A New Quest for Stability

September 25, 2007

Today the Administration realizes that the dictatorships, as presently constituted, do not represent the most effective guarantees of long-term imperialist control. In fact, as the
conflicts in Iran and Nicaragua demonstrate, the dictatorships may be setting the stage for an even more uncertain future through their openly brutal methods, their intransigence and their severely restricted social base of support. The human rights issue is a tool by which the United States can pressure the regimes to modify their tactics without going so far as to publicly call into question their very "legitimacy." With each such gesture, furthermore, the Carter Administration aims to put more distance between the U.S. government and responsibility for the regimes' existence in the first place.


By the time President Carter took office the dictatorships were already isolated internationally. Within inter-governmental bodies such as the United Nations and through the efforts of independent organizations of inquiry and pressure such as Amnesty International, both physical and social atrocities had been amply documented.(*) In the United
States, the repression had turned American sentiment against the regimes and forced the U.S. Congress to impose restrictions on aid to the dictators.

(*)By their second report in late 1976, the Ad Hoc Working Group of the UN Commission on Human Rights presented such evidence on the systematic violation of all forms of human rights in Chile that the General Assembly passed a resolution recommending economic pressures against the Pinochet regime. (General Assembly Resolution 31/124 of 16 December 1976.)

U.S. Congress to impose restrictions on aid to the dictators.
Even before assuming office, the Carter team had done its homework on hemispheric relations, including the awkward question of the dictators. Like all incoming administrations, Carter aides drew on private research think-tanks and commissions for recommendations. A group called the Commission on United States-Latin American Relations, also known as the "Linowitz Commission" after its chairperson, Sol Linowitz, had issued a preliminary report in 1974, and a second report directed explicitly to the new administration in December 1976.(**) This report, which became the basic blueprint for
initial Administration policy in the region, offered specific policy recommendations in the political, economic, military and cultural spheres. It also contained separate sections on
the most pressing issues of the day: Cuba, Panama and-human rights.

(**)Nor was the Commission's influence purely intellectual; Commission member Michael Blumenthal later became Secretary of the Treasury and consultant Robert Pastor was appointed to the National Security Council. The Commission itself reflects the influence of Wall Street and Harvard, boasting such luminaries as Kennedy Cabinet member-turned IBM executive Nicholas Katzenbach, and Samuel Huntington of Vietnam "strategic hamlet" fame.

The report situated Latin America as posing no immediate strategic threat to the United States and as having an increasingly important economic role to play:

Among the most powerful and prosperous countries of the
third world, several key Latin American nations will
significantly influence how the international economic order

In its section titled, "Human Rights: Deeply Disturbing Development," the Linowitz report sharply distinguished between physical violation of the person (which the United
States has a "moral imperative" to attempt to alleviate) and violations of more broadly defined human rights. These latter were viewed as issues of "national sovereignty" and where the United States should not intervene. Acknowledging the suspension of democratic procedures and political freedoms in many Latin American countries, the report commented that, "although we deplore those facts... we recognize it is the right and responsibility of the people of other countries to
organize their own political systems."(2)

Having defined the parameters of U.S. concern for human rights in the narrowest possible terms, the report recommended that:

...the United States should consider human rights violations
to be a major factor in deciding on the substance and tone
of its bilateral and multilateral relations with all


In accord with the report's specific policy recommendations, the Administration began maneuvering to end the more intolerable acts of repression by the military regimes, while
resisting calls for the severance of all ties with them. Studies documenting violations of human rights in these and other aid-recipient nations were published by the State Department as required by Congress. The Administration notified both the Uruguayan and Argentine governments that their continuing human rights violations left the United States no choice but to reduce their military sales credits. Stung by the unfavorable State Department reports and Congressional aid cuts, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala
and Uruguay all stated they would reject any military aid from the United States and accused the government of "intervening" in their internal affairs.

In November 1977, Secretary of State Vance personally carried a list of 7,500 disappeared prisoners to Argentina and had the
U.S. Ambassador present it to General Videla.(4) Embassy officials in Chile have also requested information on disappeared prisoners in that country. Continuing violations of human rights by the Pinochet regime have even led the United States to vote against a World Bank loan to Chile in March 1978.(5)

In addition to these publicized measures, the State Department engages in what Vance calls "quiet diplomacy": In private meetings with representatives of the military governments, the United States supposedly raises questions about specific human rights violations.

