205. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Carter / President Pinochet Bilateral



    • General Augusto Pinochet President of Chile
    • Foreign Minister Carvajal
    • Ambassador Cauas
    • Brig. Gen. Sergio Covarrubias Presidential Chief of Staff
    • Chilean Aide, Rene Vidal
  • U.S.

    • President Carter
    • Vice President Mondale
    • Secretary Vance
    • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
    • Assistant Secretary Todman
    • Robert Pastor, NSC
    • Thomas D. Boyatt, Chargé d’Affaires, Santiago

Peruvian Arms Purchases

Following the amenities, President Carter began the conversation by stating that he had discussed the problem shared by the countries of the area with President Morales Bermudez of Peru.2 The President [Page 617] emphasized U.S. friendship for all the countries and our concern about tension in the Andean region. President Carter said that Morales Bermudez informed him that the governments of Chile and Peru held regular consultations, and Carter was gratified to hear that. He wanted President Pinochet to know that the U.S. was eager and hopeful regarding the absence of conflict and disagreement in the Hemisphere.

President Carter said that Peru had made large arms purchases but that Morales Bermudez had informed him that they have met their security needs. Peru would not make further purchases of military equipment except for purposes of operation and maintenance. He also noted that Ecuador was also concerned about Peru’s arms build-up.

President Pinochet responded by noting the Chilean Government’s concern about Peruvian armaments. Chile was interested in peace; it only purchased enough arms to defend itself. Chile had been friendly to Peru and while this friendship was reciprocated, still Peru continued to buy arms.

President Carter repeated Morales Bermudez’ statement to the effect that Peruvian arms purchases had been completed, adding that Morales Bermudez had also made the same pledge to some U.S. Senators. The President said that Morales Bermudez would probably be glad to repeat such assurances personally to Pinochet.

Pinochet said that Chile had decided to apply its limited resources to economic difficulties rather than arms purchases. Pinochet also analyzed Peruvian numerical superiority in major weapons systems, e.g., 600 Peruvian tanks versus 60 Chilean.

Bolivian Corridor

In response to President Carter’s invitation to discuss the issue of Bolivia’s desire for access to the sea, Pinochet repeated a brief history of the Bolivian Corridor negotiations including: Chile’s 1974 initiative in re-establishing relations with Bolivia (they had been broken for 13 years); Chile’s offer to cede to Bolivia a corridor to the sea through Chilean territory and Bolivia’s agreement to the cession of an equal land area to Chile along their border; the requirement under the 1929 Treaty for Chile to consult Peru regarding territorial changes; the unacceptable counter-offer by Peru of the tripartite administration of a zone on Chilean territory near Arica; and the fact that Peru had not even responded formally to Chile’s request for consultation. In answer to a question by President Carter as to what could be done at this time to increase the chances for a successful resolution of the problem, Pinochet suggested that the U.S. could try to influence the Peruvians to accept the granting of a corridor to Bolivia.

President Carter noted that Morales Bermudez had told him that the next move was up to Chile and Bolivia. The President said that [Page 618] the U.S. had no desire to interfere, but he was searching for a common area. He hoped that the tripartite discussions would result in progress, but he understood that with respect to its proposal regarding a tripartite zone, Peru had introduced a new dimension to the problem. Pinochet said that the Peruvian proposal for tripartite administration of Arica was just a “time-bomb” and must be discarded.

The President asked Pinochet what procedural—as opposed to substantive—suggestions Pinochet might have for progress. Pinochet responded by saying that Chile’s position was that it was up to the Bolivians to take the lead in convincing the Peruvians to accept the deal which was, after all, very much in Bolivia’s interest.

President Carter closed this part of the discussion by saying that he would explore the matter with Bolivian President Banzer and express U.S. hope for a peaceful resolution of the matter.3

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

President Carter then turned to a discussion of hemispheric nuclear policy—Tlatelolco and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The President indicated U.S. interest in having Chile waive its reservations with respect to Tlatelolco and sign the NPT. He asked if it was correct that Pinochet would be willing to let Tlatelolco enter into force if Cuba and Argentina sign and ratify first. Pinochet said that the matter was under active study and that Chile was willing to accept but to sign first would be a mark of weakness, a step he is not prepared to take. With regard to the NPT, Pinochet stated that Chile is way behind Argentina in nuclear development. This creates a difficult situation for Chile. If Chile’s nuclear development progresses sufficiently, Chile would be in a position to sign. But despite some uncomfortable problems over some islands in the South,4 Chile will sign if Argentina does.

President Carter then asked Pinochet if he meant that he would sign simultaneously with the Argentines, to which Pinochet replied yes. President Pinochet agreed that a nuclear-free zone in the Hemisphere—particularly in the Southern Cone—was a very important matter; Chile would sign if Argentina signed, even if Cuba did not sign. President Carter said that the U.S. would encourage Argentina to sign,5 but that it would be helpful if Chile could take the initiative. He said the goal of nuclear fuel supplies is for reactors to produce power, not explosives.

