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

120048. Subject: Argentine Human Rights. Ref: BA 35382

1. Departments of State and Defense appreciate your constructive cable concerning Argentine mission. We fully agree that preparatory work is advisable to assure success. Accordingly, you are authorized to approach General Viola along lines you suggested in Para 5, Reftel,3 subject to the following.

2. In your presentation you should note that USG is interested in overall improvements in human rights conditions in Argentina. For example, we are interested in and would welcome the normalization of arrest and detention procedures as well as a program for the release of prisoners held under executive detention. You should stress that these and other steps by the Argentine government to improve the Human Rights situation would have a profound influence on what we may be able to do. In your presentation you should avoid any impression that we are looking for an “escape hatch.” Rather, we are interested in a serious exchange with the Argentine government as to where our relationship is heading in view of the human rights situation in Argentina.

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3. Because the composition of the delegation is still unresolved, you should simply refer to it as “high level,” but you may point out that it would include both State Department and military representatives.4

4. We believe that visit should take place as soon as possible, preferably in May 17–25 time frame.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850004–1569. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Bumpus; cleared by Rondon and Bushnell and in S/S-O and in substance by Schuller and Schneider; and approved by Christopher.
  2. In telegram 3538 from Buenos Aires, May 9, Castro supported what he described as the Department’s “positive and most timely initiative in its effort to bring Argentina back to the rule of law.” He noted that “it is doubtful that GOA is willing to swap spare parts or training for what they consider ‘hypocritically’ an infringement of their right to fight Marxism and subversion. On the other hand, GOA’s image abroad is a vital concern.” Castro proposed that he be directed to do “advance spade work” before the mission’s arrival, by approaching Viola. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850101–2432)
  3. Castro proposed that he tell Viola “that the Secretaries of State and Defense are concerned about the deterioration of our relations and would hope to send a high-level mission to Buenos Aires to consult at the appropriate level to see if this trend might be arrested. Recognizing that U.S. law prohibits sales of exports or training and military equipment after Sept 30 and that events in Argentina have not changed enough to convince our Congress that this legislation should be withdrawn, we would like to explore seriously to see how it may be possible to reverse this trend. If the security operation practices in Argentina change in some major respect in the near future (we have particularly in mind the normalization of arrest procedures in cases of suspected subversive activity), the USG would be in a position to acknowledge this positive development and to authorize some sales or licenses as an indication of progress toward normal relations.” (Ibid.)
  4. In telegram 3703 from Buenos Aires, May 13, Castro reported that Viola “received this proposal calmly and even appeared to welcome it.” Castro concluded, “I am encouraged by Viola’s positive response and I am impressed by his attitude. He said that the GOA is prepared to deal with us and intend to deal in good faith. This atmosphere is very promising.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850101–2436)