During the course of this diplomatic maneuvering, however, the United States has refrained from expressing opposition to dictatorships per se. In what many in Washington refer to as "carrot and stick diplomacy," the Administration both chastizes the regimes by withholding bilateral aid, and gives them positive reinforcement by applauding any signs of improvement in their behavior. One example occurred in August 1977. When Pinochet did nothing more than reorganize and rename the DINA, Chile's secret police and intelligence system, Terence Todman, then Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, praised the Chilean "progress" on
human rights during a visit to the country.

President Carter's warm welcome to Generals Pinochet, Videla and President Aparicio Mendez (of Uruguay) at the Panama Canal Treaty ceremony in September 1977, was another clear signal to the dictators that they still had a sympathetic big brother in
Washington. Carter met personally with Videla and Pinochet, and the latter declared after his meeting that he and Carter agreed entirely on human rights.(6)


The Administration's policy goes beyond pressures for ending specific human rights violations. Depending on conditions and the correlation of forces in each country, the United States is also seeking certain structural modifications from the regimes to stabilize the political situation. These include the legalization of some political parties, the reconstitution of trade unions under non-Marxist leadership (without restoring any of the tools trade union militancy depends on
such as the right to strike), and the resurrection of legislatures-- although with limited powers, somewhat after the Brazilian model.

To bring about these modifications, the Carter Administration employs a wide range of pressures and incentives, including
meetings with opposition political figures, discussions with key military officials and threats of further reductions in financial assistance. Responding to these pressures as
well as to internal opposition, the dictators have put forth schemes they variously call "restricted," or "authoritarian" democracies. (It was the United States' own Samuel Huntington, member of the Linowitz Commission, who authored the idea that some countries suffer from "an excess of democracy.")(7) These
schemes all share certain key elements: legal recognition of the central political role played by the military; political participation, though limited and controlled, of some bourgeois and petit-bourgeois sectors previously excluded; and containment and cooptation of the mass movement while continuing the repression of the Left.

The current proposal of Argentina's military rulers-aptly dubbed "preventive democracy" by the Left there-calls for "a
new republic... with permanent participation of the military," and pilot elections at the municipal level with candidates who agree with military policies.(8) General Pinochet, in his Chacarillas speech of July 1977, laid out a plan for "authoritarian democracy" for Chile which included a new constitution, parliamentary elections in which political parties would be "avoided," candidates approved by the military, and controlled presidential elections sometime in the 1990's.(9)

The State Department rushed to announce its "pleasure" at General Pinochet's proposal. U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Santiago, Thomas Boyatt, a personal friend of Pinochet's from
the 1960s, stated, "My government is very pleased to see Chile on the way to a government regime generated by elections."(10)

But the United States is finding it exceedingly difficult to create a viable political consensus among the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois sectors, given the economic constraints and the resurgence of the Left and mass movements. The Chilean bourgeois opposition reacted to the Administration's stance as if it had been struck with the U.S. stick. Members of the Christian Democratic Party, although they had wholeheartedly supported the 1973 coup, were dismayed. They complained that the United States had rushed to praise Pinochet's plan before consulting Chilean opposition figures. One Christian Democratic leader denounced Pinochet's proposed plan as nothing but a "cosmetic formula to make the face of the dictatorship more attractive while remaining the same."(11)
Although the Christian Democratic Party has subsequently come around to accepting the idea of institutionalization, it is also pushing its own plan and drawing up a new constitution that differs substantially from the military's.

In Argentina, the Carter Administration has had even less success at encouraging the bourgeois opposition to work with the military. Argentina's Radical Party (Union Civica Radical), a multiclass party, has refused to have anything to do with the proposals of General Videla. Ricardo Balbin,
head of the Party, has repeatedly maintained that without real democracy, the military's stated objectives of reconstructing the nation can never be achieved.(12)

Uruguay's military-backed government, realizing that the United States would look favorably at efforts to legitimize its rule, went its counterparts in Argentina and Chile one
better by calling for presidential elections in 1981. But to make sure that the Uruguayan people don't get too heady about their new "democratic opening," the military proclaimed that while there might be two presidential candidates, both must be approved by the military. Most leaders of Uruguay's major bourgeois opposition party, the Blanco Party, made it clear that they will not participate in these elections. Thus, having failed to coopt the opposition, in the latter part of
1978 the military unleashed a new round of repression against members of the Blanco Party. In one macabre case, the Party's
leadership received bottles of poisoned wine, leading to the death of the wife of the Party president."


