290. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Carter/President Stroessner Bilateral



    • General Alfredo Stroessner, President of Paraguay
    • Alberto Nogues, Foreign Minister of Paraguay
    • Ambassador Mario Lopez Escobar
    • Ambassador Conrado Pappalardo
    • Col. Raul Calvet
    • Dr. Victor Boettner (interpreter)
  • US

    • President Carter
    • Vice President Mondale (part-time)
    • Secretary Vance
    • Assistant Secretary Todman
    • Robert Pastor, NSC
    • Ambassador George W. Landau

President Carter expressed his gratitude that President Stroessner was able to attend the Panama Canal Treaty ceremonies.

President Stroessner thanked him for the invitation and said it had been accepted with pleasure. He and his people were friends of the United States. He spoke admiringly of U.S. advances in technology and research, having witnessed the launching of Voyager I at Cape Canaveral on his way to Washington. President Carter gave him a book containing 400 satellite pictures of the earth taken from space as well as his own book. President Stroessner expressed his gratitude for the courtesies extended to him by NASA at Cape Canaveral. President Carter suggested that President Stroessner visit the Museum of Space and Technology while in Washington. (This was done September 7.)

Turning to the Panama Canal Treaty, President Carter said that the signing ceremonies would be a great step in improving relations with all our neighbors. Negotiations have been going on for 14 years and he was thankful that President Stroessner and other leaders came to witness the conclusion. President Stroessner said that he had left important domestic business to come to Washington. At this time, he said, the Colorado Party Convention was preparing for general election next February. The signing of the Treaty was more important however and that is why he came. President Stroessner continued that he wanted to be at the side of the US at this time as Paraguay was during the [Page 831] Dominican Republic conflict,2 when Paraguay furnished a detachment of 330 soldiers in a show of solidarity with the U.S.

President Carter said that the historical friendship between the two countries has been very valuable and that this meeting was devoted principally to identifying and solving any differences between the two countries. Paraguay, he said, had supported the United States on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and had given support in many other areas for which the U.S. is grateful. The only problem he was aware of at this time is that of human rights. President Carter said he understood that some prisoners had been released and there have been improvements, but, nevertheless, the question of human rights remained a problem with Congress and our people. Maybe this was caused by misunderstandings. Could President Stroessner outline the situation for him? President Carter went on to say that Ambassador Lopez Escobar had told him earlier that the IAHRC would be permitted to go to Paraguay. Maybe President Stroessner could outline his position on this matter.

President Stroessner related that Paraguay had been in turmoil for many years and in 1947 had a six months Communist-inspired revolution. This Communist aggression, the first one in Latin America, damaged the country not only politically but also economically. Following the 1947 revolution Paraguay had 8 Presidents in 7 years, one of whom did not even last through the month of February. When he took over in 1954 and was duly elected, he was afraid he might not last very long either. Since then the country has progressed economically, exports have increased ten-fold, the currency is stable, and monetary reserves are at an all time high. Paraguay does not buy arms, he declared emphatically. It has dedicated itself to rebuilding the economy. Whatever military equipment Paraguay receives has come as gifts from the United States, from Argentina and from Brazil. He referred briefly to the Chaco War (1932–1935) when Bolivia invaded Paraguay and was defeated.

He stressed that U.S. citizens were welcome in Paraguay. They have no problems and there have been no incidents with U.S. citizens. The country was developing rapidly. Itaipu, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, was being constructed. Another dam to be built in cooperation with Argentina was on the drawing board. Democratic institutions exist in Paraguay and the country has a democratic government, a situation which does not exist in neighboring countries like Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil.

