Dr. János DÖMÉNY (Retired Ambassador)

The History of Hungarian-Latin-American Relations after the Second World War: A Brief Account

Budapest, 2001

Ó János Dömény
Ó Cold War History Research Center, Budapest


In the chaotic external economic situation after the war, in order to restore the country’s functions, the attention of the authoritative factors of Hungarian economic life turned mainly toward Latin-America besides Europe, because of the traditional trade relations and the relatively numerous Hungarian emigration, as sources of raw material and the possible buyer’s market of Hungarian products. The Hungarian endeavours to establish trade relations coincided with the Latin-American countries’ feverish efforts to find new customers, as they were suffering from the problem of finding a market for their export products after the war.

Already on 27 December 1945, a preparatory committee started its work, as a result of which on 3 February 1946 the Hungarian-Latin-American Society was formed in Budapest to help with the establishment of trade, economic and cultural relations. In the 24 member staff of officers and 87-member board of the Society could be found the most famous public personalities, artists, businessmen and politicians. The honorary president became Foreign Minister János Gyöngyösi, Dr. István Ries, the Minister of Justice filled the post of president, and the co-president was György Parragi, a representative of the National Assembly.

Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing at the economic needs that could not be postponed and the numerous Hungarian colonies, the Hungarian government initiated and urged the Allied Controlling Committee in a number of petitions to allow the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Latin-American states. The Hungarian foreign representations reported on the Latin-American Countries’ readiness to enter into relations. For example, the Brazilian Government requested the United States’ government in a note dated 13 March 1947 and handed over in Rio de Janeiro to act as mediator in restoring relations with Hungary. The Allied Controlling Committee gave permission in its communication of 9 January 1947 to restore diplomatic relations only with Chile, which could not be carried out at that time because of the changes in international relations.

The surprisingly firm political intention to establish relations with the Latin-American countries and its determined and considerable support by Hungarian official circles and the general public can be explained by the fact that this endeavour should be considered as the marked expression and at the same time an organic part of opening up to the West.

The split of the world into East and West after the war, the beginning of the Cold War in front of the public is linked with the so-called Truman Doctrine and the announcement of the principles (the formation of the two camps opposing each other and the leading role of Soviet foreign policy) accepted at the statutory session of the communist and workers’ parties (Kominform).

The formation of the two opposing ideological, political, military and economic blocks meant the acceptance of the United States’ hegemony for the West and putting up with, sometimes supporting dictatorships for the peripheral (Latin-American) countries. At international forums, Eastern-European countries counted as the granted voting machine of the Soviet Union, and Latin American countries as that of the United Sates. The repressive steps and propaganda campaigns originating from the state of Cold War made constant the atmosphere of searching on both sides for the “hands” or agents of Moscow and those of American imperialism’s in Hungary the so-called bourgeois forces were driven out of politics, in Latin-American countries communist parties were made illegal and communist ministers were excluded from the government (e.g. in Chile and Cuba). The Soviet Union considered the Eastern-European area, as the United States Latin-America, its sole and untouchable sphere of interests. The exclusion of Yugoslavia from the socialist camp and the overthrow of the Guatemalan government by outside intervention referring to communist danger in 1954 proved that neither of the world powers allowed any attempt, or the least “deviation” in their zones of influence. In the countries of both areas the ruling circles coming to power voluntarily accepted their dependent and subordinated roles. Through their unquestionable reliability they tried to make themselves irreplaceable and their exercise of power unlimited to such an extent that they could finish not only with the enemies of the regime but with their own political opponents without punishment.

As the result of the formation of the two-pole world, in Eastern-European countries could be observed the process of total subordination to the Soviet Union and the application of the Soviet example (the criterium of the dictatorship of proletars) without conditions.


Hungary’s internal and foreign politics depended on the Soviet Union. But the positional fight between the Soviet Union and the Western powers sometimes had a perceivable influence on the inner developments and the international opinion of the country.