Another example of the contradictions the
United States confronts in pursuit of stabiliza-
tion can be found in the history of recent
events in Bolivia. Throughout 1977 divisions
with the Bolivian ruling class deepened and
miners, peasants, workers, students and
teachers became increasingly militant. These
factors, coupled with pressures from the
Carter Administration, led General Banzer in
November 1977 to call for presidential elec-
tions within a year, stating that Bolivia was
"predisposed to organizing itself demo-
cratically."' 4
Then, in January 1978, a nationwide
hunger strike forced Banzer to declare a
general amnesty for political prisoners and
exiles, allowing opposition leaders and trade
union activists to return and take part in the
election campaign. The election, on July 6,
pitted Banzer's hand-picked successor, Air
Force General Juan Pereda, against former
Presidents Victor Paz Estenssoro and Hernan
Siles Zuazo (the latter supported by a coali-
tion of center-left parties). General Pereda
claimed victory but, amid widespread accusa-
tions of massive fraud, the National Election
Board annulled the election on July 20.
General Pereda then staged a coup and in-
stalled himself in power, announcing that
new elections would not be held until 1980.
Immediately following Pereda's coup, the
United States withheld $78 million in pending
military and economic aid to express its
displeasure. However, within a month the
United States had extended diplomatic
recognition to the new regime and reinstated
both military and economic assistance,
despite widespread reports of repression.'"
During succeeding months, General Pereda
sought to defuse demands for immediate elec-
tions, while continuing to round up union
leaders, peasant organizers and other opposi-
tion figures he accused of communist subver-
On November 24, Army General David
Padilla Arancibia, with the support of pro-
gressive sectors within the military, staged a
countercoup. He announced that new elec-
tions would be held before Bolivia's National
Day on August 6, 1979, and drew the imme-
diate support of Hernan Siles Zuazo's
Democratic and Popular Unity coalition
Sources in the Carter Administration have
indicated approval of Padilla's promise to
"return to the people their rights and liber-
ties, including electing their leaders by
universal democratic vote."' 6 But real U.S.
intentions are far from clear. There are
reports of a new right-wing coup in the offing,
and it is not at all certain the United States
would accept a government led by Siles
Zuazo, especially since he enjoys the support
of the Communist Party and the nationalist
Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) of
Bolivia." 7 For U.S. imperialism, the course of
recent events reveals that even militarily-
controlled elections can lead to unpredictable
and potentially explosive situations, and it
will certainly play its options carefully in the
days before the next round of Bolivian elec-
32MarchlApril 1979
As we can see from the Bolivian example, it
is not the bourgeois opposition nor the dic-
tators themselves that constitute the main
obstacle to U.S. efforts to stabilize the regimes
in the Southern Cone, but the mass move-
ments, the working classes and the left
political parties. Despite continuing repres-
sion, they have increasingly recaptured a
place in the national political arenas.
In this sense, U.S. actions and pronounce-
ments on human rights, whose strategic aim
has been to provide political openings for the
bourgeois opposition, have had effects far
beyond those desired by U.S. policymakers.
The emphasis on human rights has helped the
peoples of the Southern Cone develop new
forms of struggle such as the widespread and
internationally supported hunger strikes
against rights violations. It has also provided
legitimacy for new forms of organization such
as the Groups of Relatives of the Disap-
peared- increasingly politicized groups
which are manifest in Chile and Argentina.
Repeated public demonstrations, in which
the demonstrators risk their very lives, as well
as increasing numbers of strikes and work
stoppages in all the countries have forced the
dictators and imperialist strategists to revise
their plans more than once to take into ac-
count this "new" factor-the people.
In recent months, the Carter Administra-
tion and the AFL-CIO have tried to direct
this new militancy into channels that could be
controlled by local labor leaders sympathetic
to the United States. Through the American
Institute for Free Labor Development
(AIFLD), a CIA-funded agency with labor
union and business participation (George
Meany and executive Peter Grace of W.R.
Grace sit together on its board), the AFL-CIO
has long aimed at promoting an "apolitical,"
pro-capitalist union movement in Latin
America. AIFLD publications are now argu-
ing that Southern Cone dictatorships in fact
are encouraging the growth of communist in-
fluence in the unions by repressing the entire
labor movement and forcing unions under-
ground. Thus, concludes AIFLD, to be con-
sistently anti-communist in the Southern
Cone is also to be anti-dictatorship.L"
This line of reasoning was put into action in
the recent meeting of the Inter-American
Regional Labor Organization (ORIT) in
Lima last November. The AFL-CIO pro-
posed and won approval of a boycott measure
which lumped U.S. client regimes in Chile
and Nicaragua together with Cuba on
grounds of repression of trade union rights. A
six-month waiting period before implementa-
tion of the boycott was approved, and AIFLD
chairman Peter Grace, who has major
business interests in Chile, was dispatched to
Santiago to seek Chilean "compliance" with
ORIT demands. In subsequent negotiations,
involving George Meany and other AFL-CIO
officials, Pinochet has been forced to retract
some of his more repressive decrees governing
labor activity--at least temporarily--and the
boycott threat has been suspended.
AFL-CIO representatives have traveled to
Chile to discuss plans and tactics with the
"Group of Ten," a group of Christian
Democratic (and anti-communist) trade
union leaders trained by or close to AIFLD.
NACLA Report
(Some of the group's meetings have even been
held in the U.S. embassy.)" 9 The Group of
Ten has worked closely with AFL-CIO and
ORIT around the threatened boycott, hoping
that concessions wrung from the Pinochet re-
gime for the unions will aid them in their
struggle to win influence away from the Na-
tional Trade Union Coordinating Council
(CNS). The CNS, comprising Left and pro-
gressive labor leaders, was created in
mid-1978, and includes a large number of
Chilean trade unions hard hit by Pinochet.
In developing a policy for Latin America
and the Southern Cone, the United States has
had to cope with pressures on another
front -social democratic forces in the Second
International. Dominated by the Western
European Social Democratic parties, the
Socialist International includes a number of
government and opposition parties in Latin
America such as the People's National Party
in Jamaica, the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI) in Mexico, the Radical Party of
Chile and the Popular Socialist Party of
