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 evolves...(1)

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 countries.(3)


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- sion. 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 (UDP). 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- tions. 32MarchlApril 1979 IMPERIALISM'S MAIN OBSTACLE: THE PEOPLE 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. U.S. LABOR LEADERS RESPOND 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. 3334 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. SOCIAL DEMOCRACY: "OPENING LATIN AMERICA TO GERMAN SALESMEN" 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 America."20 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. PERSPECTIVES 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 35 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. THE CIRCLE OF SOLIDARITY 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- tionalism. 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 1978. 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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