A flood of habeas corpus writs pouring into Argentine courts is one of the repercussions of this military-dominated continent to President Carter's initiatives on human rights.
The rejection of U.S. aid that is conditioned on demonstrated respect for human rights by Argentina, Uruguay and, today, Brazil, is another consequence of the Carter effort - as are other Latin governments' expressions of support for the position that the U.S. actions constitute interventions in other countries' domestic affairs.
There is also evidence that the move by the Carter administration has provided some encouragement to clements within the various governments seeking to modify human-right abuses.
At the least, the U.S. effort has raised again an issue all but dormant here since the fading rhetoric of the Organization of American States congress in Chile nine months ago.
At that gathering, then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that the state of human rights in Chile had "impaired our relationship." and State Departmetn officials interpreted that to mean that similar abuses elsewher might impair other relationship. Although the U.S. Congress suspended military aid to Uruguay last fall over President Ford's objections, that action failed to have that impact of Carter's decision.
Beginning Wednesday, six days after the aid cut was announced, application for writs of habeas corpus began flowing into Argentine federal courts. These are routinely denied but an unusual 71 were filed in less than 48 hours, most demanding to know the whereabouts of relatives taken away by armed men.
Yesterday a small paid ad. the first of its kind, appeared in the respected daily La Nacion, asking President Jorge Videla to free prisoners detained without charges and to produce alive those who have disappeared. Eight signatures were published, with a note saying there were more signers. Sources at the newspaper said the ad was signed by "more than 150" persons.
Relatives of arrested persons have been fearful of making public statements because some were themselves detained after doing so. The ad said that granting the request for information would be "an affirmation that human rights are fully in effect."
It is known that Carter's move has sharpened debate between the Argentine armed forces, "hard" and "soft" factions to the point where a planned visit by Chilea President Augusto Pinochet is expected to be reconsidered.
The soft-liners, of whom Gen. Videla is said to be one, are expected to argue that the visit might best be postponed or at least downplayed. The hard-liners have taken the view that what they regarded as admirable restraint up to now in their treatment of suspected terriorists has gotten them a slap in the face and as a result they should be given a free hand. They are expected to argue for maximum fanfare for Gen. Pinochet.
Videla's current visit to Peru is being watched to see what kind of response that left-leaning government will make. Peru has also been accused of human-rights violations but has suffered outcry that the rights military regimes have.
Venezuela's Senate seemed to follow the American example yesterday, exhorting El Salvador to lift its state of siege - declared because of protests over alleged election fraud - and guarantee observation of human rights. The Senate then sent copies of its resolution to the U.S. Congress and other Latin legislatures.
In Brazil, the first country to express support for Argentina and Uruguay, the government announced today that it would refuse "in advance - any assistance in the military area that depends, directly or indirectly on prior examination by organs of a foreign government of matters that by their nature are of exclusive competence of the Brazilian government."
The U.S. embassy sent the foreign ministry a memorandum yesterday on the U.S. proposal of $50 millions in credits for purchase of military material along with a copy of a report on the human-rights situation in Brazil.
The ministry said the rights report "contains slanted and unacceptable comments and judgements." A U.S. diplomatic source said the report was "very mild." Diplomats said the Brazilians objected more to the principle of the United States evaluating what they saw as an internal matter than to the wording of the report.
The issue found Cuba and Chile united for once in attacking the United States. Chile's La Tercera newspaper praised Argentina's "dignified reaction" in rejecting the uncut portion of the proposed military aid, saying the episode showed that U.S. intentions were to "maintain its role as lawgiver of inter-American affairs."
Cuba's press caricatured Carter as Don Quixote with a shield and flags labered racism, Zionism, fascism, hunger and exploitation, and it asked how a nation only two years out of Vietnam could set itself up as an example.