During the Second World War Hungary’s diplomatic relations were broken off with Latin-American countries. Between 30 May 1942 and 1 September 1948 in most Latin-American countries Hungarian interests were represented and defended by Sweden. Later the Hungarian government called upon Poland to become a temporary representative of the defence of Hungarian interests.

The Hungarian colonies living in the individual countries (according to estimations of the time, in Brazil nearly 200 thousand, in Argentina around 50 thousand, in Uruguay and Venezuela 5-10thousand. In Chile there lived 3 thousand Hungarians.) sought and initiated the normalisation of the official relations between their recipient countries and their old countries. But right after the end of the war, a great number of new Hungarian refugees arrived in some countries of Latin-America. In the atmosphere of Cold War the rightist Hungarian organizations, which were active and mostly co-operated closely with the local communist parties during the war, became isolated. There was no marked boundary between the supporters of democracy and the extreme right-wing circles, they condemned and rejected the Soviet Union’s policy and the ideology of communism becoming one camp (and being members of the same organizations).

On the United States’ initiative, in the spirit of the world-wide fight against communism, to prevent the extracontinental (Soviet) invasion in 1947 was created the (Rio de Janeiro) inter-American defence treaty, and in 1948 (in Bogota) the Organization of American States. In the early 50s in the bilateral agreements signed with the individual states, the United States asserted in a really specific form her economic, military and political aims and her national security interests in this region.

In such international environment, Hungary had the opportunity to form business relations only. The Hungarian government signed a trade and financial agreement in 1948 first with Argentina out of the developing or third world countries. An inter-bank agreement was signed with Uruguay in 1950, with Paraguay in 1953 and Brazil in 1954. Hungarian trade representations opened in 1948 in Buenos Aires, in 1953 in Montevideo and Mexico, in 1954 in Rio de Janeiro.

A characteristic peculiarity is, for example, that in December 1952 Carlos Ibanez del Campo, the Chilean president of the republic, later Arturo Olevarria, the foreign minister received two official Hungarian trade representatives and had talks with them about the possibility of signing deals directly. This could serve as explanation for the fact that in the politically hostile environment Latin-America’s share in the Hungarian foreign trade came near the pre-war level during the period between 1950 and 1955, namely the export grew from 3% to 4%, and import from 2.1% to 3.6%. (The Latin-American countries’ share in Hungarian export was 4.4% in 1929, 3.2% in 1938, in import 1.6% and 1.2% in the same years.)



Argentinean President Juan Peron’s government was the first in Latin-America to establish diplomatic relations with Hungary with effect from 15 July 1949, according to the Peronist definition of the time, with “the state stepping on a new road from a social aspect”. From this moment on the Buenos Aires Embassy became the starting point of the efforts aiming at the extension of political and economic relations with the whole Latin-American region. The main prospective was the restoration of relations with Brazil and Mexico.

The government of President Victor Paz Estensoro filling the post of president of the republic as a result of the 1952 victorious Bolivian revolution entered into diplomatic relations with Hungary on 17 October 1952. The members of the Buenos Aires Embassy tried to maintain a friendly relationship with the Bolivian authorities with the idea among others that in case of emergency the only Hungarian diplomatic representation functioning in Latin-America could be settled to La Paz.

For the embassies the guiding principles and tasks were determined at the party’s congresses, the departments of the Central committee, and the government resolutions passed on this basis and directives of the ministry of foreign affairs. Editorials on a defined subject published sometimes in the party’s paper were considered normative too. The relevant decisions in political, economic, administrative and personal questions were made preliminarily in the party’s Political Committee. At this time Hungarian diplomacy completely followed the Soviet Union’s foreign policy. The resolutions passed at Soviet party congresses or at the conferences of international communist and workers’ parties served as obligatory direction. The management of foreign representations was maximally centralised. The methods established in production (e.g. work competition, pledge, voluntary work) were used in the work of foreign representations too. The centre (the competent political and other departments of the ministry of foreign affairs) determined the guidelines for the quarter of the year, and confirmed the labour plans individually. The embassies maintained close relations with the official (diplomatic and trade) representations of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also determined the tone of the notes to be sent to the foreign representations of the individual countries (dividing the countries into groups).

