320. Letter From President Carter to Uruguayan President Mendez1

Dear Mr. President:

It was a pleasure to have had a chance to exchange views with you on the occasion of the signing of the Panama Canal Treaties.2 I particularly appreciated your gesture in coming to show your support for the new Canal treaties at this historic moment.

Historically the United States-Uruguayan relationship has been a close one and I want to reestablish it on a sound basis. I hope that our conversation will prove an important step in that direction. We recognize that Uruguay has faced difficult times, and we value your friendship. I fully share your view that it is difficult to conceive of a country without democracy or of man without freedom of expression, and I earnestly hope that Uruguay will soon reassume its cherished position of leadership in the fulfillment of these ideals.

As I told you, however, the allegations of human rights violations now make it most difficult to sustain past relationships. I was heartened by your assurance that action will be taken against any official violating the rights of an individual. Your commitment to remove the special security authority, possibly by the end of this year, and your government’s organization of a new information commission to give prompt and responsive answers to those asking for information about prisoners [Page 911] are encouraging developments.3 We hope that the information commission will work closely with our Embassy.

Frankly, I must reemphasize the importance to Uruguay’s image abroad of permitting a visit by the kind of respected international commission that could make public an objective report of its findings in the area of human rights. Uruguay’s image here and elsewhere can only be changed by public awareness of your government’s actions to protect human rights in Uruguay more effectively. As you are surely aware, a number of members of the Organization of American States have recently agreed to accept a visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. I know you have reservations (which I do not share) regarding this particular Commission, but there are other organizations that could help in the process as well.4

Meanwhile, I have very much in mind your invitation to me to send any person or group to Uruguay and your assurance that they would be given complete freedom of movement and freedom to talk with anyone they might wish. We will be responding shortly to your invitation through your Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I was glad to learn that representatives from your government have already met with Treasury Department officials and have reached agreement on the problem of Uruguayan leather goods exports to the United States.5

May I say again that it was a pleasure to meet you. Our conversation was a great help to me and I trust that you will let me know, either [Page 912] through Ambassador Pezzullo or directly, if there is some matter you wish to bring to my personal attention.6


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 21, Uruguay: President Aparicio Mendez Manfredini, 8/77-3/78. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 319.
  3. In telegram 242671 to Montevideo, October 8, the Department reported that Christopher had told Rovira that the Carter-Mendez meeting had “raised our expectations that a number of specific actions will shortly be taken by the GOU, including removal of the special security authority, invitations to prominent individuals to visit and establishment of the information commission.” Rovira responded “that the special security measures applied only to a special category of prisoners, but that there are no political prisoners in Uruguay, only common criminals. The information commission, he observed, was already functioning.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770369-0172)
  4. In telegram 250368 to Montevideo, October 19, the Department reported on efforts by the ILHR to coordinate a visit by independent observers to Uruguay. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770383-1121) In telegram 5114 from Montevideo, November 1, the Embassy assessed the benefits and drawbacks of such a group. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770402-0006)
  5. In telegram 253422 to Montevideo, October 21, the Department reported on the terms of an agreement between the GOU and the Department of the Treasury for a waiver of countervailing duties on Uruguayan leather goods. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770388-0225)
  6. In telegram 5279 from Montevideo, November 10, the Embassy transmitted a translation of Mendez’s response to this letter. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770416-0119)