327. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • U.S.-Uruguayan Relations; Political Situation In South America (C)


  • David Aaron, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Thomas P. Thornton, Staff Member, National Security Council
  • Lt. Gen. Luis Queirolo, Uruguayan Army Chief
  • Areco Jorge Pacheco,2 Uruguayan Ambassador to the United States

David Aaron opened by noting that we were pleased with the release of prisoners and the establishment of a political timetable and hoped that movement would continue so that US-Uruguayan relations could be further strengthened.3 He then asked several questions about the political situation in Uruguay. General Queirolo responded with a general description of the timetable for political normalization, the state of the parties, the dangers of reinstating the Frente Amplio, and the need for new political figures to come to the fore.4 (Queirolo amended this to say that some of the old figures might return; Pacheco’s expression remained pained. Pacheco wa s silent throughout the meeting.) (C)

The conversation then turned to the Soviet role in Brazil and Argentina. Queirolo observed (speaking personally) that the main issue was Chile vs. Argentina with the former turning to China and the latter to the USSR. Brazil was trying to draw closer to5 Argentina but its concerns were totally different, directed among other things to Africa, where [Page 932] Brazil hoped to pick up Portugal’s mantle. Queirolo emphasized his concern about the Beagle Channel dispute, asserting that it could open a chain reaction of border issues (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil’s interest in the Pacific).6 It would give the Soviets a means of diverting attention away from Iran/Afghanistan and would affect Uruguay. Specifically, Uruguay has been an element of balance between Brazil and Argentina but because of its location could end up being a base of operations for “some countries.” (C)

Mr. Aaron responded that we had tended not to take such an alarmist view of the Beagle Channel dispute and have tried to be not involved. Perhaps we should be giving it more attention. (C)

General Queirolo returned to the subject of Uruguayan politics. He told Aaron that the political transformation would be done and it would be done well. The U.S. could be most helpful by leaving Uruguay alone. Aaron responded that he understood and the U.S. would “try to stay off your back.” The U.S. has confidence and is impressed by what General Queirolo and other leaders have accomplished in Uruguay. Queriolo concluded the discussion by saying that, despite some bilateral problems, Uruguay is proud of its friendship with the U.S. It has nowhere to turn but to its membership in the Western world and looks to the U.S. to exercise leadership. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron, Box 52, Uruguay. Confidential. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Thornton, Country Files, Box 97, Uruguay, 1/78-9/80) The meeting took place in Aaron’s office. Copies were to be sent to Aaron, Pastor, Eaton, Davis, Kramer, and Embassy Montevideo, but Aaron crossed out all names for distribution other than his own and wrote “NO” next to them. A draft of this document was forwarded to Aaron under a July 8 covering memorandum from Thornton.
  2. Jorge Pacheco Areco.
  3. In a July 3 memo to Aaron, Thornton noted, “There are still about 1,300 such prisoners.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 78, Uruguay, 1/77-1/81)
  4. In his July 8 meeting with Christopher, Quierolo described the Uruguayan plan for a new constitution and elections in more detail, and Christopher “said this sounded like a good plan.” (Telegram 182912 to Montevideo, July 11; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800333-0408)
  5. Aaron crossed out the phrase “draw closer to” and wrote in “balance” in the right-hand margin. In a July 8 memorandum to Aaron, Thornton wrote, “Take a particular look at the line on Brazilian aspirations. That rather slipped by me and you may have understood better than I what he meant.” See footnote 1.
  6. For border disputes including the Beagle Channel issue, see the Regional chapter.