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Chronology of events surrounding the June 10, 1976 Kissinger-Guzzetti meeting

NOTE: Links below refer to source documents

March 24, 1976 - The Argentine military takes power in a coup d'etat, overthrowing the government of Isabel Perón.

April 30, 1976 - American citizen Gwenda Loken Lopez is captured and savagely tortured by Argentine security forces. She is finally freed in October after nearly six months of captivity..

May 5-7, 1976 - American citizen Mercedes Naveiro Bender is kidnapped and tortured by Argentine security forces. Naveiro witnesses the torture of scores of others while in detention.

May 20, 1976 - The bodies of former Uruguayan legislators Zelmar Michelini and Hector Gutierrez Ruiz are found in Buenos Aires. U.S. agencies suspect and subsequently come to believe that Michelini and Gutierrez Ruiz - who were vocal critics of the military regime in Uruguay - were murdered in a coordinated operation involving Uruguayan and Argentine security forces.

May 21, 1976 -Argentina's presidential secretary, Ricardo Yofre, tells U.S. Ambassador Robert Hill that Argentina is involved in "an all-out war against subversion. In the heat of the battle there will inevitably be some violations of human rights" Yofre also "warned that the government plans to drastically step up its campaign against the terrorists very shortly."

May 24-27, 1976 - American citizen Elida Messina, coordinator of the Argentina chapter of the Fulbright Commission, is kidnapped and tortured by Argentine security forces.

May 25, 1976 - While visiting Argentina, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative informs U.S. Ambassador Robert Hill that "the GOA was irritated by international pressure on refugees and wanted to proceed to deal with them with as free a hand as possible."

May 28, 1976 - Ambassador Hill presents a human rights demarche to Argentine Foreign Minister Admiral Cesar Augusto Guzzetti regarding the forces that "murdered Michelini, Gutierrez Ruiz and dozens of others and have just kidnapped a member of Fulbright Commission, Miss Elida Messina." Reporting on Guzzetti's reaction to the demarche, Hill writes "I did not have the impression he really got the point."

Early June 1976 - In the context of a coordination known as operation "Condor" intelligence representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay decide, at a meeting in Santiago, to set up a computerized intelligence data bank and agree to establish an international communications network. Uruguayan, Chilean, and Argentine intelligence representatives agree to expand to Europe their coordination to hit leftists.

June 3, 1976 -The corpse of Juan José Torres, former Bolivian president, is found in Buenos Aires. U.S. agencies suspect Torres was killed by Argentine security forces.

June 7, 1976 - In response to a Department of State query pertaining to coordination among Southern Cone military regimes to hit political refugees, Ambassador Hill informs the State Department that, although there is no firm evidence, "there is considerable circumstantial evidence" that the killings of the Uruguayans and Bolivian political refugees were carried out by Argentine security forces. In a similar cable to the Department of State that day, U.S. Ambassador to Chile David Popper reports, "We assume (1) that Armed forces and intelligence services of all these countries cooperate to some extent, (2) That all these governments are capable of covert killing."

June 9, 1976 - According to a U.S. Embassy report, "Ten armed men broke into the offices of the Argentine Catholic Commission on Immigration … and ransacked safes and files, stealing most of the records on the many thousands of refugees and immigrants handled through the commission in the past 20 years… [T]he implications are enormous, particularly following the recent violent deaths of prominent political exiles from neighboring countries… UNHCR contacts are worried about dangers to those whose names figured in the stolen documents, which include index cards with names and addresses and confidential letters requesting assistance."

5:27 am, June 10, 1976 - Early this morning, as the Secretary of State prepares to meet Guzzetti in Santiago, Chile, Deputy Secretary of State Charles Robinson sends a cable from Washington informing Secretary Kissinger that, "There is no evidence available suggesting the existence of a conspiracy among the governments of the Southern Cone to track down and [kill] prominent asylees resident in those countries."

