Argentine military felt secure
U.S. backed quashing of leftists
by James Dao (New York Times)
San Francisco Chronicle. August 22, 2002
Leaders of the military dictatorship that took control of
Argentina in 1976 believed the Ford administration supported their
crackdown on leftist insurgents and would not penalize them for
human rights abuses, newly declassified State Department documents
The documents show that U.S. Embassy officials felt frustrated
in their efforts to encourage the Argentine government to rein
in military and paramilitary units that were systematically killing,
torturing and kidnapping suspected leftists - including several
American citizens - in the months following the coup.
Repeatedly, senior Argentine officials brushed aside concerns
raised by embassy officials, saying that Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger and other top Ford administration officials supported
their war against communists and were not deeply worried about
rights abuses, several documents show.
In an Oct. 14, 1976, cable to Kissinger, Ambassador Robert
Hill said that Argentine Foreign Minister Adm. Cesar Augusto Guzzetti
had returned from Washington feeling "ecstatic" about
relations with the United States.
"He said he was satisfied that the State Department clearly
understood the problem and that there would be no confrontation
between the two governments over Human rights,' Hill wrote.
"Guizetti went to the U.S. fully expecting to hear some
strong, firm, direct warning of his government's human rights
practices," Hill continued. Rather than that, he has returned
in a state of jubilation, convinced that there is no real problem
with (Washington) over this issue."
In a cable to Washington dated Sept. 20, 1976, Hill wrote
that Guzzetti said Kissinger had expressed no concerns about rights
abuses in an earlier meeting in Santiago, Chile. The foreign minister
suggested Kissinger supported what the Argentine govern-. rnent
called its war on terrorism and was encouraging President Jorge
Rafael Videla to move swiftly in crushing the insurgency.
"When he had seen Secy (sic) of State Kissinger in Santiago,
the latter had said he hoped the Argentine govt. could get the
terrorist problem under control as quickly as possible,"
Hill wrote. "Guzzetti said that he had reported this to Videla
and to the cabinet, and that their impression had been that (the
United States') overriding concern was not human rights but rather
that (Argentina) 'get it over quickly."'
The cables were among 4,677 declassified documents dating
from 1975 to I984 that were released Tuesday by the State Department
at the behest of rights groups, families of victims of the military
crackdown and several governments that are considering prosecuting
Argentine officials for abuses.
The documents are expected to shed light on the violent repression
of Argentine leftists in the late 1970s and aid in the prosecution
of 31 Argentine military officers recently charged with rights
abuses from that period.
Scholars and rights activists who have begun sifting through
the trove say there are no detailed descriptions of Kissinger's
meetings with Guzzetti.