411. Telegram From the Embassy in Venezuela to the Department of State1

3975. Subject: Latin American Non-Proliferation Consultations.

1. Amembassy utilized occasion of OPANAL meeting in Caracas to discuss OPANAL matters and other non-proliferation related questions with several delegations and with OPANAL and Venezuelan officials. In an initial conversation between OPANAL Secretary General Gros Espiell, Ambassador took the occasion to reiterate to Gros USG concern over the position he had taken with the Soviets on transit (see Mexico 5368).2 Ambassador emphasized the fact that the position Gros had taken with the Soviets (that Article I of the treaty prohibited transit of nuclear weapons and therefore the Soviets could become party to Protocol II) was wholly inconsistent with the understanding that had permitted the U.S. to become part of the Protocol II and now to take the step of becoming party to Protocol I. Gros stated he did not wish to take any action which would undercut the position of the U.S. or complicate prospects for ratification of Protocol I. Accordingly, Gros said he intended to drop the entire matter.

2. We also took the occasion to ask Gros his assessment of the prospects for the other steps being taken to bring the treaty into effect. Gros stated that the action by the U.S. greatly improves chances for the additional steps to be taken, though he cautioned that each of them could take some time. We asked in particular about Argentina. Gros said he had received some tentative indications that the Argentines might prefer the Treaty of Tlatelolco to either the NPT or the British full scope [Page 1042] safeguards model as a means of becoming a full field cycle safeguard state, but they had not pursued the question with him recently.3

3. During a cocktail reception after the opening session given by the Foreign Minister, Ambassador had the opportunity to have a short private discussion with the Foreign Minister. During these discussions U.S. Representatives emphasized their appreciation for the Foreign Minister’s kind remarks concerning President Carter’s decision to sign Protocol I and stressed the importance the U.S. attached to having countries, such as Venezuela, continuing to speak out in favor of non-proliferation. Otherwise, there was a risk that non-proliferation would be viewed as a matter of sole interest to the super powers. The Foreign Minister assured U.S. Reps that was not the case and that Venezuela would continue to support U.S. non-proliferation initiatives. We also pointed out that it would now be easier for the U.S. to take other quiet steps to assist the actions of Mexico, Venezuela and others to bring the treaty into force. U.S. Reps pointed out that it would have been difficult for the U.S. to raise this matter with other countries, such as the Soviets, so long as we ourselves had not decided to ratify both protocols. U.S. Reps suggested in turn that Argentina and others in Latin America were not good candidates for American persuasion and that it would be more useful if the Latin American countries themselves kept up the momentum. The Foreign Minister agreed and said he would raise the question with the Argentines when they are in Caracas for a state visit on May 11–16. He stated “we do have some influence on the Argentines”. Finally, U.S. Reps pointed out that more ambitious efforts would be needed in the future to deal with the potential problems of reconciling peaceful uses of the atom with the dangers of proliferation and that the U.S. would be spending substantial sums to investigate alternative, inherently safer nuclear technologies. Moreover, it may be necessary to create new international institutions or enhance the role of existing international institutions to reduce the dangers inherent in nuclear power. The Foreign Minister agreed and stated that it might be possible for OPANAL to play such a role, either in carrying out such tasks or in planning and coordinating work which might be carried out by the nations themselves, or by new regional institutions. He thought these matters required further consideration and study, and stated that President Perez will probably wish to discuss these questions directly with President Carter when he makes his state visit.4

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4. In a conversation on April 20, the head of the Mexican Delegation, Gonzalez Galves of the Mexican Foreign Ministry reiterated strongly the point made in Mexico City 55055 that the government of Mexico was particularly pleased with the step taken by Pres. Carter. Gonzalez Galves stressed that the American action will make it much easier to put real pressure on the Soviet in particular, and also on the Argentines to ratify Protocol II and the basic treaty respectively. He thought Cuba might be a somewhat more difficult case in the near term though he was optimistic about the eventual outcome. As for the French, he thought they would be last, but that it was just a matter of time before they too became party to Protocol I.

5. Comment: OPANAL officials and others with whom U.S. Reps spoke had ample reasons of their own to wish to stress publicly their pleasure at the step taken by the U.S. since our action tends to increase the pressure on the Soviets to become party to Protocol II. However, these officials were, if anything, more effusive in their praise of the President’s position in private conversation. The Mexican pleasure derives primarily from the leading role they have always played in this treaty. The Venezuelans, however, are genuinely worried about proliferation, particularly in Brazil, and enthusiastically support U.S. non-proliferation policies. At the same time, Venezuelans should be expected to occasionally engage in third world rhetoric about “discriminatory supplier policies.” Nevertheless, in the final analysis, if at some juncture multi-national solutions become important to a resolution of non-proliferation problems in Brazil or Argentina, we can count on Venezuela taking an active, positive and leading role to assist us.

6. Finally, at the request of the Foreign Ministry, U.S. Rep Williamson met with an official of the Foreign Ministry’s international policy division and went over same points made earlier (see para 3) to Foreign Minister. Venezuelans said they were interested in studying these matters in relation to President Perez’ upcoming State visit to Washington.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770139–0423. Confidential. Sent for information to Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, and the Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. Representative to OPANAL, Viron Vaky, reiterated Carter’s decision to sign Protocol I to OPANAL on April 20. His statement is in telegram 93329 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, April 26. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770144–1038) After Vaky’s statement, the Brazilian representative “pledged to do nothing which would frustrate the objectives of the treaty and reiterated Brazil’s support for the cause of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in Latin America.” OPANAL subsequently adopted a resolution “urging” Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Cuba to “become parties to the treaty and to waive the preconditions to bring the treaty into effect.” (Telegram 93330 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, April 26. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770144–1027)
  2. Telegram 5368 from Mexico City, April 18, reported that Gros Espiell “was delighted and encouraged” by Carter’s announcement that he would sign Protocol I. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770134–0706)
  3. The Embassy in Argentina reported that the Argentine Government considered the ratification of the Treaty “a difficult matter which was presently being studied.” (Telegram 2917 from Buenos Aires, April 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770138–0202)
  4. Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Pérez was scheduled to make a state visit to Washington in late June.
  5. Telegram 5505 does not refer to Carter’s decision. Reference is likely to telegram 5431 from Mexico City, April 16, which contained the text of Mexican President José López Portillo’s congratulations to Carter for his decision to sign Protocol I. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770133–0526)