Latin American governments are withholding judgment on President Carter's "new directions" in U.S. policy toward Latin America, waiting for what one Chilean press commentator called "deeds, not declarations."
The new directions, outlined by Carter in a speech Thursday to the Organization of American States, called for renewed respect for human rights, recognition of individual sovereignty and economic cooperation.
The lack of immediate response to the speech -- billed as a major policy statement -- may also be due to a combination of domestic political problems, including a constitutional crisis in Brazil and a major internal scandal in Argentina, and a Latin American desire to analyze before reacting.
There is also an ingrained suspicion of Carter's motives and methods among Latin American governments, and a long memory of well-heralded "new" U.S. policy directions by a succession of administrations from Monroe through Carter -- most of which have fallen short of their objectives.
In Argentina, the message was pushed out of the headlines by a local political scandal. There was no official comment, and no editorial comment from Buenos Aires' three leading morning dailies. One paper carried the text of the speech on inside pages.
According to one government official, considered a moderate, Carter said "just what we expected him to say."
Responding to Carter's promise to Latin America that "we will consult with you" on major decisions of globial policy of interest, the official said "they've been saying they were going to consult us ever since Kennedy and the Alliance for Progress. All through Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford -- and they've never consulted us on anything.
"On the whole, I'd say the reaction was positive," he said, "but we're going to look for actions."
Both Argentina and Chile have been singled out as human rights violators by the Carter administration. While the Chilean government had no official comment on Carter's statement that U.S. concern for human rights "will naturally influece our relations" and that the Latin Americans "will find this country eager to stand beside those nations which respect human rights and promote democratic values," the government-owned newspaper El Cronista concluded that Carter had "modified his initial approach" to human rights.
The assessment was apparantly based on Carter's statement that the United States has a "high regard for the individual and sovereignty" of each Latin American nation. That comment, El Cronista said was "highly positive for hemispheric relations" and showed that "in the few months of his administration, President Carter has become aware of realities."
Jornal do Brasil, a leading daily currently critical of the Brazilian government, praised Carter's "frankness and objectivity" and "laudable sensisitivity" and compared his new directions to Franklin D. Roosevelt's "good neighbor policy." But private comments from government officials were not as laudatory.
Still smarting from what they feel is U.S. interference in the Brazilian attempt to purchase nuclear reactors from West Germany, they interpreted Carter's comments on U.S. concern for human rights as continued U.S. intervention in sovereign affairs.