340. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Carter/President Perez Bilateral



    • President Carlos Andres Perez
    • Foreign Minister Consalvi
    • Minister Lauria
    • Ambassador Iribarren
    • Ambassador Machin
    • Dr. Plaza
  • U.S.

    • President Carter
    • Vice President Mondale
    • Secretary Vance
    • Dr. Brzezinski
    • Asst. Secretary Todman
    • Ambassador Vaky
    • Mr. Pastor
    • Mr. Hormats

President Carter opened the conversation by noting that he and Secretary Vance had just been looking at a map of Belize. President Carter said that he hoped Guatemala and the UK could resolve their differences in a way compatible with the independence of Belize.2 He noted that the southern part of the country had very little population and might provide the focus for some territorial adjustments. He thought the UK was willing to help contribute financially to a settlement formula if that became necessary.

President Carter said he had also talked to Peru and Chile about the Bolivian access problem.3 Morales Bermudez said that Chile and Bolivia should reach an agreement and then present it to him. The trouble, President Carter said, was that Chile and Bolivia had in fact reached an agreement and Peru had rejected it. We will, President Carter said, make every effort to help resolve this problem “guided by your leadership.” President Carter noted that he was meeting with Banzer tomorrow (September 8).4 Pinochet had told him that Bolivia [Page 972] should take the initiative, and that Chile would cooperate. President Carter then asked whether President Perez had any further thoughts on these matters.

President Perez replied that he had sent one of his ministers to see Morales Bermudez to suggest that it would be convenient for representatives of the three countries (Peru, Chile, Bolivia) to meet to discuss the economic integration plan for resolving the Bolivian problem. Morales Bermudez said that if Bolivia would invite, he would accept. President Perez said that he was going to tell this to Banzer and urge Banzer to invite Peru and Chile to a meeting to discuss this plan. Perez added that he is convinced that this is the road to a solution. He noted that in Peru there was emotional feeling cultivated by the military which was antagonistic to an agreement with Chile. Until recently, at least, Peruvian military had taken an oath swearing to take revenge before the centennial anniversary of Peru’s defeat in the War of the Pacific. Only two years remain until the 100th anniversary.

President Perez then said that Belize worried him a great deal. He believes that we must continue to press Guatemala to accept Belizean independence and a reasonable settlement. That was the purpose of the Bogota meeting’s declaration on Belize.5 It was important that international pressure convince Guatemala it has no support for its position and to force it to think of integration as the road to a solution. He thought the UK would be able to create a fund as a way to begin to reach such a solution.

President Carter asked if Perez had communication with Belize, and Perez replied that he was in contact with Price. Venezuela is also to open a consulate in Belize. President Carter then asked if Belize insisted on retaining all its territory. Perez replied that he understood Belize would accept some symbolic adjustments on the border; would “share” sea resources and provide access; would agree to common defense and foreign relations arrangements; and would accept an integration arrangement, though this was more complicated. But they do not want to cede territory.

President Carter asked if Guatemala insisted on receiving territory. Perez said that the danger is that the leading presidential candidate, General Lucas, is a hardliner. So the problem will get worse when Laugerud leaves. There is another candidate who is more moderate and has a better attitude on the problem, but he would never be allowed to win. Therefore it was essential to reach an agreement now with Laugerud.

[Page 973]

President Carter said that Laugerud had informed him that any agreement would have to be submitted to the Congress and to the Council of State since it involved constitutional claims of territory. That obviously made a legal agreement much more difficult. President Carter said that Laugerud had described a portion of the southern part of the country—which was very lightly populated—as the minimum he had to have. But Laugerud insinuated that he might be able to compromise if an intermediary were able to propose something. President Carter said they also discussed the idea of financial assistance. President Carter had suggested the idea of a referendum on southern Belize so that the inhabitants there could voice their opinion on where they wanted to go. However, he did not believe that Guatemala could peacefully accept a solution which did not include a territorial cession by Belize.

President Perez said that the problem is in many ways artificial. The Guatemalan people have no deepseated feelings about Belize. The opposition candidate had proposed that the subject of granting independence be the subject of a plebescite, and the idea was not badly received. The problem is in the military. General Lucas says he will never violate the constitution. President Carter observed that Laugerud was a part of the military but seemed reasonable, and Perez agreed.

President Carter then said that he was happy to have Perez back in Washington and was grateful for his good offices on the Panama negotiations which have now resulted in a treaty that he thought was a good treaty. He said he would have trouble with ratification, but the visit of the Chiefs of State will help because it will show the support of the Hemisphere. President Carter added that he knew how hard Perez worked in encouraging both him and Torrijos to keep at it. And he was grateful.

President Perez said that the treaty was an historical event for the Hemisphere. It has already produced a new closeness among the nations of the region. There was a new and authentic flow of sympathy from Latin America toward the U.S. Perez said that he understands President Carter’s political problem. But President Carter has applied a wise maxim—that to postpone is not to decide. It had been essential to reach an agreement. Otherwise the consequences would have been terrible. The presence here of the Chiefs of State would have an impact in that it would make the Senators think about the importance of the treaty and its ratification, and it would have equal impact on the American people. We must now, he added, produce additional actions and demonstrations to help the U.S. and improve the ambiance. Unfortunately, he joked, we cannot vote in the ratification process.