In foreign political matters the embassies’ political reporting activity centred around the disguising of the politics of American imperialism, the analysis of conflicting interests with the local, national bourgeoisie or the Western-European great powers, and in the case of internal politics around the description of mass dissatisfaction, the activity of the communist, national independence movements, trade unions, etc. The embassy maintained regular connections with the local sister party, the point of view of which was considered determinative for the recipient country in judging about the most important internal and foreign political questions.

In 1953, after Stalin’s death and as a consequence of the formation of the first Imre Nagy government, fermentation started in Hungarian internal politics and foreign political thinking. Hungary’s admission to the UN in December 1955, the resolutions of historic importance passed at the Twentieth Congress of the Soviet party in February 1956, in which the theory of the inevitability of the Third World War was rejected and the possibility of the peaceful living beside each other of the socialist and capitalist systems was announced, all this gave an impetus and, at the same time, provided a better opportunity for the activation of Hungarian diplomacy and for the increase in initiative.

On 18 January 1956, in the party’s central paper “Free People” was published an editorial

entitled “On the Relations between Hungary and the Latin-American States. The article gives a lengthy quotation of the statement of Soviet Prime Minister Bulganin given to the American magazine “Vision”, in which he expressed “The Soviet Union’s readiness to establish diplomatic relations with all the Latin-American countries that it has no relations with.” The article points out that “similarly to the Soviet Union, other countries of the peace camp also strive after the promotion of international co-operation by developing their political, economic, cultural and other relations.” The fact - emphasises the article - that “the Latin-American countries supported our country’s admission to the UN leads us to the conclusion that these countries look toward the Hungarian People’s Republic with confidence, and this also gives a real opportunity to develop all sides of relations.” (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the Buenos Aires embassy’s attention to the importance of the article in an order.)

At the beginning of 1956 the Political Committee gave permission to start talks with Brazil, Uruguay and Mexico about the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Hungarian diplomacy managed to establish relations with Uruguay only, with effect from 14 June 1956. I have to remark that the representative of Uruguay was a member of the “Committee of Five” set up by the UN for the so-called “Hungarian case”, which dealt with the consequences of the Soviet military intervention of October and 4 November 1956. This could also serve as explanation for the fact that the Uruguayan government did not give agrément to any appointed Hungarian ambassadors until 1964. And in 1987 it suggested the changing of the time of the establishment of diplomatic relations (7 Dec. 1870), which had been accepted by the Hungarian partner.

The bloody putting down by the Red Army of the revolution and fight for independence (according to the definition of the act passed in the democratic parliament after the change of regime) starting on 23 October 1956 and the merciless revenge that followed, including the execution of Prime Minister Imre Nagy a bit later, resulted in general indignation and mass protests world-wide. Hungary’s name became known even in the farthest corner of the world, her heroic attempt was highly esteemed. The Soviet Union’s prestige suffered a lot of damage: in the Western communist parties, the movements related to them and in the circles of the intelligentsia, it caused incomprehension, disappointment, loss of confidence, and this started a process of alienation (quitting, demarcation, division) that could not be stopped. Characteristically, after the victory of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara explained the temporary postponement of establishing relations with Hungary by the fact that the events of 1956 "“had a great impression in Latin-American countries and last but not least in Cuba.” At this time Raul Roa, the future Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote a book condemning the Soviet military intervention.

It must be also mentioned that some Latin-American dictators used the Hungarian revolution and fight for independence to justify their politics, to make their regime acceptable and to adapt to the free world. In several countries (e.g. in Brazil and the Dominican Republic) the majority of Hungarian immigrants getting there through selection (around 700 and 300 people) felt cheated, considered their situation unbearable, and they stormed the UN’s High Commissioner for Refuges, the International Red Cross and in several cases even the Hungarian authorities with their petitions to be allowed to return or be transported to other European countries. Surprisingly, the Hungarian official organs acted in a self-restrained way: for example, the Hungarian trade representation in Rio de Janeiro was ordered to proceed carefully in the case of dissatisfied Hungarians, not to put into a disadvantageous situation the representation or the Hungarian-Brazilian trade relations, which were getting friendly. The Hungarians competent thought that by the help of the agitated Hungarians - provided by a consul’s passport instead of the permission to return home and the refund of expenses - they could revive, and perhaps later make stronger their loyal Hungarian societies that had fallen to parts.

