Felipe Herrera, the Chilean who led the Inter-American Development Bank through its first decade here, said on a return visit last week that he opposes making member nation's human rights performance a factor in deciding whether they obtain loans from the bank.
"The multilateral lending organizations should be given the greatest possible autonomy" and their decisions on loans "must be technical, not political," said Herrera, 55, who was in Washington for a meeting of an association dedicated to Latin American integration. He was re-elected coordinator of the Brazil-based study group.
The human rights question has a particular relevance for Herrera, who served the government of Chilean President Salvador Allenda after leaving the Inter-American Bank in 1970. The military junta that ousted Alende four years ago is cited as a flagrant violator of human rights.
Legislation proposed by congressional human rights activists would require the United States to vote against almost all loans to countries found to vilate their citizens' rights systematically.
While the Carter administration has made vigorous vocal defense of human rights a major tenet of its foreign policy, it has opposed congressional action tying multilateral bank votes to rights performance.
An amendment to current aid legislation sponsored by Rep. Thomas C. Harkin (D-Iowa) already requires that U.S. votes in the Inter-American Bank be tied to rights. It triggered a classic confrontation last year in which the United States voted against a loan to Chile while all the Latin nations voted in favor. The loan was approved.
Late development lending from the political demands of aid-giving countries - mainly the United States.
"If you enter into an institution under certain rules of the game, you have to abide by them," he said, adding that, while human rights might be the condition that the United States would put on its money now, less desirable political considerations could enter by the same route later.
Weighing loans for development projects "must either be technical or political . . . it cannot be both," he said.
At the same time, Herrera praised the general thrust of President Carter's human rights efforts, saying "it is helping to change the atmosphere not only in the hemisphere but throughout the world."
Herrera related the rights policy, "as part of the liberal U.S. tradition," to President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress - the 1960s aid effort in which the Inter-American Bank played a major role.
A lasting result of the Alliance for Progress was creation of "a very impressive technocracy" in Latin America that today is guiding development, he said. In the early years at the bank, "We had no counterpart to work with in the borrowing countries. It was hard to find projects because there were few people who could prepare them."
Although Latin American technicians now work easily with their counterparts in the developed world, Herrera expressed concern that the overall thrust of development economics still comes from the industrial states.
"While Latin America is much more autonomous economically today, we are even more dependent intellectually," he said.
The program that Herrera now directs, Joint Studies on Latin American Economic Integration, is an effort to foster homegrown economic leadership.