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Digital Archive International History Declassified

November 30, 1977


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    According to a US document left behind by Cyrus Vance, Argentina had agreed to ratify the Treaty of Tlateloco, to accept full scope safeguards and to delay the construction of a reprocessing facility in exchange for US nuclear assistance and Brazil’s acceptance of a moratorium on the construction of a reprocessing facility. Commenting the paper, Foreign Minister Silveira defines US strategy as “irresponsible” and considers it as an encouragement to the rivalry and confrontation between Argentina and Brazil.
    "Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information to the President, 'Secretary of State Cyrus Vance's Visit'," November 30, 1977, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Ernesto Geisel Archive/CPDOC. Critical Oral History Conference on the Argentine-Brazilian Nuclear Cooperation, Rio de Janeiro, March 2012.
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Classified – Exclusive Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Information to Mr. President Date: November 30th 1977

Subject: Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s visit.

American agenda for discussions.

The document Mr. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance left at Palácio do Planalto after meeting Your Excellency has important diplomatic implications that deserve to be duly examined.

2. Secretary Vance’s forgetfulness is believed to have been completely accidental. It is highly unlikely that the Secretary of State intended to make the Brazilian government aware of the American position on human rights, which has not been discussed during his visit to Brasilia, as well as give us a glimpse of the Carter Administration’s strategy in dealing with Brazil on nuclear affairs.

3. The main issues in the document Vance has forgotten are precisely the abovementioned: human rights and nuclear energy. However, before analyzing them, two aspects must be highlighted: (a) the lack of an explicit interest by the Americans in promoting better relations between the two countries and in recognizing Brazil as a highly valid interlocutor. Indeed, Mr. Vance’s agenda focused only on sticking points and he adopted confrontational positions, with the clear purpose of embarrassing the Brazilian government, and (b) a shallow and “courteous” mention to the “Memorandum of Understanding”.

4. Regarding the part of the document on human rights (BRAZIL – Talking Points on Human Rights), it is important to highlight that during the discussions Mr. Secretary of State abstained from mentioning any Brazilian internal issues, even though they were listed in his document. He might have noticed that if he crossed the line of generality, he risked starting a serious incident between the two countries.

5. However, what is even more relevant in the text on nuclear energy (BRAZIL SCOPE PAPER: Implications of the Argentine Visit), which requires detailed examination by the Brazilian Government.

6. The Americans understand they have reached an agreement with Argentina that represents a substantial development towards their goals. The understanding is the following:

A. Argentina shall ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco and accept safeguards over all its nuclear activities in exchange for a substantial American nuclear assistance (except for technology to get heavy water).

B. The Argentines would accept postponing the construction of its reprocessing plant, if so does Brazil. (The American paper says that the perspective of receiving technology for heavy water would serve as a great incentive for the Argentines). Argentina’s attitude could be defined in a context of “regional balance” and security.

7. From reading the document, the following can be concluded about the American point of view on the matter:

(a) The agreement with Argentina increases the American capacity to pressure Brazil;

(b) The Brazilian position is seen as solid, and the Americans consider Your Excellency’s personal attitude to be a key factor;

(c) The Americans believe our strategy to have the single purpose of buying time;

(d) however, they counted on the fact that Brazil would get a bit restless with the American-Argentine closeness, the American recognition of Argentina’s nuclear status and the possibility of safeguards-free reprocessing;

(e) They were also counting on the possibility of mobilizing France to increase pressure over the Federal Republic of Germany;

(f) either way, the Americans think the Brazilian position will fade away with time, due to the factors abovementioned. In order to accelerate such fading, they are willing to offer positive incentives in thorium and other matters (presumably, as an alternative to the current Brazilian nuclear program);

(g) the Americans are not thinking about promoting changes in the Brazil-FRG agreement, but offering a new three-way agreement (Brazil-FRG-USA or Brazil-USA-Argentina?), to promote energy development in the scenario of “regional balance” and security.

8. Conceptually, the American document is full of contradictions. For instance, it is not possible to both create a scene for the Argentine reprocessing plant and at the same time make reference to a possible ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco by Buenos Aires, since such agreement – as the Americans themselves said - implies full safeguards, which excludes the possibility of reprocessing far from international eyes. To the same degree, the matter of Argentinian reprocessing is presented in the document as a reason for Brazil to worry. Actually, it worries the USA, greatly. If Argentina moves forward on the matter, as expected by the Americans, President Carter’s own policy to prevent access to nuclear energy would be compromised.

9. Finally, the American position is paradoxical, since it would backup Argentine possession of some un- safeguarded plutonium, since Argentina’s decision to discontinue its reprocessing program has no retroactive effect on the material that has already been accumulated. I send Your Excellency separate information (number 288) on the matter.

10. The alignment of the strategies found in the document left at Palácio do Planalto, in contrast with Mr. Vance’s and his entourage’s public and private actions, makes the new American strategy for nuclear issues clear, as follows: 1. They professedly take the focus out of confrontation and claim for common sense, “convincing” diplomatic capabilities, and technological “realities” by feeding information to the Brazilian public opinion about the cons of adopting the technology we have chosen and by proposing alternatives to the Brazilian nuclear program, in order to weaken it; 2. Taking into consideration the solid Brazilian position, they covertly exacerbate the problem, grow rivalry and even confrontation between Brazil and Argentina, hoping that Brazil backs down from its nuclear plans before the perspective of Argentina and the USA getting closer.

11. Their first line of attack is not something new. Actually, the open confrontation strategy, which was applied for a few months, was definitely unexpected. However the second line of action adopted by the US should really concern us. Its mere articulation is a tacit confession that ostensive means will not be enough to change Brazil’s position. It is also a confession that the US failed in solving the problem with Brazil solely regarding nuclear energy matters. The US is now showing new cards and feeding regional problems with the purpose of destabilizing the relations between Latin American countries, in especial Brazil and Argentina. This is a completely irresponsible attitude.

12. The seriousness of the scenario set on the Secretary of State’s document – one which the US would not hesitate in promoting disagreements between Latin American countries, having unforeseeable consequences for the continent’s peace and security, as way of blocking Brazilian access to the technology for a complete nuclear fuel cycle – allows us to have a precise idea of the US interests in the matter. We can clearly conclude that the US is not interested in establishing appropriate safeguards, but in avoiding Brazil’s access to technological knowledge – something that could possibly take Brazil closer to the USA and other powers.


Antonio P. Azeredo da Silveira Minister of State
for Foreign Affairs


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