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

266933. Subject: Christopher/Folle Meeting October 1

1. Confidential (entire text).

2. Summary: Deputy Secretary Christopher urged full public debate and wide participation as Uruguay moves back to democratic government. He expressed hope that prisoner releases would continue. With [Page 933] recent incident and reports in mind, Christopher got from Foreign Minister Folle an acknowledgement that contacts of USG officials with opposition elements are normal and proper.2 Folle, while not disagreeing with our assessment of events in Bolivia, voiced fear that nonrecognition of new regime would push it “in another direction”.3 Other topics included Paraguay, Mexico, Central America and Uruguay’s oil dependence. End summary.

3. Deputy Secretary Christopher met with Foreign Minister Folle for 30 minutes October 1. Others present were Ambassador Pacheco, Foreign Ministry Official Jorge Posadas, DAS Bushnell, Dworkin, Service, and interpreter.

4. Internal political evolution. Folle said plans for constitutional plebiscite this November and elections a year later are progressing well, that there is already a lively and extensive debate and that GOU leaders have been meeting with a wide range of interest groups. Work is proceeding on the new statute for political parties. After first saying that the proscriptions might be lifted on all politicians, he added the caveat “except for those involved in sedition and recent events.” He did not elaborate. Christopher expressed the hope that GOU policies would permit the widest possible political participation. He said he was pleased at the assurances about the GOU’s commitment to democracy. Christopher recalled his recent meeting with General Queirolo and said he had been impressed with his sincerity and democratic conviction.4

5. Releases of prisoners. Christopher raised this issue noting there has been some progress and urging more. Folle began with the standard denial that there are any political prisoners. There are instead 1,273 subversives of which 93 percent have been or are in trial process. Last year at this time there were 2,500 prisoners.

6. USG contacts with the opposition. Christopher expressed concern that some members of the Uruguayan Government may not understand that diplomatic contact with representatives of the opposition is a normal and necessary function. It should not be viewed as a negative [Page 934] gesture toward those in power. Folle recalled there had been a recent problem (the Eaton visit) with a meeting involving a proscribed politician.5 Folle agreed that there should be no problem, that proscription is one thing, diplomatic contact another. Bushnell expressed satisfaction that all present at the meeting were in agreement on this point but suggested that other leaders in Uruguay, perhaps the military, did not understand diplomatic practices as well. It would be helpful if Folle could make the point to other members of the GOU. Folle acknowledged that there sometimes are misunderstandings in this regard.

7. Bolivia. Christopher told Folle that his Government, like ours, should be concerned by the violence and repression and by the overthrow of democratic processes in Bolivia. Folle agreed but expressed concern that the current isolation of the Garcia Meza Regime, coupled with the serious economic situation, might drive it in “another direction.” Christopher reiterated that it would be very difficult for the U.S. to recognize or support the GOB under present circumstances.

8. Other topics. On Paraguay, Folle sees the Somoza assassination as an isolated incident.6 Christopher offered the thought that the present political trend in Paraguay is not positive—in contrast to the situation in Uruguay. Folle expressed concern about what he viewed as a leftist trend in Mexico and Mexican relations with Cuba. He was also interested to learn how we view the current situation in Nicaragua. The Deputy Secretary and Bushnell were positive with regard to Mexico and cautiously optimistic regarding developments in Central America. At the beginning of the meeting there had been a brief discussion of the current UNGA session and events in the Middle East. Folle noted that Uruguay received a substantial part of its oil supply from Iraq (Venezuela is the other major supplier) and that its current stocks are good for only 90 days.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800476-0989. Confidential. Sent for information to Asuncion and La Paz. Drafted by Service; cleared by Dworkin and Bremer; approved by Bushnell.
  2. In telegram 3510 from Montevideo, September 18, the Embassy reported on allegations within the Uruguayan military “that the U.S. embassy in Montevideo is playing an active role with proscribed politicians in coordinating opposition to the November constitutional plebiscite and to the military’s political cronograma.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880031-1971) In telegram 258491 to Montevideo, September 27, the Department advised that the Embassy position “should be that it is considered normal diplomatic practice for an embassy to maintain contact with all democratic political parties. Such contacts are for purposes of information gathering only and should not repeat not be seen as being for any negative purposes.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P880031-1969)
  3. See Documents 156159.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 327.
  5. In telegram 3510 from Montevideo, September 18, the Embassy noted that the military’s allegations “helps to explain the strong GOU sensitivities re DAS Eaton’s luncheon last week with the political party leaders.” See footnote 2 above. On September 9, Eaton held a luncheon with seven opposition politicians, six of them “proscribed” from political activity by the military. A dinner the previous evening was boycotted by seven flag-rank officers, and the Embassy noted that “the generals reportedly reacted to the luncheon as a symbol of further ‘U.S. interference in Uruguay’s internal affairs.’” (Telegram 3484 from Montevideo, September 17, National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800443-0798)
  6. See Document 297.