Argentina. In Latin America, social
democracy claims to offer more extensive
reforms than the United States, including a
fuller restoration of traditional bourgeois
democracy, respect for trade union rights,
and greater freedom of action for middle and
petit-bourgeois sectors. They even speak of an
"alternative to U.S. imperialism in Latin
At a meeting of the Socialist International
held in Vancouver last November, many
delegates admitted that in the Southern Cone
short-run prospects for a democratic opening
appear dim. Forecasts were that the countries
of the region would probably have to pass
through "phases of relative liberalization"
under new military leaders before a successful
shift to civilian rule. However the Socialist In-
ternational still aggressively supports parties
in the Southern Cone that advocate a much
faster pace of change than the United States
would like to see. 2 "
Undoubtedly, the social democratic offen-
sive in Latin America-marked by a series of
meetings on the region since 1976 and the re-
cent establishment of a bureau there-is
motivated by a desire to improve the position
of European capital in the region. Still, with a
relatively small stake in Latin America,
Western Europe- and West Germany in par-
ticular-stands to gain relative to the United
States by promoting social democratic in-
fluence. As the London Financial Times com-
ments, "In some quarters in Latin America
there is a feeling that the SI (Socialist Interna-
tional) is little more than a cover for the Ger-
man Social Democratic Party (SPD)," and
that the party is "thinking of the interests of
its voters, and just opening Latin America to
German salesmen."' 2
But social democracy faces the same limits
in Latin America as U.S. imperialism and is
unlikely to enter into sharp conflict with the
United States. A push for rapid political
changes in the Southern Cone countries could
lead to popular governments that would
adversely affect Western European as well as
U.S. capital. In the midst of the international
economic crisis, the Social Democratic parties
of Western Europe are committed to working
with the United States to uphold the ascen-
dancy of the dominant capitalist nations vis-
a-vis the dependent countries. Prominent
Social Democratic officials sit with U.S. and
Japanese business and governmental leaders
on the Trilaterial Commission, which was
formed precisely to help coordinate the inter-
national policies of the advanced capitalist
nations. Both social democracy and the
Carter Administration realize that inter-
imperialist rivalry at this political juncture
would create even further instability in
regions like the Southern Cone.
The long and the short of the Carter Ad-
ministration's dilemma both in the Southern
Cone and other regions where the United
States relies on repressive regimes is that there
is no formula for long-range stability within
the framework of imperialism. Whatever
solution the United States supports brings
with it a new set of contradictions. Recent
events in Iran and Nicaragua illustrate the
potential explosiveness building beneath
regimes that employ unrelenting repression to
impose stability. Bolivia, on the other hand,
exemplifies the danger of opening the door
34 NACLA ReportMarchlApril 1979
even a crack. The dilemma facing the United
States is made all the more acute by two in-
creasingly important factors-the rising level
of political awareness and the international
capitalist crisis which has reduced impe-
rialism's maneuverability. A program like the
Alliance for Progress, aimed at coopting some
popular sectors, is no longer a real possibility.
The U.S. government can only try to inch
along the crest of these contradictions, being
careful to make no precipitous moves.
It is probable that if the Carter Administra-
tion had the option, it would prefer to sup-
port a liberal form of bourgeois government
that allowed greater social and political ex-
pression. But in the case of Southern Cone
countries, the United States is not likely to
withdraw its support for the dictatorships as
long as there are no viable alternatives.
Although there should be no illusion that
progressive forces in this country can alter
these basic parameters of U.S. policy and thus
topple the dictatorships, neither should there
be demoralization.
Human rights and solidarity work in the
last decade have had important results-sav-
ing lives, freeing prisoners and making the
flow of capital to the dictators a lot more cost-
ly. This work has also provided a forum in
which people in this country, motivated in-
itially by moral concerns, have been moved
forward in their political understanding of
the imperatives of an imperialist world order.
As important, it has been a continuing source
of support to those who are engaged in the
daily struggle to recover the rights taken away
from them by the dictatorships, and to move
their countries toward liberation.
Like it or not, we live within a global system
of economic and political interests, where
events in any part of the world, no matter how
distant, touch our lives. Of course, conditions
are very different in the United States, the
world's most advanced capitalist country,
from those in the dependent countries of
Latin America. But within those differences,
the same basic social and economic forces are
at work, and the political interests at stake are
the same. Here too, in our work, at school
and at home, the great majority of us are con-
stantly confronted by the monopoly of wealth
and power of the banks and big corporations.
Our efforts to improve our lives and commu-
nities are constantly frustrated by the subor-
dination of all other interests to that of profit.
Already, we in the United States are being
rudely awakened- by Allan Bakke and Anita
Bryant, by "Right to Work" and "Right to
Life," by runaway shops and runaway arms
budgets, by Proposition 13 and SB-i--to the
fact that our rulers' conceptions of human
rights do not guarantee our own "bread, work
and freedom."
Not only are the daily struggles of people in
the United States and the Southern Cone
similar, they are part of the same struggle. To
the extent that workers in Chile or Uruguay
are forced to accept starvation wages by a dic-
tatorship which has stripped them of their
labor rights at gun point, the transnational
corporations are able to force down the wages
of U.S. workers, threatening to shift opera-
tions to those countries because of the
"favorable investment climate." As North
American awareness of the trend within many
industries to relocate to such labor-repressed
countries grows, so does their understanding
of the real basis of proletarian interna-
It is in this context that solidarity work
forms an integral part of our own political,
economic and social well-being. The actions
we undertake-to prevent our government
from freely acting to support the dictator-
ships, to expose the true nature of those
regimes through educational work, to boycott
or refuse to handle products made in those
countries, and to provide direct assistance to
those who suffer and resist from within -all
these actions are part of the struggle to ad-
vance human rights, both within the United
States and abroad.