Nevertheless, the cable continues, "[a]gainst the backdrop of these political murders, the UNHCR representative in Buenos Aires has provided the embassy with disturbing reports about the inhospitable atmosphere for many foreign political exiles living in Argentina… Their total is estimated by UNHCR at 15,000, 10,000 of whom are Chilean and most of the balance Uruguayan. UNHCR estimates that about 1,000 of the Chilean exile and 300-400 of the others could be considered to be in danger from Argentine security forces or rightist extremists, either from Argentina or from their native countries… If the abuses continue or spread without a firm and unequivocal response from the junta, we can expect our efforts to maintain coherent relations with the new government in Argentina to become much more complicated, if not frustrated altogether. Robinson"

8:00 am, June 10, 1976 - Secretary of State Kissinger meets early in the day with the Argentine foreign minister, Admiral Guzzetti, for over one hour. The U.S. participants included Under Secretary for Economic Affairs [and just previously Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs] William Rogers, Under Secretary for International and Security Affairs Carlyle E. Maw, and Luigi R. Einaudi as note taker. On the Argentine side, Guzzetti was accompanied by Ambassador Pereyra [the senior civilian within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Director General of International Policy] and Argentina's Ambassador to the OAS and renowned diplomat Julio Cesar Carasales.

[Note: the Memorandum of Conversation for this meeting was misdated June 6, 1976. The meeting took place during the morning of June 10, 1976, when Kissinger met with several foreign dignitaries attending the OAS General Assembly in Santiago. That afternoon he traveled to Mexico City. See Secretary Kissinger's travels at the State Department historian's web page and the Secretary's calendar of events for that day]

The encounter is cordial and the Secretary never raises the issues of torture and disappearances in Argentina, nor the Americans endangered there. The Memorandum of Conversation shows that after a series of pleasantries, Guzzetti opens the substantial part of the meeting by stating: "Our main problem in Argentina is terrorism. It is the first priority of the current government that took office on March 24."

In closing, Secretary Kissinger says, "If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly. But you must get back quickly to normal procedures."

June 11-12, 1976 - Twenty-four Chileans and Uruguayans are kidnapped and tortured by Argentine security forces. The U.S. Embassy later reports, "conclusion almost inescapable that GOA security forces either directly responsible or at least tolerating extra-official actions… [The Kidnapping] following the theft of refugee documents from Catholic Commission on Immigration June 9 (Ref C) has reportedly spread terror among thousands of refugees in Argentina."

June 14, 1976 - In a seemingly futile effort, Deputy Chief of Mission to Argentina Maxwell Chaplin meets Ambassador Pereyra under formal instructions from the State Department to express concern about the recent kidnapping of Uruguayan and Chilean refugees in Buenos Aires.

"Pereyra's response was an impassioned, almost fanatic defense of GOA. With regard to substance of the issue, Pereyra contended that GOA was doing best it could in an all-out war with extremists; that it was not possible to prevent occasional excesses by embattled security forces…

When he reached the topic of the UNHCR, Pereyra's indignation was barely controlled…

In a review of events at the OAS General Assembly, Pereyra expressed satisfaction over his conclusion that Secretary Kissinger was realistic and understood the GOA problems on human rights."

September 17, 1976 - Returning with instructions from Washington, Ambassador Hill has his human rights pleas rebuffed by Foreign Minister Guzzetti:

"The Foreign Minister said that GOA had been somewhat surprised by indications of such strong concern on the part of the USG in human rights situation in Argentina. When he had seen SECY of State Kissinger in Santiago, the latter had said he 'hoped the Argentine Govt could get the terrorist problem under control as quickly as possible.' Guzzetti said that he had reported this to President Videla and to the cabinet, and that their impression had been that the USG's overriding concern was not human rights but rather that GOA "get it over quickly."

September 21, 1976 - Ambassador Hill's human rights message is also rejected by Argentine Junta President Jorge Rafael Videla:

"President said he had been gratified when FONMIN Guzzetti reported to him that Secretary of State Kissinger understood their problem and had said he hoped they could get terrorism under control as quickly as possible. Videla said he had the impression senior officers of the USG understood situation his govt faces but junior bureaucrats do not."

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