President Carter said he thought there was a good chance for having the treaty ratified. Valuable support had been received from [Page 974] the AFL-CIO, business groups, bankers, black leaders. The obstacle was the long history of opposition to any change in the status of the Panama Canal. However, President Carter said, he was completely committed to the treaty and to its ratification and had decided to expend his political strength to secure its approval. Perez said, “We admire and applaud your bravery.”

President Carter then said that the U.S. is trying to make progress on an international agreement on nuclear fuel cycle. We have discussed this matter with the producers of nuclear fuel—UK, France, Canada, Australia, and with major consumers such as Germany. At the London summit meeting it was agreed to form an international nuclear fuel cycle study.6 A meeting would be held for this purpose in Washington October 19–21.7 He hoped Venezuela would attend and participate in the discussion. President Carter said he was going to ask Videla to sign and ratify the Tlatelolco treaty.8 Chile had told him that if Argentina signs, Chile would waive the provision that all participants (read Cuba) must sign, and will put the treaty into effect.

Returning to the nuclear fuel cycle meeting, President Carter said that the study will permit all countries to understand the complexities of nuclear fuels; obtaining fuel without gaining the ability to produce weapons material was possible.

The problem, President Carter went on, was that there was a great deal of confusion about this subject. Brazil, for example, thinks it needs to have a reprocessing plant to have nuclear power. At the Washington meeting, we will discuss formulas for fuel needs, types of fuel, disposition of wastes, and reprocessing to show that it is possible to have nuclear power without the risk of increasing the capability to produce weapons material. The U.S. felt that Venezuela’s leadership would be needed, and we hoped they would attend the conference. President Perez said this was very important, and he said Venezuela would be willing to participate.

President Perez said that Videla had promised him that he would study the possibility of signing and ratifying the Tlatelolco treaty. He added that Videla was a very reasonable and serious person and, he believed, Argentina’s only real hope. Unfortunately there were powerful groups in the armed forces who were very hardline. And it was a question of how strong Videla really was. Brazil, Perez went on, was a problem. The Brazilians insist on proceeding with the German [Page 975] arrangement. Recently, Perez said, he had talked to representatives of the German Foreign Office and the Social Democrat Party. They told him they could not break their commitment with Brazil, but if someone could convince Brazil to accept another arrangement, Germany would also agree. Perez said he told them this was not a good moral position, that they had a commitment to show moral leadership.

Perez said that he thought it was necessary to continue the pressure. He said the Brazilian arguments were hiding the truth. Only military objectives could justify or make reasonable the tremendous cost of a reprocessing plant. He said he had told the Germans this.

President Carter said we had told them the same thing. He added that the U.S. has pushed this thing about as far as we can. We have already jeopardized our relations with both Brazil and Germany. He said Brazil had told us that if Argentina ratifies, Brazil will put the treaty into effect, too. He noted that Rosalynn had found that President Geisel was not very familiar with the complications of nuclear fuel.9 Brazilians will come to the fuel cycle meeting in Washington and perhaps that will help make them more amenable to a solution, unless they are determined to manufacture explosives.

President Carter added that one advantage of working with Canada and Australia was that it would now be difficult for countries to buy enriched uranium unless they were willing to forego the possibility of producing explosive material. Many countries just do not know that they can have power and forego the capability of producing weapons. Two or three nations have deliberately developed this capability. But we are trying to stir up world opinion so that they will realize that they will be condemned by world opinion if they produce a nuclear weapon capability. South Africa was a case in point. President Carter said he would keep up the pressure. He added that the USSR and even China agreed with us. Secretary Vance noted that France said they had a new process for reprocessing which would make it virtually impossible to produce explosive materials, i.e., it would take twenty years to do so; it was also expensive.

Invited to present any items he had, President Perez said he was pleased to say that the Andean Pact members had reached an agreement on the division of the automobile sector industry. This sectoral agreement would be signed in Quito shortly. This was important because it now meant that the Pact could move ahead full speed. It also provided patterns for other sectoral agreements. There had been some problems with transnational companies who had sought to sabotage the agreement; however, now the cooperation of these companies would be [Page 976] needed to provide technology and other assistance. Perez said he was presenting President Carter with two memoranda10 outlining this agreement because of its importance. Noting that the pact members would now take up other sectors, he observed that they had not yet come to grips with the agricultural sector. Perez said that this morning the chiefs of state of the Andean nations had met in the Peruvian Embassy and issued a joint statement announcing the auto sectoral agreement. He said he hoped they would have U.S. support. President Carter promised to study the memoranda which he termed of interest to us.

President Carter added that he was sure all of Latin America was eager for cooperation. What was often needed was a leader to bring them together. President Carter said he was glad that Perez was providing that leadership. He went on to say that he was grateful for Perez’ advice on Latin America because he had a great deal to learn. He hoped that Perez would not hesitate to suggest things to do or not do on all these matters.

