66. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Argentina1

270937. Subject: Deputy Foreign Minister Allara Meeting With Deputy Secretary Christopher

1. Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister Gualter Allara accompanied by Ambassador Aja Espil and Ministers Juan Carlos Arlia and Miguel Angel Espeche Gil called on Deputy Secretary Christopher on November 4, 1977. Ambassador Castro, Deputy Assistant Secretary McNeil, Special Asst. Oxman, Desk Officer Bumpus, and Interpreter Hervas also attended.

2. Subsequent to introductory remarks, the question of the Secretary’s visit was discussed.2 Mr. Christopher pointed out that the Secretary very much wished to make his visit as scheduled but that some uncertainty over the President’s world trip might call for some adjustments. However, the Argentines should proceed with the original schedule, as we are doing, on the assumption that the Secretary will visit Argentina on November 21, 1977.

3. Allara said he understood the difficulty in the scheduling, but wished to make the U.S. aware that the Secretary’s visit had created great anticipation in Argentina. Cancellation or postponement would cause real difficulties as President Videla had put great emphasis on the visit. Mr. Christopher assured the Argentines that the Argentine concerns would be strong factors which would motivate the Secretary to make the visit.

4. At Mr. Christopher’s invitation, Allara discussed the Secretary’s agenda while he is in Argentina. Terrorism and human rights should certainly be considered along with a number of other topics which had been discussed earlier with Assistant Secretary Todman.3

5. Mr. Christopher said he wished to discuss Human Rights further. During the Panama Canal Treaty signing ceremony conversations we had been quite impressed with President Videla’s commitment to change and reform in Argentina.4 We understand him to be dedicated to the promotion of Human Rights. We were sorry to hear of the recent [Page 236] resurgence of terrorism in Argentina but hope that the government’s response will be confined to the legal process. The war against terrorism should not be used as an excuse for violation of Human Rights.

6. Allara pointed out that the Argentine government had suffered terrorist aggression and had been forced to resort to exceptional measures. There have been recent outbreaks of violence, but despite these the government is pledged to return the country to normality. The U.S. should be assured that President Videla’s commitment to President Carter to return Argentina fully to the rule of law in the shortest period of time remains valid.

7. Mr. Christopher stated that some actions by the Argentine government in the Human Rights area do stand in the way of better relations between our countries. He specifically mentioned disappearances, detainees and the Deutsch family.5 We continue to hear of disappearances; we had hoped that investigations carried out by the Argentine government would have resolved the problem, but they apparently have not. The large number of detainees, President Videla said some 4,000, is also a cause for concern. The Deutsch case is an example of the public and congressional interest which is being concentrated on Argentina. The U.S. Jewish community has been very interested in the fate of the family. It would be a very good case to resolve.

8. Allara responded that the Argentines were aware that Human Rights caused difficulties between our two countries. It probably created more problems than were merited. The Argentines have tried to investigate reports of disappearances, but it is difficult to reach a conclusion. Some people go underground to join the terrorists, others to illegally leave the country and some “disappear” to escape responsibility for common crimes. Moreover, armed forces personnel who have committed excesses are being punished and the ministry of interior is investigating all alleged disappearances. Eighty per cent of the reported disappearances had occurred before the government came to power in 1976.

9. Concerning the Deutsch family, Allara said that three of the family members had been released but two would be tried because they were seriously compromised by ties to terrorist organizations, as was the brother, Daniel, who had left Argentina. Allara used the Deutsch case to deny accusations that anti-semitism existed in Argentina. The government repressed anti-semitic literature and had made it a crime to incite racial hatred. President Videla has close contact with leading Jewish citizens and organizations. Jews who are prosecuted in [Page 237] Argentina are brought before the courts because they have committed crimes, not because they are Jews.

10. Mr. Christopher said he wanted the Deputy Foreign Minister to know that it was not only the executive branch but the Congress and the public who were strongly supportive of actions on human rights. On the Deutsch family, Mr. Christopher said he wanted Allara to know the great symbolic value the case had in the U.S.

11. Allara said the Argentines were very aware of the symbolic value; President Videla had written personally to President Carter about the family.6 Argentina understood U.S. concern over Human Rights, and has done much to improve the situation there. However, not only Human Rights but also terrorism should be considered. Terrorism has spawned Human Rights violations; plane hijackings violate the rights of the passengers. The UN recently passed a resolution condemning hijacking,7 but we need more such measures to combat terrorism. Deputy Secretary Christopher said he agreed fully with the minister’s concern with hijacking. We must work to get all states to ratify the anti-hijacking convention.

12. Mr. Christopher said that he wished to introduce a happier note; he had been able to advise Secretary Vance that we should issue a license for the export of periscopes to Argentina. Favorable advisory opinions on the issuance of licenses for the export of Chinook helicopters and Lockheed C–130s had also been given. These actions were an indication of our faith in President Videla’s moderation and our hope that the rocky relations we have had are now improving.

13. Allara spoke of his concern over the limitations on military equipment—especially spare parts and FMS items for which Argentina had already paid. These limitations were causing real difficulties. The Argentines had hoped that the series of high level U.S. official visits which had begun in March would have convinced the U.S. that progress was being made on Human Rights in Argentina. Apparently they did not.

14. Secretary Christopher said he was pleased to see nuclear non-proliferation on the Argentine agenda for the Secretary’s visit. President Carter places great emphasis on the nuclear question. The U.S. does not wish to keep countries from exploiting nuclear energy, but we do want to limit the spread of nuclear weapons which present a grave danger for the world. We want to see Argentina using nuclear power, but avoiding nuclear weapons development and reprocessing. The [Page 238] president is anxious for Argentina to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco and agree to full-scope safeguards. Mr. Christopher said the secretary would put great emphasis on the nuclear question when he was in Argentina.

15. Allara said that nuclear topics were of great significance to Argentina, which was a leader among the Latin American countries in nuclear matters for over 30 years. Argentina had developed its nuclear capacity for peaceful ends and it would continue to do so. The Argentines do not want to disturb the power balance in the area by an irresponsible nuclear weapons program. Allara said that Argentina was conducting a thorough review of its policy on the Treaty of Tlatelolco and that he saw virtually no impediment to Argentina’s ratifying it.8 The Argentines are looking forward to a full discussion of the nuclear question when the Secretary is in Buenos Aires.

16. Mr. Christopher thanked Allara for this good news about the willingness to ratify Tlatelolco and the thoughtful and candid conversation which they had held. This type of exchange strengthened relations between countries. Problems exist but they must be discussed, not avoided. In this way they can be resolved.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770419–1318. Confidential. Drafted by Bumpus, cleared by McNeil and Oxman and in S/S, approved by Christopher.
  2. See Document 68.
  3. See Document 61.
  4. See Document 63.
  5. See footnote 4, Document 65.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 65.
  7. On November 3, 1977, the UNGA adopted Resolution 32/8, which called for enhanced security at airports and on airplanes and legal action against alleged hijackers.
  8. In a November 5 memorandum to Carter, Christopher quoted this statement by Allara and noted, “Such a decision would require considerable courage on Videla’s part in view of the pressure against ratification from important military elements.” In the margin, Carter wrote: “Be forceful on this.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State), 11/77)