[Page 619]

Human Rights6

President Carter then opened the discussion of human rights, noting it was the only major bilateral problem and he wished to ventilate the matter in a frank and positive way. The President said that he hoped that the charges and allegations regarding deprivations of human rights in Chile could be answered. President Carter took note of the great progress which had been made in prisoner releases, trial procedures and the proclamation of future elections, and a return to democratic government. President Carter said he did not want anything to stand in the way of traditional U.S.-Chilean friendship, and in this regard invited President Pinochet to analyze the Chilean situation to help him understand the situation and eliminate any misunderstanding.

In response Pinochet made the following points:

—The Government of Chile agreed fully with the U.S. on the importance of human rights.

—Chile had passed through a difficult period during which the Marxist-Leninist government had no respect for human rights. Under the Unidad Popular regime citizens were being murdered in broad daylight and the military coup was designed precisely to preserve human rights.

—Since assuming control, his government had found 15,000 foreign mercenaries (Cubans, etc.) and 30,000 hidden imported arms in the country.

—The law being applied is an old one enacted in 1926.

—In the beginning there clearly were abuses—abuses on both sides. Whenever a soldier was killed, the world reacted with silence; when a revolutionary was killed, there was a great hue and cry. In any case, the abuses were in the initial period and things are much calmer now.

—Today there are no political prisoners and many of those convicted are being released under commutation procedures, some exchanging jail sentences for exile. People now in prison are all subject to judicial process under the Chilean court system. In general, Chile has freedom of the press, freedom of thought and freedom of travel. Restrictions remain, but they are to keep the nation from being destroyed. Chile had been torn into pieces and now the government was working for unity.

[Page 620]

—Now the government has taken additional steps—the Intelligence Agency (DINA) which has been criticized so much, has been replaced by an Information Agency (CNI).

—On the legal side, it was important to understand that the judicial system had been permanent. In fact, the Supreme Court President is the same person who has served the past four Chilean Presidents.

—Finally, Pinochet said he was a great admirer of democracy and it was his fondest wish to leave office having built one, but not one liable to attack from underneath as had happened before.

President Carter noted that he had no inclination to disagree with Pinochet’s assessment of the situation in Chile. Yet, in the eyes of the world Chile still had a human rights problem. The President asked for Pinochet’s suggestions on how the problem could be alleviated—how to improve the world perception and demonstrate that the progress was real. He asked if he, the UN or the OAS could help.

Pinochet responded by pointing out that Chile was the victim of a vast and successful Marxist propaganda campaign. However, the country was moving step-by-step toward a new concept of democracy of which Chileans were very proud. Shortly the road would be clear. In the meantime, his suggestion was that everyone should come to Chile to see, as Assistant Secretary Todman had,7 that what is going on inside of Chile is not what they say.

President Carter picked up on the latter point and asked Pinochet to what degree he would permit outside observers. He did not want to interfere but saw outside observation as a way of clearing up the allegations. Would Pinochet permit the UN Commission on Human Rights? Pinochet said that since the UN Human Rights Commission was partial and politicized, it was not the appropriate body. What was needed was some way for the UN to establish rules for inspection which would be applicable to all countries. Chile had suggested to the UN that only two persons go. Their visit should be unannounced and quietly conducted.

President Carter asked if Pinochet would accept two observers sent by the UN without publicity. Pinochet said he would as long as there was no advance publicity and the observers conducted their survey in an impartial manner, but he did not believe that the UN would accept this. President Carter said that he thought that this was a fair procedure. The President said that the problem remains that there has not been recognition of the progress in the human rights area described by Pinochet, and this cannot happen unless an independent inspection [Page 621] occurs. If these observers find something, they should discuss it with Pinochet before making their findings public.

President Carter closed by saying that he hoped to improve relations of friendship between the U.S. and Chile and thanked Pinochet for coming to Washington for the signing of the Panama Canal Treaties.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 9, Chile, 9-12/77. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
  2. A reference to border disputes among Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. See Documents 304 and 22.
  3. See Document 120.
  4. A reference to the dispute between Chile and Argentina over control of three islands in the Beagle Channel, near Cape Horn; for further information see Document 37.
  5. See Document 63.
  6. In an August 31 memorandum to Pastor, Propper requested that Brzezinski or Carter “reiterate to President Pinochet the continuing importance” to the USG “of obtaining the fullest cooperation at the highest levels of the Chilean Government in eliciting information necessary to resolve” the U.S. investigation into the assassination of Letelier. Pastor noted on the memorandum that he discussed this request with Brzezinski, “who said not to touch this matter again.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 9, Chile, 2-8/77)
  7. See Document 203.