President Perez said that the Caribbean question had come up in the Bogota meeting. All five nations there agreed something was needed. Minister Hector Hurtado was at this moment meeting with Ortiz Mena to suggest that the IDB convoke a meeting to discuss how best to proceed, as had been agreed upon. Secretary Blumenthal in an earlier meeting with him today had brought up the idea of including the IBRD.11 The problem, Perez went on, was Trinidad. But Trinidad was isolated. Williams had adopted a very strange attitude. Perez said that he had spoken to Ambassador Young12 about all of this, and they agreed this plan would be effective for economic cooperation in the area.

Perez said he had also talked to the Jamaican Foreign Minister who told him that Manley wanted him (Perez) to know that he (Manley) had been pleased with the results of President Carter’s conversations with President Nyerere.13

Perez then went on to say that the Rhodesian situation worried him. The Ethiopian-Somalian war complicated it. The U.S., he said, cannot afford to lose its leadership in Africa. Otherwise the consequences would be serious. President Carter said that we were working closely with the UK because the British have certain legal rights to [Page 977] govern Rhodesia. We will present our proposals to the UN in about two weeks and would appreciate Venezuela’s support. We were trying to get Smith and Vorster to agree, but this may be doubtful, although they have not rejected the plan. Perez noted that the army might oppose the one-man one-vote formula. President Carter observed that he hoped the army could be reorganized after elections and in a way that would be compatible with the new government. He hoped that a UN force as an arm of the governor general could keep the two armies separate. The black leaders wanted the national army, but did agree that the Smith army might have some “minority” role to play in the future. Nyerere on his own initiative had said that the present police and civil service would have to continue to serve.

President Carter said that we face the prospect that if the U.S.-UK plan is not successful, Smith will move to his own solution with a couple of the black leaders like Sithole. Smith had indicated that he might accept a one-man one-vote formula if there were guarantees of some minimum participation for whites. The only alternative—or maybe the same alternative—was war with the nationalists.

In reply to Perez’ question, President Carter said that Vorster had said he would not force Smith to accept a given formula, but if Smith accepted he would see that he complied. To give Vorster credit, he has tried to be helpful. He has faced pressure on Namibia, and on that question South Africa had been as cooperative as SWAPO. He also has internal problems, so is juggling three problems at once. President Carter said he was sure South Africa wanted to be part of the world community, but he is afraid that Rhodesia and Namibia may be just the first steps to revolution in South Africa itself. That is why he is moving slowly.

President Perez said Vorster may not be totally wrong, but there is no other solution. The USSR is taking clear advantage of the situation, and the danger existed that world conflict would shift to Africa, which was a reservoir of raw materials. It was necessary to convince South Africa that although whites got there first, the black majority would eventually prevail. If the West hesitates, it will lose Africa. President Carter observed that was very difficult and complicated. If Vorster sees the outcome to be the destruction of white rule, his motive to help would be destroyed. Vorster feels that the regime’s economic strength is such that he could preserve white rule even with the condemnation of the outside world. And, of course, countries like the U.S., UK and Germany had massive investments there.

Some of the black leaders, including Nyerere, are willing to accept evolutionary change. President Carter said he had asked Nyerere what he would accept from Vorster. Nyerere responded that he would be satisfied if Vorster would only say that he believed in a pluralistic and [Page 978] multiracial world, but that it would take a long time. That was enough for him to say.

President Perez said that that was theoretical. The situation has nevertheless reached a dangerous point, and the Soviet intentions were clear. We had to be cold and realistic. President Carter said that the problems were vast, and suggested that after completing his term, President Perez might consider addressing the problems as a special kind of project. They agreed that the problems were enormous, and he added that the Spanish Sahara and the Canary Islands were becoming a problem.

President Carter asked President Perez if OPEC would keep down the price of oil at the next OPEC meeting. Perez said that he thought there would be an increase, but they would try to keep it moderate. It was inevitable, however, because the prices of manufactured goods continued to rise.

President Perez noted that he had today proposed before the Andean Pact nations a world conference on inflation. This was a serious problem. President Carter joked that Venezuela should spread some of its oil wealth to poor countries like the U.S., and Perez replied that he “would dare to make the change” (from Venezuelan to U.S. President).

President Perez closed the meeting by giving President Carter a rare book—an 1865 book on the Isthmus of Panama.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country Files, Venezuela, 7-9/77. Confidential. According to Carter’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room and lasted from 4:10 until 5:05 p.m. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Perez was in Washington for the Panama Canal Treaty signing ceremonies. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. Carter met with Laugerud earlier in the afternoon. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XV, Central America, Document 11.
  3. For the meeting between Carter and Pinochet on September 6, see Document 205. For the meeting between Carter and Morales Bermudez on September 6, see Document 304.
  4. See Document 120.
  5. Not found.
  6. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XXVI, Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Document 342.
  7. See footnote 3, Document 63.
  8. See Document 63.
  9. See Document 165.
  10. Not found.
  11. For the meeting between Blumenthal and Perez, see telegram 222818 to Caracas, September 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770338-0628)
  12. Presumably a reference to their August 12 meeting during Young’s visit to Venezuela. See telegram 8099 from Caracas, August 15. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770294-0434)
  13. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVI, Southern Africa, Document 68.