203. Telegram From the Embassy in Chile to the Department of State1

6703. Subject: Todman Visit: Second Day in Santiago: Call on President Pinochet and Economic Subjects. Ref: Buenos Aires 60162 (Notal).

1. Assistant Secretary Todman and Charge were received by President Pinochet promptly at 5:00 p.m. Foreign Minister Carvajal and Jorge Cauas, Chilean Ambassador to the U.S., also were present. The scheduled one-half hour exchange of views expanded to an hour’s conversation followed by another 20 minutes of talks during a tea hosted by the President.

2. Pinochet began with the standard GOC description of the horrible chaos of the Allende years, the demand by the vast majority of Chileans that the military take over the government to end the “Marxist reign of terror,” and the need for tough measures as a reaction against the threat of urban guerilla warfare if not full civil war. Pinochet underlined that while many other countries in Latin America and the world were subjected to a situation in which private citizens, government officials and the left-wing political opposition were all being killed, Chile was an island of tranquility in which 99.9 percent of the citizens went about their business in safety and without complaint.

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3. Following the usual pattern, Pinochet’s hard-nosed beginning was succeeded by more tempered comments. He lamented the unrelenting propaganda campaign against the GOC by the Soviets and all other marxist elements, noting that in fact the Chilean reality was much better than its international image. Pinochet said that it was precisely because of the disparity between the image (totalitarian regime) and the reality (a process of normalization) that he welcomed visits such as Ambassador Todman’s. He also discussed at some length the social programs (health, education and housing) which were being successfully carried through under his administration.

4. Assistant Secretary Todman emphasized that the purpose of his trip was to learn. He had come to meet and converse with a variety of Chileans in all areas of Chilean life. He was happy to report that he had been able to do so with results he felt would contribute to increased comprehension in each country of the tour.3 Todman assured Pinochet that the USG was not interested in overthrowing any government or intervening in the political life of any nation.

5. Ambassador Todman stated that, while the USG did not wish to dictate or impose, he wanted President Pinochet and the GOC to understand that human rights was the centerpiece of the Carter administration’s foreign policy. In this sense US policy would be to encourage a process in all countries (including the US) of furtherance of human rights in three dimensions; that of protection of the person; that of a decent standard of living (including economic, health and education), and that of participation in the political life of a country.

6. Ambassador Todman noted with approval the news (announced a few hours previously) that the directorate of national intelligence4 was a positive move in the right direction and queried Pinochet as to what further steps the GOC contemplated in returning to a normal situation. Dramatic move such as reducing or abolishing state of siege or commuting sentences of Carlos Lazo and Erich Schnake5 could have important effect in conveying that real improvements are being made.

7. Pinochet responded by saying DINA had been dissolved because it had served its purpose. Rather than reacting to terrorists after citizens [Page 614] had been killed, DINA had broken up the left-wing killer groups. He said he thought that there was still some danger of a resurgence of terrorist activity and that therefore he was determined to move carefully on the state of siege. With an amused smile, President Pinochet said he had been considering reducing the state of siege but that Ambassador Todman’s visit had made it impossible since to do so would appear to be knuckling to international pressure. Following disclaimers Pinochet said that he was considering reducing the state of siege further and alleviating the curfew.

8. In response to Assistant Secretary Todman’s question about Pinochet’s plan for eventual elections, the latter noted that a return to normality was not a return to the past. The Armed Forces would never accept the reestablishment of the former “Politiqueria” (corruption plus log-rolling). On timing, Pinochet said (not very convincingly) that he could leave now but that the system would be the same. The return to elective politics should be carefully orchestrated in order to avoid being premature. He cited the revolving door military-civilian-military governments of Argentine and Ecuador as examples of the danger of too much haste.

9. Comment. The tone of the conversation throughout was one of frank and cordial dialogue. As noted previously, Pinochet appreciates directness. We judge that Assistant Secretary Todman’s call on Pinochet will contribute to sustaining momentum toward achievement of additional U.S. human rights objectives in Chile.


[Omitted here is a discussion of economic subjects]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770295-1167. Confidential; Niact Immediate. Sent for information to Asuncion, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, La Paz, Lima, Montevideo, and Quito.
  2. Not found.
  3. Todman also visited Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil.
  4. In telegram 6642 from Santiago, August 12, the Embassy reported that the GOC had abolished DINA and created the National Information Center (CNI). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770291-0576)
  5. Lazo was executive vice president of the Chilean central bank and Schnake was a senator during the Allende presidency. Both were members of the Central Committee of the Chilean Socialist Party and were imprisoned after the 1973 coup. (Telegram 13662 from Paris, May 9, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770162-1160; Telegram 4510 from Santiago, May 13, 1976, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760185-0581)