US Encourages Argentine Military's "Dirty War," 1976

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (under Richard M. Nixon) and Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti on the Argentine Military's Policies toward Critics of the Dictatorship (Memo of conversation, June 10, 1976, National Security Archive, declassified 2004). [Argentina's military dictatorship fought a “Dirty War” against its own people, torturing, killing, and “disappearing” thousands of people.]

Santiago, Chile June 6, 1976
Secretary's Suite

[Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto] Guzzetti: Our main problem in Argentina is terrorism. It is the first priority of the current government that took office on March 24. There are two aspects to the solution. The first is to ensure the internal security of the country; the second is to solve the most urgent economic problems over the coming 6 to 12 months. Argentina needs United States understanding and support to overcome problems in these two areas.

The Secretary [of State, Henry Kissinger]: We have followed events in Argentina closely. We wish the new government well. We wish it will succeed. We will do what we can to help it succeed. 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.

Guzzetti: . . . Chile, when the government changed, resulted in a very large number of leftist exiles. The Peronist Government at the time welcomed them to Argentina in large numbers.

The Secretary: You could always send them back.

Guzzetti: For elemental human rights reasons we cannot send them back to Chile. But we have tried third countries. No one wants to receive them. There are many terrorists.

The Secretary: Have you tried the PLO [Palentine Liberation Organization]? They need more terrorists. Seriously, we cannot tell you how to handle these people. What are you going to do?

Guzzetti: We must create disincentives to potential terrorist activities. Specifically, terrorism is becoming extraordinarily virulent. People on the outside don't look for details. They don't see the provocations that we face, or our efforts to resolve them.

The Secretary: Let me say, as a friend, that I have noticed that military governments are not always the most effective in dealing with these problems.

Guzzetti: Of course.

The Secretary: So, after a while, many people who don't understand the situation begin to oppose the military and the problem is compounded. The Chileans, for example, have not succeeded in getting across their initial problem and are increasingly isolated. You will have to make an international effort to have your problems understood. Otherwise, you, too, will come under increasing attack. If there are things that have to done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures.