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2021 Documents in Review: Document Details Averted Meeting Between Kissinger and Argentina Military Ahead of 1976 Coup

December 3, 2021
Coup leaders Admiral Massera and General Videla.

The National Security Archive is wrapping up 2021 by looking back at some of our most impactful postings from the past year and highlighting the biggest documents behind them. This week we’re highlighting a declassified 1976 cable sent from Ambassador to Argentina, Robert Hill, to Acting Assistant Secretary of State Hewson Ryan. The cable warns against a potential meeting between Secretary Kissinger and Argentine military counterparts on the eve of the 1976 coup d’état against Isabel Perón as President of Argentina. The document was originally published in the Archive’s March 23, 2021, posting, Argentina’s Military Coup of 1976: What the U.S. Knew. 

Today’s highlighted posting was made possible by the Archive’s decades-long FOIA work to win the release of information on what the U.S. government knew about the March 24, 1976, overthrow of Isabel Peron’s government. The posting provides evidence of multiple contacts between the coup plotters and U.S. officials, though “there is no evidence that the U.S. instigated the coup,” said Carlos Osorio, Director of the National Security Archive Southern Cone Documentation Project. “But the United States accepted, and tacitly supported, regime change because Washington shared the military’s position that the putsch was the only alternative to chaos in Argentina.” Osorio noted that “U.S. officials wanted to believe that General Videla, the coup leader, was a moderate. The military dictatorship that followed killed and disappeared more than 20,000 people.”

Today’s document is a highly restricted cable sent to Acting Assistant Secretary of State Hewson Ryan (Assistant Secretary William Roger was traveling to Caracas) from Ambassador Robert Hill. The cable details an attempt by a claimed Argentine military representative to arrange a meeting with Kissinger ahead of the coup, as well as confirmation that third parties had already indicated that Washington would recognize a new government in Argentina following the coup. 

In the cable, Ambassador Hill reports that an American-Argentine citizen named “Carnicero” is trying to arrange a meeting between an Argentine military representative and Secretary Kissinger, “so that they can explain the political situation in Argentina.” As the cable continues, Ambassador Hill intervenes, stating: “I discouraged Carnicero from going forward with this idea.” The Ambassador says, “Such a meeting, should it become public knowledge, could be misinterpreted to the detriment of the officers themselves as well as of Secretary Kissinger. Further, I said, it seemed to me unnecessary. The embassy has discreetly and through third parties already indicated to the military that the USG will recognize a new govt in Argentina …” 

The cable ends with Ambassador Hill doubting the authenticity of the offer and questioning whether Carnicero is not actually a lone actor. Hill warns that Carnicero, “…may wish to demonstrate to the military how well-connected he is by suggesting and bringing about a meeting with Secretary Kissinger. Were this the military’s own idea, I believe they would have used other channels.” 

Check back next week for more! 

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