One of President Carter's appointees apologized yesterday on behalf of the United States for American involvement in subverting the Allende government in Chile. The apology was promptly disavowed by the State Department.
Brady Tyson, deputy leader of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, offered the apology in the course of co-sponsoring a draft resolution condemning Chile's current government for "constant and flagrant violations fo human rights," including the "institutionalized practice of torture."
White House press secretary Jody Powell said last night that the President "was not consulted prior to" Tyson's remarks and refused to characterize Carter's response when he was told of them.
The State Department called Tyson's apology a "personal one that was not approved in advance and is not an expression of the administration's views."
In New York, a spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, Andrew Young, said that Tyson had not cleared the statement with Young, either. The ambassador had nominated Tyson for his position on the U.S. delegation to Geneva.
Tyson told delegates in Geneva:
"Our delegation would be less than candid and untrue to ourselves and our people if we did not express our profoundest regrets for the role some government officials, agencies and private groups played in the subversion of the previous, democratically elected Chilean government that was overthrown by the coup of Sep. 11, 1973."
Tyson did not signle anyone out by name, but added that "the policies and the persons responsible" for actions against the Allende government "have been rejected by the (American) people in a free election."
The United States has repeatedly denied any direct role in the overthrow of Allende, a Marxist, but former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former President Nixon have admitted covertly supporting opposition to Allende.
Yesterday's remarks by Tyson - a former Methodist missionary who was prominent in the civil rights movement in the South - stopped short of saying that Washington was directly involved in the coup.
"It is dubious," he said, that the U.S. officials, agencies and private groups working against Allende "were the sole cause or even the determinate cause of the overthrow."
The flap between the State Department and Tyson is the latest in a series of such incidents. A month ago, the State Department took public issue with Andrew Young's statement that Cuban troops "bring a certain stability and order" to Angola.
At the time, when State issued something between a clarification and a denial of Young's remarks, Young replied that he serves the Carter administration as "a mind of point man," taking positions on issues before formal policy is declared.
A spokesman in Young's office at the United Nations sounded more cautious yesterday, saying that Tyson had not consulted with Young beforehand but had called the ambassador after making his statement at Geneva.
"The ambassador has requested a full text by cable tonight," the spokesman said, adding: "Until he reads the text, he will have nothing to say."
The State Department said last night that Tyson had been authorized to offer the United States as a co-sponsor of the resolution condemning the present Chilean government. It was only the apology for past U.S. actions that was not authorized, a spokeswoman said.
This in itself marks a distinct shift in U.S. policy. Until yesterday, the United States had always abstained on commission votes to condemn Chile.
Other sponsors of the resolution Tyson co-sponsored are Austria, Britain, Cuba, Cyprus, Rwanda, Sweden, and Yugoslavia.
Tyson called the draft resolution "fair, prudent and cautious," and said: "The expression of regrets, however profound, cannot contribute significantly to the reduction of the suffering and terror that the people of Chile have experienced in the past two years."
"The Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal have left us as a nation more determined, more humble and perhaps in some ways more powerful," he added.
Tyson, an associate professor of Latin American studies at American University currently on sabbatical, worked with Young and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s. Previously, he had worked for the Methodist Church in Brazil for four years. He has long been active in Latin American human-rights causes and was recruited by Young as the Latin American specialist on the staff of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in New York.
Last night, the State Department pointed out that a U.S. Senate committee, after a thorough investigation had "reported that it was unable to find any evidence of direct U.S. involvement in the (Chilean) coup of 1973, although it concluded that the funding of certain Chilean political groups and media may have contributed to an atmostphere conducive to the coup. That is where the matter stands as far as this administration is concerned.