The Carter administration, pursuing its human rights policy in a new dimension, has deferred a decision on $11 million in aid to Chile "until we see how the human rights situation develops" in that country, it was announced yesterday.
State Department spokesman Hodding Carter Ill, who disclosed the deferral in response to press inquiries, said it would last for 30 to 60 days. Carter implied that a definitive U.S. action would be taken by the end of that period.
The administration previously hasreduced or halted U.S. military aid to several countries because of human rights violations hand voted against some loans by international banks to countries seen as human rights violators. Chile is the first case to come to light in which u.S. economic aid has been employed as a human rights lever.
State Department officials would not say what actions by Chile would be required to gain the aid. The decision to defer action was made last Friday in a meeting of State Department, Agency for International Development and other administration officials and had not been made known to Chile before yesterday's announcement.
The three loans totaling $11 million, already approved by Congress as part of the fiscal year 1977 budget, were intended to help finance an irrigation project and other small agricultural developments.
Officials of the State Department's Latin American bureau and of AID reportedy argued that the aid should be granted on humanitarian grounds because it is intended to benefit at least 60,000 Chilean farmers living in poverty.
The State Deparment's human rights offices and some other officials, however, argued that the aid should be withheld as a sign of U.S. disapproval of Chilean government violations of human rights.
Congress voted a year ago to limit economic aid to Chile and bar military assistance on human rights grounds, and the Carter administration has signaled its distaste for some aspects of Chilean military rule.
The development loans under consideration are described as the last U.S. aid currently planned for Chile.
The fate of the aid to Chile is important as a precedent in the relationship of human rights to assistance to poverty-stricken groups within less developed countries. The deferral of the Chilean decision - rather than rejection - indicates the matter is still the subject of debate in the administration.