The foreign representations of the Hungarian government formed after the Soviet intervention became isolated: their relation with the official organs was cool, and with the public it was hostile. Hungarian diplomacy had again the task to break out of the isolation, to try to persuade the Latin-American governments that their representatives at least abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly when voting concerned Hungarian matters.

In 1958 the college of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that “Hungarian foreign politics had not paid enough attention to Latin-American states, although we would have serious possibilities in this field and it would also serve our foreign trade interests to develop our relations with these countries.” As far as Latin-America is concerned, Hungarian diplomacy was characterised by so-called “active waiting” at this time, which meant that apart from one or two cases it did not initiate but it was ready to react quickly and positively to all constructive Latin-American suggestions.

After the victory of the Cuban revolution, on 15 September 1960, in Havana, the representatives of the Hungarian government first signed a contract about trade and the exchange of products, and about providing technical aid and loans. In November of the same year, as a result of the Moscow talks, they signed a multi-lateral payment agreement with Cuba. Following this, on 18 December 1960, diplomatic relations were re-established during Che Guevara’s Hungarian trip.

Non-party Janio Quadros won the presidential elections in Brazil in October 1960.

Quadros promised the normalization of relations with socialist countries already before his inauguration, on 5 February 1961 he announced that he intended to establish relations with Hungary too. The re-establishment of relations took place in Washington in 1961 through the signatures of the leaders of the embassies of the two countries. Hungarian diplomacy, by establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Brazil on 21 March 1961, made the first real breakthrough in Latin-America.

The Western-European failures of Soviet politics were counterbalanced by the hopes of the acceleration of the process of the break-up of the classical colonial system. According to the evaluation of the Soviet and international communist movement, the real cause of the fall of the colonial system can be found in the change of the political-economic and military power relations between the two world systems, that is the power relations becoming balanced by the middle of the 50s, the quick growth of the international communist movement and the national liberation movements becoming general in Asia and Africa. According to this position, national liberation movements are organic parts of the world revolution process, as they are mainly against the capital world system, international monopolies and the imperialist military-industry complex. This opposition serves as the basis for co-operation with the international communist movement and the socialist countries.

The document entitled “Directives” concerning Latin-America, of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of 27 February 1961, points out that “>From the aspect of the strengthening of the anti-imperialist front, the growth of the strength of national liberation movements and the state of power relations between the two social systems, the importance of Latin-American countries with more than 180 million inhabitants is growing. On the Latin-American continent, in the past years a front of fight against imperialism and mainly against North-American imperialism has been forming, which has a considerable weight in the world.” “Although the United States’ government can still use these countries in the interests of the North-American monopolies’ political and economic goals, anti-imperialist national liberation movements have been so successful in the past years that they suggest a fundamental shake in the US’s power and influence, the breaking up of the American continent’s hegemony and unity and the US’s isolation. The victorious Cuban revolution of popular character did not only successfully beat off the imperialists’ attacks, but it also meant a new, higher phase of the national liberation fight. The victory of the Cuban revolution greatly encouraged the Latin-American nations’ fight against the United States’ economic and political rule and for national liberation.”

