profrv at nex.net.au
Tue May 11 07:38:14 PDT 1999
US wasn't concerned about rights abuses in Agentina
AP [ THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2002 11:15:52 AM ]
BUENOS AIRES: Leaders of Argentina's past military dictatorship believed
Washington was willing to look the other way at the outset of the junta's
bloody efforts to stamp out political dissent, newly declassified US
In a telegram signed by then-US Ambassador Robert Hill, a top Argentine
official returned to Buenos Aires following a 1976 visit to Washington
"convinced that there is no real problem with the US government over the
issue" of human rights.
Hill said the comments by Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Guzzetti had
come after meetings with US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger during a two-week visit to the United Nations and
"Guzzetti went to the US fully expecting to hear some strong, firm, direct
warning of his government's human rights practices, rather than that, he
has returned in a state of jubilation," Hill wrote.
"His remarks to me since his return are not those of a man who has been
impressed with the gravity of the human rights problem as seen from the
US," he continued. "Guzzetti's reaction indicates little reason for concern
over the human rights issue."
Hill's impressions were contained in a telegram that was one of more than
4,000 documents released by the U.S. State Department this week, and posted
on a government Web site Wednesday. The documents are revealing new
information about Argentina's "dirty war" against suspected leftists during
the 1976-83 dictatorship.
During the military's six-year rule, at least 8,900 people disappeared in
the junta's systematic crackdown on leftist groups, according to a
government report. Human rights groups place the figure at around 30,000.
The cables were released at the urging of human rights groups, Argentine
families of the disappeared, and several countries investigating military
officers for past abuses.
Some of the documents - diplomatic cables and other memoranda from US
officials sent from the US embassy in Buenos Aires to Washington - give an
impression that American diplomats believed the government had not strongly
stressed that the abuses were cause for concern.
Another Hill cable, sent in September 1976, says a high-ranking Argentine
official came away from a meeting with Kissinger in Santiago, Chile,
thinking the US government approved of what the military regime was doing
to supress subversives.
"Their impression had been that the US government's overriding concern was
not human rights but rather that the Argentine government 'get it over
quickly'," he wrote.
William Rogers, who served as under secretary for economic affairs during
the Ford administration, said Kissinger repeatedly told Argentine officials
its fight against terrorism had to be conducted within the law.
He said Kissinger had instructed Ambassador Hill to stress that point in
meetings with officials from the military regime.
Kissinger did not return calls for comment Wednesday. "The cables are only
a fraction of the total communicaton between Washington and the field," he
said. "The don't capture what was being said behind closed doors."
Following Argentina's dictatorship, many ranking military officers were
tried on charges of abduction, torture and execution of suspected leftist
opponents of the regime. They were imprisoned in 1985 but later pardoned in
1990 by then-President Carlos Menem.
The human rights abuses in Argentina proved a nettlesome issue for the
successive administrations of US presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter,
which struggled over ways to handle them.
US embassy officials in Buenos Aires diligently tracked the abuses of the
military government, frequently offering recommendations that provoked
sharp debate in Washington over ways to stop them, experts say.
Appealing for added pressure from State Department officials on the
Argentine government, Hill wrote that he could not press for greater
attention to the human rights issue in Argentina if it did not first
emanate from Washington.
The Argentine government "must now believe that if it has any problems with
the US government over human rights, they are confined to certain elements
of Congress and what it regards as uninformed minor segments of public opinion.
While that conviction lasts it will be unrealistc and unbelievable for this
embassy to press the government over human rights violations," he wrote
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