Argentina, 1975-1980: The Making of U.S. Human Rights Policy
Comprising 2,429 documents, this set chronicles the development of U.S. policy as it attempts to deal with the tragedy experienced in Argentina during the critical, formative period of the late 1970’s, which featured a political collapse verging on civil war; a military coup; and massive illegal detentions, torture and kidnappings. The documents show U.S. officials grappling with human rights violations on a scale never heard of in the Western Hemisphere, underscored by the dramatic disappearance of tens of thousands of people at the hands of the security forces. The declassified records in this set, most of them acquired by National Security Archive project staff and never before published, illustrate the birth of human rights as a priority in U.S. foreign policy – along with more traditional concerns ranging from the spread of international communism to nuclear proliferation in Latin America.
Among the many instructive and colorful vignettes in the collection is the clamoring of the Argentine establishment in early 1976 for an end to the chaos, anarchy, and political violence, which culminated in support for the military coup d’état. By the second half of that year, U.S. officials had taken note that thousands of people were disappearing, and in 1977, the Carter administration began to implement an innovative and vocal human rights policy to stop the military violence. The collection wraps up with the early Reagan administration, showing U.S. officials such as Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams pressing Argentine generals to address the wrenching problem of “children taken from their families during the dirty war” by security forces. These extraordinary records are making headlines in 2012 as key pieces of evidence in hundreds of human rights trials against former military officials in Argentina. The publication thus presents experts and students with invaluable primary source material that will help to further an understanding of issues with striking relevance today – Latin America’s struggle to cope with its violent political history; the underpinnings of U.S. policy toward Latin America; and the role of human rights in the international arena.