“The process of the weakening of the USA’s prestige was extremely accelerated by the change in international power relations in favour of the socialist camp. Last but not least this is the cause of the fact that nowadays the Latin-American nations have become more and more active participants of international politics and have created a new front of the fight against imperialism. All things considered, it was the existence of the socialist camp that made possible the victory of the Cuban revolution and the realization of revolutionary goals. The political, economic and cultural relations between the countries of the socialist camp and the Latin-American countries accelerate, help that Latin-American countries may reach national and political independence as soon as possible. This process, which has already started and is favourable for us, should be encouraged as far as possible…” - says the quoted document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To isolate and prevent the Cuban revolution, in 1961 newly elected American President Kennedy announced his program called “Alliance for Progress” promising important reforms, and later he consented to the landing at “Playa Giron”, which was organized by Cuban emigrants and was a failure.

President Kennedy remarked self-criticizingly in 1962: “We know or should know that America is extremely important from the point of view of our security. Latin-America is poverty-stricken and threatened by communism. Nowhere else are the circumstances so favourable to agitation against the USA as in Latin-America. The cause of all this are the lack of strength, the over-hastiness and clumsiness of our diplomatic and economic steps. Latin-America has been the step-daughter of our foreign politics, the refuge of our most mediocre ambassadors for a long time.”

At the same time in 1962, at the time of the Cuban rocket crisis, Kennedy determined the limits of Soviet expansion. After American spy planes discovered that the Soviet Union had located rockets in Cuba secretly, the American President disapproved of the intendedly provocative and unjustified change of the status quo and announced his readiness to remove the Soviet threat even by deploying nuclear weapons. Finally, the crisis ended by a compromise between the two world powers - with the exclusion of Cuba.

The program “Alliance for Progress” made the traditional anti-Communist alliances of the United States uncertain, and it did not satisfy the economic circles with a feeling of nationality and ready for reforms either, so it did not prove capable of holding up communist (Cuban and Soviet) influence in Latin-America. One result of it worth mentioning was that Christian democrat Eduardo Frei with a radical leftist program of reforms defeated his respected rightist opponent and outrivaled the candidate of the united left wing, Senator Allende at the Chilean elections of 1964.

By the putsch of April 1964 started the rule of generals in Brazil that lasted 21 years; the series of military overtakes of power and of open military interventions (Dominican Republic) and of exercise of pressure on the Continent.

In 1964 Thomas Man, the American deputy under-secretary of state in charge of Latin-American affairs, declared that “democracy must be propagated but not forced on South-American countries. We must rely on those, who are able to have control over affairs, independently of the fact whether they have come to power through elections or not.” In 1965 the Committee of Foreign Affairs of the American Congress came to the conclusion that “ the final answer to the communist threat would be the solution of the most important economic and social problems. Until then the defence powers of the individual countries should prevent the communist overtake of power.” Explaining the military intervention in Dominica, President Johnson, who succeeded after the assassinated President Kennedy, said the United States would prevent by all means the birth of a new Cuba on the Western Hemisphere.

On 14 August 1964, Bolivian President Paz Estensoro told the Cuban charge d’affaires with regret that as a consequence of political and economic pressures (The USA threatened to stop all economic and financial aids) they were forced to break off diplomatic relations. According to the Hungarian Embassy’s report, the President embraced the charge d’affaires and asked him with tears in his eyes to give this revolutionary embrace to Fidel Castro.

The Brazilian (and Argentinean) generals introduced strict control over all fields of administration, especially in educational (universities) and cultural (film, radio, press, etc.) institutions, and over the maintenance of relations with socialist countries (exits and entries) and their official representatives.

According to the Brazilian generals, the ideological boundaries (which are antagonistic) lie in a different place from country borders in the period of interdependence. The principle of sovereignty, of non- interference must be re-examined because of the ideological opposition. The declaration of the right to self-government favours the communists. In 1967 General Arturo da Cost e Silva, the Brazilian President of the Republic and General Carlos Onganía, the Argentinean President, said in their statements to the press after their meeting: there are no borders when the sovereignty of American countries is threatened by communism.

The Cuban leaders declared the experiences of their own revolution to be of general validity and they started to build their own political bases (groups, movements and parties), to organise the armed fight in Latin-America. They undertook political and economic solidarity including armed co-operation with the African and Asian liberation movements and the anti-imperialist governments. Che Guevara and his fellow-fighters chosen especially for this task left Cuba in secret and took part in the guerrilla warfare in Congo, then went to Bolivia, where he directed the guerrilla warfare organized with his guidance until his death (execution).

