism which existed in Chile today was not the result of oppression. Referring to the democratic tradition which Chile had maintained until 1970, he criticized Allende for having violated democratic rights and freedoms after his election. In Carvajal’s terms, Chile’s first failure in the human rights field was to have a government so democratic as to give way to a Marxist president. In his view terrorism came to Chile not through oppression but through a democratic process which was deteriorating. He then commented that the Soviet Union today continues to send tons of arms and munitions to Chile, and that, under these circumstances, it was impossible to deal with the people receiving them in normal ways. He said this was an experience which Uruguay and Argentina shared—all of them being democracies where the people were neither hungry nor oppressed.

Carvajal then indicated his desire to respond to what the Secretary had said at the beginning of their conversation about the state of siege and the operations of intelligence organizations. He said that those means would remain in effect as long as the GOC deemed it necessary to protect the first human rights of Chilean citizens—the right not to be killed by terrorists. He then asked Ambassador Diez to speak with more specificity about their human rights problems.

Ambassador Diez began by saying that the problem of the state of siege could not be viewed solely as a juridical matter. He said that one also had to consider how the government was using its powers in this area. Pointing to the fact that the government’s policy had evolved in keeping with the realities of the political situation, he remarked that the Chilean Government had been very prudent in its use of executive powers. He said that today there is only one person detained in Chile under the state of siege and that, with this one exception, no one has been detained by executive power. All other detainees are in jail under sentences from the judiciary.

Diez then described the two fundamental stages of the state of siege. First was the period under “wartime” military justice, but he noted that nearly all the sentences imposed by the courts under these rules have now been pardoned. (He said that, of some 1400 cases presented for review, the government had rejected only two or three [Page 601] dozen requests for pardon.) Second was the period under “peacetime” military justice (in effect now), which encompasses traditional Chilean law insofar as crimes against the security of the state are concerned. Under this system, the government attorney starts the case under a court martial procedure, but the defendant has the right to prompt appeal to the Supreme Court, which does not have any military judges. Diez concluded that due process was being guaranteed in Chile and that the state of siege was now being used as an instrument to guard the peace rather than to bring more oppression.

Diez suggested that the Secretary might not have a very clear picture of the situation in Chile and that the US Embassy in Santiago could confirm the information he had just relayed.

Diez then returned to the issue of the desaparecidos, which he characterized as one of their most serious problems. He described it also as a phenomenon with two distinct stages of evolution and which was now largely under control. He also offered four reasons for the large number of desaparecidos: (1) the large number of people buried without being identified. (Carvajal said that many died in the continuing confrontation following the change of government in Sept. 1973 and that a substantial number of unidentified persons were buried that year.) (2) The Communist Party’s order to its members to go underground. (3) The undocumented departure from the country of many people going to Argentina and Peru. (4) The fact that members of the extremist political parties frequently had four and five electoral cards apiece and therefore could easily claim that some of their members had disappeared.

Diez admitted that in the climate of hatred which existed in Chile there were undoubtedly some abuses of human rights. However, he also insisted that his government had not been reluctant to punish those guilty of such abuses. He said that while it has not published a list of those punished, it had given a list last year to Mr. Rogers of those tried for abuses.4 He noted that fifty people had been arrested thus far but that the investigation of human rights violations had been made much more difficult by the politicization of the issue. He mentioned the Red Cross had given them a list of 900 persons. He said that the government had investigated the whole list to the extent possible and had given the Red Cross three or four reports.

Diez noted that, in the process, it had found 100 desaparecidos living and working in and out of Chile and had asked for information where names and addresses didn’t match. He emphasized that the Chilean Government was cooperating in looking for a solution to the problem [Page 602] of the desaparecidos and said there were now very few new complaints of desaparecidos. He mentioned one recent case of a false kidnapping, which had been shown to be a plot; it turned out that extremists and not the police kidnapped the people. Diez ended UN discussion of the desaparecidos by saying there was a small part of truth in this grave problem and that his government was working on it.

He said they were worried about reality but that it was a hard situation to handle because of the politics involved.

Carvajal then interjected that he didn’t want to attack the US because it was a country he admired, a country the entire free world should be grateful to for preserving freedom. But he admonished the US to have more understanding of the fact that these are problems which are not easy to solve even if the government wants to. Carvajal then quoted Ambassador Young on the topic of racism. Young had said that the Swedes were the worst racists, that they treated blacks as badly as they do in Queens.5 Carvajal said he didn’t blame the US for racism because there were problems in the United States which were not entirely solved—and which did not need investigation by a commission. He noted there were also problems which appeared in the press and movies and said he had read with great interest of the Mafia in the United States. He acknowledged that the USG has tried to eradicate the mafia—but without success. He suggested that this failure might be seen as an error of omission as the United States has not been able to protect the human rights of the victims of the Mafia, which engages in institutionalized crime. Carvajal repeated that he didn’t wish to attack the United States but simply was asking that the United States show greater understanding of the problems of others. He asked the Secretary to have faith in the fact that the Chilean Government was trying to eradicate abuses of human rights and had plans for a return to full democracy.

The Secretary responded that the United States would try to have understanding and that it had no intention of attacking any other country. He said we had spoken out on human rights because we considered them universal principles, but that we would be the first to admit that we were not perfect. He repeated his pledge to open our territory to investigation by any commission, including the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, if there were violations of human rights in the United States.6

[Page 603]

Carvajal closed by noting that if the United States accepted a visit from the IAHRC, it would be the second country to do so—Chile having been the first.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Vance Personal Files, Lot 80D135, Box 2, OAS meeting June 14–17, 1977 Grenada. Confidential. Drafted by Armstrong; approved by Twaddell on June 29. Vance was in Grenada for the OAS General Assembly meeting.
  2. “Disappeared ones.” In telegram 4815 from Santiago, June 10, the Embassy briefed Vance “on the Chilean scene” and offered comments on the talking points prepared for his meeting with Carvajal: “Carvajal has approved a Chilean position to negotiate human rights improvements with the USG, specifically in the areas of emergency powers and habeas corpus procedures. As far as we know, this policy has not been approved by the junta.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770208-0273)
  3. In his June 14 First Intervention before the OAS General Assembly, Vance said: “The surest way to defeat terrorism is to promote justice in our societies—legal, economic, and social justice. Justice that is summary undermines the future it seeks to promote. It produces only more violence, more victims, and more terrorism. Respect for the rule of law will promote justice and remove the seeds of subversion. Abandoning such respect, governments descend into the netherworld of the terrorist and lose their strongest weapon—their moral integrity.” For the text of his remarks see the Department of State Bulletin, July 18, 1977, pp. 69–72.
  4. Not found.
  5. Young Places Soviets, Swedes in ‘Racist’ Ranks,” Washington Post, May 26, 1977, p. A25.
  6. In his First Intervention, Vance said: “If each member state were to grant the Commission free access to national territory, this body would be able to carry out onsite investigations at times and places of its choosing. My country will grant it this facility from today. We believe that for others to do so as well would reduce misunderstandings and the dissemination of false information.” (Department of State Bulletin, July 18, 1977, pp. 69–72)