"Simply extraordinary," said OAS Secretary General Alejandro Orfila, obviously impressed with the turnout of hemispheric movers and shakers.
"Extraordinary in the sense that there are concerned people participating who recognize problems of a bilateral and economic nature between the U.S. and Latin America that need to be aired and dealt with," said financier David Rockefeller, obviously convinced that if he and the others participating in something called the Inter-American Dialogue come up with any "sensible conclusions," somebody is going to listen.
"An extraordinary day," said Sol Linowitz, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, who thought up Inter-American Dialogue, obviously pleased not to be the only one concerned about the state of U.S.-Latin American relations.
After the Falklands crisis, that concern prompted Linowitz to get in touch with Galo Plaza, former OAS secretary general, to see if he was similarly motivated. He was, and together they organized the Dialogue.
The first part of it got under way yesterday under the auspices of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz met with the group for an hour, and while reportedly "attentive," as one conferee described him, he was also unbending in his defense of Reagan administration financial policies toward troubled nations.
Last night, everybody moved across town to the Embassy of Ecuador, where the ambassador, Ricardo Crespo-Zaldumbide, and his wife, Elsa, Galo Plaza's daughter, entertained them and about 150 others at a reception. There, the dialogue continued informally. The ranking State Department guest was Thomas O. Enders, assistant secretary for Latin American affairs.
"What I was trying to get across to Shultz and my North American friends was the gravity of the situation," said Rodrigo Botero, Colombia's finance minister from 1974 to 1976. "Apparently the idea of how serious the difficulties are in some Latin American countries has not yet percolated. They are not asking for aid. What they are asking is not to cut international credit."
Gabriel Valdes, Chile's foreign minister from 1964 to 1970, said his remarks to Shultz had been "very strong" because if there is a link between Latin America and the United States, it's their common devotion to freedom, democracy and human rights.
"Our point is this: If things happen in Latin America, we cannot blame everything on the Soviet Union," continued Valdes, who added that because he lives in Chile and wants to go back there, he never gets into Chilean politics when he is outside his country. "This is a rule for me. My wife and children are there . . ."
Others in the throng included Elliot Richardson; RKO General's president, Frank Shakespeare; former World Bank president Robert McNamara; public relations consultant Joan Braden and retired Air Force Gen. David C. Jones.
Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley also thought the event "extraordinary" but was uncertain whether it would turn into an annual gathering. Underwritten by the Ford, Gildred, Hewlett and Rockefeller foundations as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Dialogue was "constrained by our budgetary problems," said Ripley, then with an impish grin at David Rockefeller added, "none of these nice men ever give enough money."