Kissinger defends 1970s Latin America policy

Published October 5, 2004

DETROIT (AP) — Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
yesterday defended his approach to Latin American dictatorships in
the 1970s, saying he had purposely steered clear of “personal
attacks” when it came to condemning human rights abuses.

Kissinger’s comments followed the release on Friday of
transcripts that show he wanted to punish subordinates who
criticized Argentina and Chile for human rights abuses. The
transcripts were released by the National Security Archive, a
foreign policy research center, which said it obtained them from
the U.S. State Department after filing a Freedom of Information Act
request.

Kissinger said the United States at the time was balancing two
concerns in Latin America: keeping communist governments from
taking root and discouraging human rights abuses.

“The method we chose — which people can argue about
— was that I made two public speeches emphasizing the
American concerns on human rights and stating that countries that
systematically violated (them) would not be able to get the sort of
support, economic and otherwise, that they wanted,” Kissinger
said at a news conference following a speech to the Detroit
Economic Club.

He said he also made the same points in private conversations
with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. “At the same time, I
did not want personal attacks on the leaders,” he said.

Kissinger said in the cases mentioned in the transcripts,
lower-level officials had violated that policy, calling it a
“bureaucratic, management issue” within the State
Department.

The military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile killed
thousands of perceived political opponents in the 1970s and
‘80s.

Kissinger yesterday also criticized the National Security
Archives for taking his statements out of context.

“Just to take a sentence out of a telephone conversation
when you have 50 other conversations, it’s just not the way
to analyze it,” he said. “I’ve been telling
people to read a month’s worth of conversations, so you know
what else went on.”

There has been much debate about Kissinger’s relationships
with Latin American military dictators when he was secretary of
state in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Such regimes often
were supported by the United States as anti-communist allies.

In the transcripts released last week, Kissinger called one
official’s remarks criticizing Pinochet “a bloody
outrage.”

“I have not become a super liberal. This is not an
institution that is going to humiliate the Chileans,”
Kissinger was quoted as saying in the June 1976 conversation with
William Rogers, then assistant secretary of state for Latin
America.

In another case, Kissinger complained about a diplomatic protest
issued by the State Department to the Argentine junta over
escalating rights abuses.

“In what way is it compatible with my policy?”
Kissinger was quoted as asking his top Latin America aide. “I
want to know who did this and consider having him transferred."