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He said Paraguay respected human rights and that Paraguay was not a police state. Opposition parties are allowed but not totalitarian (Communist) parties. Right now Paraguay is in a pre-election period. The campaign is starting; general elections will be held next February. He asked President Carter to send a special representative to observe electoral procedures and to confirm that elections were free.3 President Stroessner said that now was not the right moment to permit an IAHRC visit. It was not good politically during the election campaign. Afterwards there would be no problem. President Carter asked for the date of the elections. President Stroessner said they would be in February. He said he hoped President Carter would understand that a visit during the electoral campaign would be misrepresented and used against the government. Havana and Moscow beamed special hate programs into Paraguay. Large campaigns against Paraguay are mounted, accusations of genocide and drug dealings are bandied around. He reiterated that he was not opposed to a visit by the IAHRC, but this now was simply not the right time for it to come.

President Stroessner said he understood that loans for Paraguay would be suspended and asked President Carter to please not restrict loans because this would cut down all that Paraguay was trying to achieve in the development field. He said Paraguay respected human rights and asserted no one was being killed. It is not like in neighboring countries where people are being killed every day and where they have terrorists. Frequent changes in governments in neighboring countries have brought about instability and terrorism.

President Carter said this explanation was convincing but that Congress and our news media feel that there exist human rights violations in Paraguay. He understood that major opposition parties are not allowed to campaign, that prisoners are being held without trial. President Carter said that he had no way to know whether this was true or not and he needed confirmation that these rumors were untrue. He said he understood that there was a timing problem with the IAHRC visit and we could honor the time schedule but until there was an invitation, problems with loans would continue. He said that it might be possible for one of our representatives of the Human Rights Office of the Department of State to meet with whomever you designate or to come and discuss this matter in Paraguay. He said the USG had no interest in interfering in Paraguayan affairs, but the existing rumors of human rights violations have affected US/GOP relations.

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President Stroessner admitted that some people have been imprisoned but asserted that they were subversives. They were being tried right now. Moreover, the opposition can speak out freely.

President Carter said he was sure that the State Department was fair in it evaluation and it might be useful if President Stroessner could work out a way with Ambassador Todman which would remove the problem between the two countries. He said he was proud of the historical relationship with Paraguay and he wanted to preserve it.

President Stroessner said that neighboring governments wanted to imitate Paraguay and that Banzer, Pinochet, and Videla wanted this form of sovereignty but they could not imitate him because they did not have elected governments. He said that Paraguay did not even have a police force. The people themselves assured that law and order were kept. President Stroessner reiterated his firm stand against Communism.

President Carter said that he had no intention to interfere in Paraguayan affairs and he hoped that the Paraguayan government could work out a satisfactory formula with Todman. This could be done quietly, he said. President Carter said he hoped he could go to Congress and tell them that the question of human rights violations was false and that the problem between the two countries had been solved.

President Stroessner assured President Carter that he was only interested in progress and peace and that his main concern was for the welfare of the two countries. His government was popular. Congress worked normally and was allowed to talk freely.

President Carter thanked him for his explanation and said again that the historic friendship between the two people must be perserved. The US was eager to remove problems, therefore, he thought this frank discussion of the problem had been valuable.

President Stroessner reiterated his request that a representative come from the US to observe the elections and asked again that loan applications not be restricted. He said he referred to bilateral loans, IDB and other loans, because these requirements cause tremendous damage.

In closing he said he wanted to make sure that President Carter understood that although he (Stroessner) had been President for a long time he had not moved a finger to be re-elected. It was an honor to be President, he said, but it was also a great burden. However, he could not let his countrymen down because people believed that if he bowed out everything that had been built up would fall apart. It was the people’s wish that he stay.

As the two Presidents were departing, President Stroessner made two requests: one for an engineering batallion for road building pur [Page 834] poses and one for credits for two DC-8s for a Paraguayan commercial airline. President Carter did not comment regarding the engineering batallion; with regard to the DC-8s, he asked whether these would be commercial sales and when answered that they were, the President said that he didn’t think the sale would present any problems.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Box 43, Paraguay, 3/77-2/80. Confidential. The meeting took place in the White House.
  2. For the Dominican Republic in 1965, see Foreign Relations, 1964–68, vol. XXXII, Dominican Republic; Cuba; Haiti; Guyana.
  3. See Document 294.