251. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Colombia1

211239. Subject: Secretary’s Meetings With Colombian President Turbay and Foreign Minister Uribe.

1. (C–Entire Text)

2. Summary. In bilaterals August 10 in Quito, the Colombian President and Foreign Minister stressed to Secretary Vance the need for a new US-Latin American dialogue at the Presidential and/or Ministerial level. The Secretary promised to get a response to their proposal2 for an invitation to President Carter to meet with Latin American Chiefs of State. In their view the principal problems in Latin America needing more US attention are stabilization of commodity prices and the dra [Page 731] matic increase in regional arms expenditures.3 Turbay and Uribe promised to take on the Cubans vigorously in both the NAM Summit and in the contest for the UN Security Council seat, and they reiterated their plans to assist actively in Nicaragua and Central America.

3. On Tuesday, August 10, Secretary Vance met with Colombian Foreign Minister Diego Uribe for approximately one hour and then proceeded with the Foreign Minister to a luncheon with President Turbay for one hour and a half at the Ambassador’s Residence in Quito. Attending both conversations were Ambassador Vaky, Robert Pastor (NSC) and Ambassador Raymond E. Gonzalez. Mrs. Rosalynn Carter hosted the luncheon.

4. “New Dimension” in Inter-American Relations.

Both Foreign Minister Uribe and President Turbay began their talks with an elaborate description of the state of Inter-American relations. They believe the US has neglected Latin America and has taken it for granted. FonMin Uribe said that Colombia wanted more attention from the US, which seemed to think that the only countries in Latin America were Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. The US has been distracted by events in Africa and the Middle East and by detente and has not given Latin America the attention it deserves. FonMin Uribe said that this lack of attention was evident in two issues. The stabilization of commodity prices and the increase in arms expenditures by Latin American countries. He said that US disinterest in Latin America had led to a failure to develop an effective commodity policy. In addition, while the US has decreased its arms sales to the region, Western European and other countries have dramatically increased theirs. In moving to the same conclusion about the need for a “new dimension” in Inter-American relations, President Turbay discussed the emerging problems in Central America and the Caribbean. Both said that the time for a dialogue between the US and Latin America had arrived, and they asked whether President Carter would respond favorably to a letter of invitation from Latin American leaders to an informal meeting on major issues in Inter-American relations. Secretary Vance promised that he would try to get a response to President Turbay’s question.

5. Secretary Vance pressed FonMin Uribe on what he and his President had in mind with regard to a conference. After much give- [Page 732] and-take, the FonMin said that he thought it should be an informal meeting to discuss a small agenda of two or three items (he suggested trade and arms sales as two possibilities) and should be held in an Andean country perhaps around January. He said that it might be better to have this informal meeting at the Ministerial level. He believed that all the Latin American countries should be included but he did not think that the Caribbean countries should necessarily be invited. President Turbay, however, seemed to suggest that the meeting would be at the Presidential level.

6. UN Security Council.

In response to a question from Mr. Pastor, and later from Mrs. Carter, the Colombians reaffirmed that they are seeking the UN Security Council seat. Secretary Vance promised full US support for Colombia’s efforts, and the Colombians said that they intended to pursue the seat very vigorously with the Africans and with others. They also intended to work on this now; they were aware of the likelihood that Cuba would use the NAM summit to lobby for the seat, and they knew they would have a difficult time.

7. Non-Alignment Movement.

The Colombians said they had reviewed the Cuban draft declaration for the NAM Summit,4 and they disagreed profoundly with it. The Colombians intend to go to Havana to speak for themselves and for the Andean Pact to try to encourage the NAM to become truly non-aligned. The Colombians said that the Cubans are clearly not “non-aligned” and are attempting to steer the entire movement in their direction. Secretary Vance encouraged the Colombians to play an important role in Havana.

8. Nicaragua.

The Colombians agreed with our analysis of the situation in Nicaragua and said that they intended to play an active role individually and with the Andean Pact to assure the success of democratic forces there. Ambassador Vaky encouraged the Colombians to pursue several tracks simultaneously—working to encourage a free press, working through private sector contacts, increasing humanitarian aid, etc. The Colombians agreed.

9. Central America.

The Colombians also agreed with our analysis of this current political situation in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. FonMin Uribe said that we should try to focus on El Salvador first to assure that free elections occur.

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10. Cuba.

In response to a question from Pastor about whether Colombia was increasingly concerned about Cuba’s activities abroad, Colombian FonMin Uribe said that Colombia was indeed concerned, but it was their impression that the Cubans were primarily interested in Africa, and they would be cautious in Central America.

11. Arms Restraint.

The Colombians said that they would work on the arms restraint initiative started by the Mexicans. Uribe was particularly preoccupied with the issue of increased arms expenditures in Latin America.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, 1977–80, Lot 84D241, Vance Exdis Memcons 1979. Confidential; Exdis; Immediate. Drafted by Pastor; cleared by Bremer and in S/S-O; approved by Vaky. Sent for information immediate to Caracas, Guatemala City, La Paz, Lima, Managua, San Salvador, Quito, Tegucigalpa, the Interests Section in Havana, and USUN. Vance was in Quito for the inauguration of Roldos.
  2. In telegram 7902 from Bogota, July 28, Vaky reported that Turbay had asked him “to sound out the White House as to President Carter’s receptivity to receiving a joint letter from a significant group of Latin American chiefs of state inviting him to join with them in a dialogue to give ‘new dimensions’ to our relations.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790344-0205)
  3. In an August 1 memorandum to Brzezinski regarding Vaky’s July conversation with Turbay, Pastor wrote: “we need to focus the dialogue on one specific and one general topic. The specific topic should be: What should the democracies in the Hemisphere do to keep Nicaragua from becoming another Cuba and the rest of Central America from becoming another Nicaragua?” In addition, Pastor wrote: “The general question should be: What should democratic nations do about Cuban expansionism?” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 25, Meetings—PRC 120: 8/1/79)
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXIII, Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean, footnote 7, Document 76.