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Kissinger approved argentina repression { August 27 2004 }

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August 27, 2004
Papers Show No Protest by Kissinger on Argentina

Correction Appended

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - In a 1976 meeting with officials of the newly installed military junta in Argentina, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger raised no protest against human rights violations that were the start of Argentina's "dirty war," according to a newly declassified document from United States government archives.

The document, obtained by the nonprofit National Security Archive under the federal Freedom of Information Act, is a 13-page memorandum on an hourlong meeting between Mr. Kissinger and Adm. César Augusto Guzzetti, the foreign Minister of Argentina, on June 10, in Santiago, Chile. The meeting, Mr. Kissinger's first with the foreign minister, occurred less than three months after the military ousted the government of Isabel Perón.

Also at the meeting were William Rogers, then under secretary for economic affairs, and Luigi Einaudi, the current assistant secretary general of the Organization of American States, who took notes at the meeting. Both men have previously denied that Mr. Kissinger privately gave any "green light" to political repression and torture in Latin America, as has Mr. Kissinger himself.

In the meeting, Admiral Guzzetti complained that his country's "main problem" was terrorism. "It is the first priority of the current government," he said, adding that the government sought, first and foremost, "to ensure the internal security of the country."

Mr. Kissinger responded: "We are aware you are in a difficult period. It is a curious time, when political, criminal and terrorist activities tend to merge without any clear separation. We understand you must establish authority."

Later, he said, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you should get back quickly to normal procedures."

Theresa Cimino, an aide to Mr. Kissinger, said he was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

The meeting occurred amid chaos and violence in Argentina. In the first few months of the dictatorship, three Americans had were arrested or tortured, while opposition figures on the left were hunted down, tortured and killed. A week before the Kissinger-Guzzetti meeting, the body of Uruguay's former president, Juan Torres, was found in Buenos Aires, and American diplomats suspected the Argentine military of the killing.

In a cable hours before the meeting, the former deputy secretary of state, Charles Robinson, told Mr. Kissinger of an "inhospitable atmosphere" for foreigners seeking political asylum in Argentina, and warned that more than 1,300 of them "could be considered to be in danger from Argentine security forces or rightist extremists, either from Argentina or from their native countries," according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The memorandum of conversation explains why the Argentine generals believed the secretary extended a carte blanche for the dirty war," said Carlos Osorio, director of the National Security Archive's Southern Cone Project for Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

The accusations that Mr. Kissinger had not protested human rights violations in Argentina as early as June 1976 were originally contained in a 1987 article for The Nation by Martin Edwin Andersen, who wrote a book on the subject, "Dossier Secreto: Argentina's Desaparecidos and the Myth of the Dirty War" (Westview Press, 1993).

Previously disclosed documents, however, had shown the subject coming up only in October 1976. At that time, Mr. Kissinger preceded a public address denouncing human rights violations with private words of support to Admiral Guzzetti. "Look, our basic attitude is that we want you to succeed," Mr. Kissinger said at the time. "What is not understood in the United States is that you have a civil war. We read about human rights problems but not the context. The quicker you succeed the better."

The new cable places accusations that Mr. Kissinger did not protest human rights violations in Latin America several months earlier.

In an interview today, Mr. Rogers said that at the time, Argentina was "virtually ungovernable." He added, "To interpret what he said to Guzzetti as a green light for human rights violations doesn't stand the test of history."

"Because he didn't say, 'Don't kill people. Don't violate the rule of law,' to say that he really had it in mind that he was tolerating human rights is inconsistent with the record," Mr. Rogers said.

An article on Friday about a newly declassified government document describing a meeting attended by Henry A. Kissinger as secretary of state in June 1976 with officials of the military junta in Argentina, at which he raised no protest against human-rights violations there, misidentified the country of a former Latin American president, Juan Torres, whose body had been found in Buenos Aires a week earlier. He had been president of Bolivia, not Uruguay.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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Kissinger approved argentina repression { August 27 2004 }
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