21. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Tarnoff) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • Follow-up to President Carter’s Pan American Day Speech and Mrs. Carter’s Trip.

The attached Memorandum was prepared on an inter-agency basis under the chairmanship of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs in response to various National Security Council requests.

The Memorandum provides:

—an assessment of what we have accomplished so far;

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—the approach we propose to further our objectives in major policy areas;

—the status of key program elements in each area; and

—certain issues on which we would particularly welcome the President’s further guidance.

To make the report as manageable as possible, major issues are highlighted in the Memorandum itself, with additional detail in individual tabs.2

Peter Tarnoff
Executive Secretary


Memorandum Prepared in the Department of State 3


Initial Assessment and Follow-up Strategy.

A precedent-setting OAS General Assembly and Mrs. Carter’s success have confirmed the new directions the President set forth on Pan American Day.

We now have hard evidence that human rights concerns have genuine support in Latin America—from a number of governments as well as from many ordinary citizens.

To consolidate that support will require sustained action and progress on some intractable underlying issues.

This memorandum reviews our evolving strategy to give practical effect to the President’s statements, summarizes activities underway on major issues, and requests policy guidance on some key choices.

The OAS General Assembly

At Grenada in June:

—A new issue—human rights—dominated debate.

—After years of fighting alone on major issues against a united front of other members, this time half of Latin America, including the entire Caribbean, lined up with us.

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—Our key resolution, which commended the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and proposed steps to facilitate its work, passed undiluted with the backing of thirteen other governments.

The politics of success were delicate.

—Our coalition was difficult to assemble. The Secretary of State met with eighteen Foreign Ministers. Our USOAS delegation had to work well and hard to the last.

—Opposition was strong and concentrated. Led by Uruguay and Chile, and behind the scenes by Brazil, the Southern Cone was backed by most Central American states, and fell only two votes short of blocking our resolution.

—Mrs. Carter’s trip was almost certainly decisive in obtaining the support from Peru and Ecuador that proved critical.

Latin American solidarity has broken over the human rights issue. But there are disadvantages as well as advantages:

—The unconvinced, Brazil and Argentina in particular, have the power to hamper us in important ways.

—Our human rights policy cannot be fully successful unless we succeed in reaching countries where major abuses exist. This will take time, skill, persistence and patience.

Our conclusion is that we have made a major step forward in obtaining regional support for human rights. The direction is set, and set well. But we still have a long way to go. We must now keep our coalition together and find ways of broadening it.

The Months Ahead

The support we received for the aspect of human rights we stress most—individual freedom—came from conviction. This conviction, however, included the expectation we would also support the aspect of human rights emphasized most in Latin culture—socio-economic well being.

The Grenada Assembly put us clearly on notice that we cannot escape the economic dimensions of human rights. Our resolution on protecting the sanctity of the person received one vote more than an absolute majority—but a Colombian resolution calling for promotion of human rights through economic cooperation was carried by acclamation.

Giving substance to the President’s new directions from now on will require action more than rhetoric. Progress on economic issues will be critical to allay fears that we are defining human rights narrowly to divert attention from basic North-South issues of growth and equity.

Starting from a far lower base than we do, and less able to cope with escalating oil and other import costs, many nations of Latin Amer[Page 81]ica face a cruel choice between cutting deeply into economic growth—and thus the social change it facilitates—and incurring increasingly heavy external debt to sustain more moderate growth levels. Like most other developing countries, they are not looking for handouts, but for ways to develop effectively and in an ultimately self-sustaining fashion.

In moving ahead, we cannot return to a “special relationship” with Latin America. Rather, we must apply global policies with the kind of attention, effort and individual sensitivity that will enable us to sustain our current hemispheric coalition and give us some meaningful chance for progress with the others.

Promoting Human Rights

The development and application of our global human rights policy, now under review in PRM–28,4 is a case in point. One of its major dilemmas is sharply defined in this hemisphere. It is:

How can we promote human rights in those countries whose governments have poor human rights records?5

Attitudes toward this issue are as complex and sensitive as the issue itself. In fact, the issue presents a recurring dilemma more than a general policy choice, for country specific criteria and interests other than human rights have to be weighed each time we move from abstract premises to decisions on particular cases.

The President should be aware, however, that two aspects of this issue have recently aroused considerable debate and have serious implications for how many Latin American governments will evaluate and react to our initiatives on human rights.

—The first is how to help meet basic human needs without endorsing a government’s repressive practices. We have to be careful not to appear to be so rigid on political rights that we appear to deny pressing socio-economic rights.

—The second is how to use available executive discretion on military relationships, and specifically whether to reduce further our already declining military ties in countries where repressive military regimes are in power. The pivotal role of military officers and the uniformed services in the domestic and foreign affairs of most Latin American countries—and our own interest in regional peace and coop[Page 82]eration—make the necessary introduction of human rights concerns into our military relationships a particularly sensitive issue.

In sum, just as we must seek to balance political and socio-economic human rights, so we must weigh the appearance of implicit support for repressive military acts against the possibility of influencing military institutions on a wide range of matters, perhaps including human rights as well as regional tensions.

These two issues highlight a more general problem. We have found it easier thus far to deny assistance on human rights grounds than to provide it. Clearly, we increasingly need to find ways of engaging individual countries, including both governments and private groups, in positive activities that recognize good performance and stimulate improvements in human rights conditions.

In the weeks and months ahead we intend to explore ways in which all available policy instruments can be used, in all countries, to actively promote our fundamental commitment to human rights and peace. We need carrots as well as sticks for the long haul ahead.

