Chile's Road to Socialism


CHAPTER 11

The United States of America

Speech in reply to a statement by President Nixon
Punta Arenas, 27 February 1971

I am aware of what it means to be President of a small country, but I affirm that the stature of a people is not measured by the number of its inhabitants, or by its riches or by its industrial development. I think that it is appropriate to select a few key paragraphs from a very long communication which the President of the United States has sent regarding relations with Chile. He makes certain reflections upon which I should like to comment. Basically this is what he has to say:

'We negotiate with governments as they are. These relations do not depend upon the internal structure or upon the social system, but on the actions which affect us and the inter-American organization. The new government in Chile is a case in point. The 1970 election of a socialist President may have profound implications not only for his people, but for the inter-American system of relations. The legitimacy of their government is not in question, but its ideology may influence its actions. Chile's decision to establish links with Communist Cuba, in opposition to the common policy of the O AS, is a challenge to the inter-American organization. Consequently we, and our colleagues in the OAS, will watch carefully the development of Chile's foreign policy. Our bilateral policy is to keep open our lines of communication. We shall not be the first to damage our traditional relationship. We assume that existing rights and obligations will be respected. We also recognize that the actions of the Chilean government will be determined basically by their own final intentions, and that they will not be deflected from them simply by the tone of our policy.

'In short, we are prepared to maintain the land of relations with the Chilean government which they are inclined to maintain with us.'

There are certainly positive elements in this declaration by the President of the United States. He acknowledges the legitimacy of the present Chilean government due to its democratic and legal origins; there is the willingness to cooperate with all Latin American countries, regardless of their ideological position, and to respect decisions taken by independent nations; and, in accepting the influence of the conference at Vina del Mar on the formulation of their policy for Latin America, there is the implicit agreement to study the economic plan and heed some of the much-repeated demands made by Latin America.

These positive aspects of the message could form the basis for a policy of understanding and reciprocal collaboration with the United States, since our own policy is based upon respect for the self-deterrnination of all people, on non-intervention and on fulfilling agreements which have been freely undertaken. However, I must say that there are, in our opinion, some aspects of the message which are not so positive.

In his address, he repeatedly stresses the importance of the present organization of inter-American states, but identifies it with the interests of the United States. This reveals a fundamental mis-recognition of the basic facts in the political reality of the continent. Gabriel Valdes, Foreign Minister under Frei, proposed in a speech on n June 1969 - when he presented, on behalf of Latin America, the conclusions of the Viña del Mar conference to President Nixon himself - that there was 'a profound crisis in the concepts, the activities and the institutions of the inter-American system, which affects the development of the entire hemisphere'. This crisis again came to the fore during the recent Assembly at Washington which met to discuss repression and the problem of terrorism.

No one can deny that the OAS and the entire inter-American system are entering a phase that could lead to a crisis. We declare that it is not true, that it is a myth that the United States is on an equal footing with the other members of the OAS. There is not, and there cannot be, any truth in the claim that the United States and a whole community of different ideologies and objectives could share the same interests. Inequality of condition among members of the organization, and a balance of power in favour of the United States, have meant advantages for the stronger members at the expense of the weaker. The interests of the United States and the interests of Latin America fundamentally have nothing in common. At the conference at Viña del Mar, the Foreign Ministers of Latin American countries stated openly that Latin America and the United States had divergent interests as the result of the dependence of the former on the latter. Here is what they said: 'The economic and scientific-technological gap which exists between the developing world and the developed nations has increased and will continue to increase, while the internal obstacles which hinder the rapid economic growth of Latin America are multiplying. One example of this situation is the disproportion that exists between what Latin America receives from the United States and what it yields in return. Private investment,' continues Foreign Minister Valdes, 'has meant and continues to mean for Latin America that the profits obtained from our continent are several times greater than the sum invested.'

There is no ideological identity of interests. The United States is concerned to maintain the status quo throughout the world, a status quo which has permitted them to attain and establish their hegemony. Latin America, as a dependent and underdeveloped region, has to abolish that very status quo in order to put an end to such a condition. The ideology of the Latin American people, as expressed recently, seeks to end such dependence, and must, as an ideology, be progressive, reformist or revolutionary, favouring change in all cases to suit the real circumstances of each country, according to its history and to its idiosyncrasies. Chile wants to maintain cordial and co-operative relations with all nations in the world and most particularly with the United States, but this must be based on the recognition of the difference of interests between each country, and of the similarity of interests which ought to unite Latin America in general and in particular its sub-regional organizations.

This new policy, this way of regarding inter-American relations, was formulated at the conference of Vina del Mar and has been reaffirmed by CECLA. [1] It will be practised by our government as a way of guaranteeing and putting on an equal and realistic footing the basis of the relations between our country and the United States.

These ideas are not new to Chile or to Latin America. In 1969, Gabriel Valdes declared to President Nixon: 'However much international co-operation, and, in particular, inter-American co-operation, has been discussed in countless debates and exchanges at the highest levels, not only have we been unable to approach the planned objectives but the very gap between the two has widened. The reason for this is that the interests of the governments of Latin America and those of the United States are not the same. In fact each tends in many ways to contradict the other.'

For his part, the Brazilian minister, Magalhaes Pinto, said at the opening of the conference at Vina del Mar: '"We are aware that our unity is based upon Latin American characteristics and upon a geography whose features extend from country to country and compose a common continental personality.'

Recognition of common interests should be the source to inspire our solidarity. A difference of interests does not mean that we cannot - and we must - resolve amicably our differences of opinion. We want to come to amicable agreements. That is how we would like to settle our decision to nationalize our copper, iron and saltpetre mines. This action should not, we believe, prejudice the area of positive relations we have with the United States.

That our attitude on this matter is not aggressive is shown in that, although we criticize the OAS system, we are remaining in the organization in order to discuss our point of view there. We hope that a dialogue will emerge that will open up new concepts of inter-American relations.

Finally I want to say a few words concerning the opinions expressed by the President of the United States about Chile's decision to re-establish diplomatic, commercial and cultural relations with Cuba. When the OAS broke off relations with Cuba, Chile did not express an opinion. Now, with the government of the Unidad Popular it has the moral and political duty to make good an injustice that was committed in the name of interests and ideologies that were not its own nor of its people. That is why we are establishing relations with Cuba again.

One cannot interpret this attitude on the part of the Chilean people as a threat to the inter-American system, not as we conceive it. It should be enough to remember that Mexico did not break off relations with Cuba. We want our attitude to be regarded as a serious and considered attempt to correct a policy and a procedure that have contributed to a crisis in the system. This should be based on peaceful co-existence, on the mutual respect of all its members and on the freedom of each one to maintain independent relations with all countries in the world and especially with another Latin American government.

President Nixon has said that the United States is prepared to maintain with Chile the relations that Chile will maintain with them. The government of Chile wants amicable relations with the most powerful country in the hemisphere, providing we are allowed the freedom to express differences, to dissent and to negotiate from different points of view.

The government of Chile has not made a single utterance which could be interpreted as a reckless accusation. On the contrary, we have searched for every opportunity to discuss matters with the delegate of the American government, Charles Meyer, who came on the occasion of the message. We have had conversations with Admiral Humboldt, who suggested that we might like to see the warship Enterprise in our harbour. I told him that we accepted with the greatest pleasure and that I, as President of Chile, would invite the 3,600 members of the crew to come ashore, as I would like them to know how genuinely democratic the way of life is here in our country, and that here they will find respect for all opinions, all principles and for all manner of thought.


Notes:

1. The Special Coordinating Commission for Latin America - a commission that unites the Latin American countries without the United States.


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