REPORTER. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, ma'am.
Q. Do you mind telling us how it went this time?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, very well. This was President Pinochet of Chile, and we had a good discussion about matters that are important between us. We talked about the possibility of Bolivia having access to the ocean, the importance of Chile's ratifying the nonproliferation treaty and implementing the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
We also discussed the importance of holding down the armaments race in the Andean region. And I discussed with President Pinochet the problem that exists with the question of human rights in Chile, and he described to me some of the steps they are taking to improve the rights of the people there as they have recovered from the recent coup, and also we discussed the possibility of some observers who might go into Chile to observe what has been done there.
But these are matters that are, I think, important to Chile. They are certainly important to us and to the interrelationships that exist in our hemisphere.
Q. Did you ask him about missing Americans in Chile or anything about the problems concerning American citizens?
THE PRESIDENT. We talked about the release of prisoners and the right of those to be tried, the expedition of the judicial system, which has, he admitted, been delayed in some instances, and the elimination of their intelligence agency, I think a couple of weeks ago; also the new process by which a prisoner can be released from incarceration in exchange for extradition. In other words, if they want to be released, they leave the country.
We have had a very frank discussion about this serious problem. I think the Chilean leaders, including President Pinochet, recognize that the reputation of their country has been very poor in the field of human rights. He acknowledged that they have had problems in the past. He claimed that progress had been made in recent months and told me that their plans are for an increase in human freedoms in the future.
But I think that he can describe plans for the future better than can I. He knows that this is a very serious problem for Chile.
Q. Would you send observers?
THE PRESIDENT. NO, we would not send observers. I think the observers that might--by the way, Assistant Secretary Todman was there recently--and the observers that we talked about would be from the United Nations.
Thank you very much.
Q. What do you say to people who say you shouldn't meet with these dictators? In other words, is there a problem meeting with people who have bad reputations?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, no, I don't feel that this should be an obstacle to my meeting with them, to describing to them the problems as I see them, to ask for their explanation in a very frank and forthcoming way and to request their plans for the alleviation of the problem or the explanation of the charges that have been made against their governments.
Obviously, the question of human rights has historically been a serious one in this hemisphere, Latin America in particular.
Most of the leaders have expressed to me great satisfaction at the progress that is now being made. Even when free elections do not exist, the commitments have been made among the leaders with whom I have met today that within a certain period of time and a date set by them that free elections would be held.
So, I think that my meeting with leaders of countries where human rights questions or others do exist--excessive armaments, border disputes, drug supply problems--I think it's healthy for them and for us, for me to know their position better and for them to have the encouragement of our expressions of concern.
I think it's a good thing. Thank you.