A New Quest for Stability
1. Commission on United States-Latin American
Relations, The United States and Latin America: Next
Steps, Center for Inter-American Relations (New York,
December 20, 1976), p. 3.
2. Op. cit., Commission on United States-Latin
American Relations, p. 7.
3. Ibid., p. 8.
4. Washington Post, November 13, 1977.
5. ABC News Closeup, "The Politics of Torture,"
December 27, 1978.
6. New York Times, September 10, 1977.
7. Samuel P. Huntington, "The Democratic
Distemper" in Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington
and Jogi Watanuki, The Governability of Democracies
(New York: Trilateral Commission, 1976).
8. Denuncia, Jan.-Feb., 1979.
9. Chile Informativo, No. 120 (Casa de Chile: Mex-
ico, July 1977).
10. Washington Post, July 29, 1977.
11. Ibid.
12. Outreach, February-March, 1979, no. 15.
13. Washington Office on Latin America, "Uruguay:
Five Years Into the Dictatorship and Getting Worse,'"
Oct., 1978.
14. New York Times, November 11, 1977.
15. Miami Herald, August 9, 1978, Los Angeles
Times, August 16, 1978.
16. New York Times, November 25, 1978.
17. Bolivia Libre: Servicia de Infomaciones Para el
Exterior, no. 16.
18. AIFLD Report, Vol. 16, No.1, January-March
19. El Rebelde en la Clandestinidad, July, 1978, no.
139, Mir, Chile.
20. Denuncia, December 1978.
21. Ibid.
22. Financial Times, April 13, 1978.

Tags: dictatorships, human rights, Jimmy Carter, US politics, Imperialism

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