Opponents of Chile's rightist military governments, whose hopes were raised by President Carter's human rights policy, fell betrayed and confused by recent U.S. statements that appear to bolster Chile's ruling junta.
Most surprising to observers here was a State Department comment that the United States was "pleased," by a plan announced by the Chilean president, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to hold limited elections by 1984 or 1985.
Equally puzzling was a visit the next day by U.S. charge d'affaires Thomas Boyatt to Foreign Minister Patricio Carvajal.
Chilean newspapers quoted Boyatt as saying he had told Carvajal. "My government is very pleased to see Chile on the way to a government regime generated by election."
Newpapers and television stations, all of which support the government, gave extensive coverage to the U.S. comments.
Members of the outlawed Christian Democratic Party, the strongest opposition force in the tightly controlled country, were dismayed.
One leader said the United States had "hastened to praise the presidential speech before most Chileans had a chance to give their opinion."
Another party spokesman said the statements were a reversal of the U.S. human rights policy and appeared to give a stamp of approval to a plan that most Chilean parties had rejected.
Pinochet's plan, he said, was "a cosmetic formula to make the face of the dictatorship more attractive while remaining the same."
Other opposition leaders rejected the plan as a "farce" and a "mockery of democracy" that would allow Pinochet to have himself elected to remain in power until 1991.
Pinochet's plan announced July 9, calls for a transition period to begin in 1981 with the creation of a legislative body whose members would be appointed by Pinochet and the military junta that now rules Chile.
In 1984 or 1985, Pinochet said, two-thrid of the legislature would be elected by popular vote and one-third would be appointed by the president. The new legislature would then choose a president.
The government has permitted a limited debate on the proposals. Newspapers and magazines have printed interviews with rightist and centrist politicians and polled rank-and-file Chileans.
Leftist politicians, whose parties are still persecuted by the security police, have been excluded from the discussion, and no debate of the plan is allowed on television.
The comments on Pinochet's plan that was made by State Department spokesman Hodding Carter III on July 11 were the first positive American move toward the Pinochet government since Carter took office.
Carter criticized U.S. support for the Pinochet government during his campaign. Since Carter took office, his administration has sent many signals to the Chilean governments that it is displeased with violations of human rights here.
Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and other diplomats have urged Chile to allow more political freedom. U.S. officials have met with opponents of the Pinochet government, and $10.6 million worth of development loans were delayed as a sign of displeasure with Pinochet's policies.
Source in Washington said the State Department comments that upset the Christian Democrats reflected a split in the department between human rights advocates appointed by Carter and veteran foreign service officers who do not wish to alienate a friendly government.
Some of the human rights supporters reportedly felt that Boyatt, the charge d'affaires, expressed more warmth to the Chilean government than was intended. "If you compare the spirit of Hodding Carter's statement and the spirit of Boyatt's statement you will see they are not the same," one official said."
Another official, however, quoted a cable from Boyatt, saying Chilean press coverage of his meeting with Carvajal was "overblown."
[State Department officials said Pinochet's plan was welcomed because "we don't want to always appear critical." They pointed out that while the statement expressed pleasure that Pinochet planned a return to democracy, it also called for "an early relaxation of some of the stricter measures now in force under the current state of siege."]
Despite the negative signals sent by the Carter [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] between the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] the Chilean [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] have warmed [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]
Part of the [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] tributable to [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] tween charge [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] President Pin [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] lomatic sourced [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] "very good friend [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] when Boyatt [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] fagesta, a north [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] was an army col [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]
Another sign [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] was the presence [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] Carvajai and three [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] isters at the U.S. [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] July reception. [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] boycotted the last [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] the embassy, honori [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] sador David Poper [WORDS ILLEGIBLE].