Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Development of Jimmy Carter's Latin America Policy

The State Department just published a new Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volume on South America from 1977-1980. Especially when viewed from today, where the Secretary of State is happily destroying our ability to conduct diplomacy, it shows how thoughtful deliberation can work.

The new administration (Cyrus Vance, Robert Pastor, and Zbigniew Brzezinski in particular) talk about the big picture ("do we have or do we need a special policy toward Latin America?") and nuts and bolts ("exactly what attitude should we have toward military governments"?). They covered all ground. Of particular note is the conclusion that a single "Latin America policy" wasn't necessarily needed or desired. That's also instructive for today.

Of course, the administration's emphasis on human rights was part of that overall discussion.

When Assistant Secretary of State Terence Todman talked to Jorge Videla, here is the response he got:

Videla said that he understood our human rights position and did not argue with its importance, but that Argentina just could not meet the highest standards until it wins the war against terrorism. Videla asked for our understanding of Argentina’s difficulties (p. 54).

Later the dictatorship had this to say:

The GOA does not believe the OAS should be a forum for accusations against one or another member. All countries have their problems. We must not let those problems interfere and impede pursuit of the primary objectives. It is neither fair nor just that Argentina should be the target on human rights issues in the OAS (p. 380).
After getting the VIP treatment from Henry Kissinger before, they weren't so happy.


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