326. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Uruguay1

262389. Subject: Foreign Minister’s Meeting With the Deputy Secretary

1. (C–Entire Text).

2. The Deputy Secretary met with Uruguayan Foreign Minister Folle Martinez during the afternoon of October 4. Also present were Carlos Giambruno, Uruguayan Director of Political Affairs, and the Uruguayan Ambassador to the US Perez Caldas. On the US side the meeting was attended by Ambassador Lyle Lane, DAS Samuel Eaton, Claus Ruser, Director of ARA/ECA and Timothy Brown, OIC, Uruguay. Topics discussed included UNGA, Cuba and President Carter’s recent address to the nation, Nicaragua, human rights in Uruguay, trade, and Paraguay.

3. In response to a question from the Deputy Secretary, Foreign Minister Folle responded that Uruguay will support the Colombian candidacy for the Security Council, as will most other hemispheric delegations, excepting a select few from the Caribbean and Central [Page 929] America. They expect Cuba to take the issue to the General Assembly, thus dividing the LA position for the first time. They cannot anticipate how it will come out there.

4. On President Carter’s speech, the Foreign Minister contrasted it with that of Cuban Premier Castro,2 and underlined the serious concern his own government has with the presence of Soviet troops in the Caribbean. The Deputy Secretary underlined President Carter’s commitment to come to the aid of any country in the hemisphere which feels threatened by either Soviet or Cuban activities. The Foreign Minister responded that, after the speech of Comandante Ortega of Nicaragua, there seems to be little reason for optimism even though he had heard that the original was even stronger and had been toned down at the suggestion of the Costa Rican and Panamanian delegations. The Minister had also spoken with his Guatemalan and Honduran colleagues, and both were very worried.

5. The Deputy Secretary mentioned that we were pleased with progress being made in Uruguay on reducing detentions and new arrests, and asked how the new constitution will work. Folle responded that, since his 1978 visit,3 normalization has proceeded on schedule. A new constitution is going forward, as developed under military established guidelines. All the Ministers have now commented on the draft, which will now go to the Council of State and, subsequently, be submitted to a plebiscite. The intention is to establish a presidential system modeled on the present French Constitution. A draft political parties statute is also being written, and both will come into force before general elections scheduled for November of 198[1].

6. The Deputy Secretary then asked whether habeas corpus exists in Uruguay. The Minister responded in the affirmative but conceded that it is suspended under current abnormal emergency security measures. It will be reestablished under the Constitution. In response to a further question the Minister then noted that the GOU had recently invited members of the Diplomatic Corps to visit the two main prisons, and individual prisoners, and that this had proven successful.4 An [Page 930] agreement was also signed today (October 4) with the Red Cross to renew prisoner visits.5

7. There was then a discussion of trade and economic problems. Folle expressed pessimism for Uruguay and Latin America, particularly after Unctad V., and noted the problem trade barriers cause for Uruguayan exports, especially leather goods, meat and textiles to the EC Nine. Hopefully similar problems with the US over CVDS have been resolved. The Uruguayan economy was described by the Minister as fairly strong and he noted that Uruguay has an excellent international credit rating. However, oil prices are causing serious problems as Uruguay must import all it consumes. Experiments are underway with gasohol and the use of peat deposits, and hydroelectric energy is being developed. The Deputy Secretary agreed that petroleum prices are seriously distorting trade, and are negatively affecting most nations including the US. The Minister noted that, thankfully, Uruguay has at least been able to assure supplies through 1980, from Nigeria, Iraq, and Venezuela.

8. The Deputy Secretary thanked the Foreign Minister for calling and expressed his appreciation for their relaxed exchange of views. He then invited Folle to raise any topics that might be of special concern to him. The Minister responded that he, and his colleagues from Argentina and Chile, were especially concerned with prospects that the Nicaraguan example could infect Paraguay with terrorism. He said this was a general worry of those in the Southern Cone. The Deputy Secretary agreed that some aspects of the Nicaraguan situation are worrisome, but noted that special circumstances produced the upheaval in that country and pointed out that we are trying to encourage a moderate evolution of the current situation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790458-1018. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Brown; cleared by Ruser, Eaton, and in D; approved by Eaton.
  2. Carter’s October 1 speech addressed the Soviet military presence in Cuba. (Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book II, pp. 1802–1806) The speech is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 129. On October 3, Castro addressed the UNGA. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXIII, Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean, footnote 3, Document 80.
  3. Folle met with Christopher on October 3 and Vaky on October 4, 1978. (Telegram 255684 to Montevideo, October 7, 1978; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780411-0794) (Telegram 255509 to Montevideo, October 7, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780410-0152)
  4. Along with the chiefs of 26 other diplomatic missions, Cheek visited two Uruguayan prisons and met with six prisoners on August 30 and 31. (Telegram 3287 from Montevideo, September 7, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790411-0583)
  5. In telegram 3734 from Montevideo, October 10, the Embassy noted that it was “surprised” at this statement. After checking with Uruguayan officials, the Embassy reported that an ICRC official was in Geneva where he was “clearing proposed final agreement with ICRC headquarters,” and that the GOU “assumed that contacts would be resumed within a week to 10 days.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790466-1145) The ICRC and the GOU severed relations in early 1976. (Telegram 1486 from Montevideo, May 5, 1978; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780192-0714)