We believe this approach is the surest way to achieve our objectives and would welcome the President’s thoughts on this matter as we move into a more active phase.

Action Areas

Tabs 1 through 10, prepared on the basis of extensive inter-agency deliberations, summarize our approach and action program by issue.

In addition to specific comments the President may wish to make on individual items in the tabs, his sense of priorities—and in some cases guidance—would be particularly useful to us on the following:

I. Consultations (Tab 1)

In this critical area, we are acting to:

A. Embark upon a major program of visits by senior officials to Latin America; and

B. Establish an inter-agency coordinating procedure, under the Department of State, to assure that these visits and contacts are mutually supportive of overall Administration policy objectives.

II. Human Rights (Tab 2)

Assistant Secretary Todman cabled basic guidance to all our Embassies in Latin America on June 17.6 Human Rights Evaluation Reports, [Page 83] spelling out short and long term strategies for every Latin American country, are in preparation.

We are acting now to:

A. Use our voice and vote in the international financial institutions in support of human rights objectives.

B. Strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, possibly including visits to Paraguay, Haiti, and other countries—and to the U.S.

C. Intensify consultations with like-minded hemispheric states on means to improve compliance in offending states.

D. Explain, and mobilize support for, our human rights policy among religious, business, professional and ethnic communities in the U.S.

III. Economic Issues (Tab 3)

In this key area, we plan to:

A. Urge agencies to continue to use every appropriate occasion to press both developed and developing countries to adopt forthcoming postures on trade issues in the MTN.

B. Assure that Administration studies now underway on assistance policy, IMF facilities and international financial institutions7 clearly focus on two questions essential to our relations with the LDCs:

—the extent to which the U.S. should provide, or support, more “fast disbursing, balance of payments assistance” and which bilateral or multilateral instruments we should use for this purpose.

—the desirability of more flexible criteria and conditions on the part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in using its facilities, particularly the anticipated $10 billion new Witteveen facility,8 in assisting developing and other countries with balance of payments difficulties.

IV. Cultural Affairs (Tab 4)

We strongly recommend that the President approve in principle the development of a significantly expanded high-visibility cultural exchange program reflecting our emphases on human rights and on the role of the individual citizen in foreign affairs. This effort would require a supplemental appropriation for FY–78 (of $6 to 7 million), [Page 84] and sustained increased funding in future years. If the President agrees, we would conduct further feasibility analyses and prepare submissions for OMB review.

V. Science and Technology (Tab 5)

We recommend that the President consider an expanded S&T program for Latin America. Some of the benefits are long range, possibly difficult to justify to the Congress and relatively expensive; nevertheless, they are of considerable interest and potential usefulness. Our top priorities, described in more detail in Tab 5, are:

—A Technology Cooperation Package ($10–20 million per year)

—Remote Sensing Projects ($15–20 million per year)

—Advance Communications Technology ($20–25 million per year)

The President’s general guidance on priorities and possible funding would allow us to develop further feasibility analyses and prepare submissions for OMB review.

VI. Other Major Issues

Additional topics for review and guidance include:
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Tab 6
Conventional Security Issues Tab 7
Terrorism Tab 8
Narcotics Tab 9

Finally, Tab 10 gives a status report on those items raised with Mrs. Carter not covered elsewhere.

Follow-up Procedures

We have established inter-agency working groups to ensure that the initiatives taken in support of your April 14 speech are developed and implemented in a coordinated manner. We will when necessary provide reports on progress achieved and decisions required on individual issues. Reports already planned or requested are listed in the tabs.

We are also beginning reviews of policy toward two major subregional areas.

(1) The Caribbean—where sound development initiatives are required to promote human rights, sustain democracy, and help manage the mini-state problem; and

(2) The Southern Cone—whose countries are of fundamental importance to us on human rights and nuclear transfer issues and in the regional balance generally.

In summary, we have taken the initiative in Latin America. And the inter-agency participation in the follow-up process (listed in [Page 85] Tab 11) demonstrates that we are beginning to coordinate in ways that will sustain the momentum.9

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Freedom of Information/Legal, Box 25, Latin America, 2/68–12/78. Confidential. Pastor forwarded the memorandum and attachment under a July 20 covering memorandum to Thornton, Tuchman, Denend, Hormats, and Huberman. (Ibid.)
  2. Attached but not printed are Tabs 1–11.
  3. Confidential.
  4. In an undated note on Pastor’s July 20 memorandum, Tuchman wrote, “PRM–28 is not completed. Many of the things asserted in this memo are under discussion but have not been resolved in PRM–28.” (Ibid.) PRM–28 is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. II, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Document 46.
  5. Tuchman crossed out the word “promote” and inserted the phrase “achieve USG objectives with respect to” in its place.
  6. Telegram 141243 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, June 17. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770218–1071)
  7. For the Carter Administration’s review of foreign aid options, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. III, Foreign Economic Policy, Documents 277279 and 282.
  8. Named after IMF Managing Director H. Johannes Witteveen, the facility constituted a special fund to provide economic assistance to oil-importing nations and became operative in 1979.
  9. Pastor forwarded a summary of this memorandum under an August 15 covering memorandum to Brzezinski. In an August 19 memorandum, Gates advised Pastor to revise the summary. An NSC routing slip indicates that Pastor declared the summary OBE on September 12. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 29, Mrs. Carter, Latin America and the Caribbean, 5/30–6/13/77: 3/24/77–6/16/77)