The leaders of the Cuban revolution did not agree with the Soviet Union’s politics of easing, with the efforts made in order to develop peaceful co-operation between the two great powers and the two systems. They could not come to an agreement and start any kind of co-operation with the Chinese leaders because of their strong endeavours after hegemony in the Third World - and also because of their dependence on the Soviet Union. The Cuban leaders had arguments even with the local pro-Soviet communist parties in most Latin-American countries.

The easing beginning in the early 60s coincided with the ending of the internal and foreign political consolidation process in Hungary. The Hungarian leaders of the time declared general amnesty, purified the directive organizations of the old dogmatic powers. In 1962 János Kádár said his notorious sentence: “Who is not against us is with us.” At the (VIII.) party congress of the same year, they stated that there were no classes of considerable social layers in Hungary whose interests would be in contrast with socialism. They talked of a union embracing all classes and layers of society, a popular state transcending the dictatorship of the proletariat, in which the state’s repressive function would become weaker and its organizational functions would become stronger. In a decree the congress did away with the social and political differentiation, the categorisation depending on social origin, which had been considered necessary before. In 1962 not only a de-Stalinization process was going on, but essential changes also started in the whole system of the party’s direction and the exercise of power in general, which were not restricted to the economy later either (the introduction of a new economic mechanism), but concerned politics too (The termination of the transmission role of professional and social organizations, the participation of non-party specialists in the executive organs, and the creation of clear division of labour among the administration organizations, multiple candidacy at the parliamentary elections, etc.). In the activity of basic party organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (at home and at the foreign representations) the emphasis was being gradually laid on a type of function of defence of interests.

So a Hungarian “model” was born, which differed from the practice of the functioning of Soviet and other socialist countries, that’s why it aroused interest and congeniality on the West (so in Latin-America as well), but in most socialist countries the reactions were doubt, confusion and disguised criticism. (To avoid contrast with the socialist countries, the Hungarian leaders officially denied the existence of a Hungarian model.)

Already at the ambassadorial conference in 1960, they declared that Hungarian foreign politics had to support by its entire peculiar means at hand the Soviet Union’s politics of easing so that it would enhance Hungary’s international position and weight.

In 1962 Hungary managed to break out of her international isolation. Listening to the USA representative’s suggestion, the UN General Assembly took off its agenda the discussion of the Hungarian question for good. In 1963 U Thant, the UN’s general secretary visited Budapest. Most and the most important Western states regulated their relations with the Hungarian government.

The fifth point of the part of the 1962 party congress resolution dealing with the international situation and the basic principles of foreign politics says: “The Hungarian nation’s foreign policy is based on the principle of living together peacefully. We make efforts to have even closer relations with the countries with which our relations are friendly, we want to make our relations friendly with those countries with which our relations are normal and correct, and with the countries with which our relations are non-satisfying or bad, we intend to have normal relations.” In the long run this became the guiding thread of Hungarian foreign politics and the main task of Hungarian diplomacy.

So the Hungarian leaders managed not only to take advantage of the opportunities offered by easing, but they were also interested and took an active part in widening and deepening the Eastern-Western dialogue, because it recognised that all this created favourable conditions to satisfy Hungarian interests and to form a peculiar, independent image of the country and to show it internationally.

The interest in Latin-America of Hungarian foreign politics is shown by the fact that in the period between 1960 and May 1975 95 party, 164 government and 74 presidential council resolutions dealt with the tiniest affairs of the bilateral relations. The resolution entitled ”Guidelines to form our Latin-American foreign policy” dated 7 January 1964 proved to be the most important and most often quoted party resolution

The already quoted “Directives” published in 1961 stated that “In connection with the majority of Latin-American countries with which we have not had either political, or economic relations, we must continue the foreign political line of active waiting. With regard to the Latin-American countries we have relations with or with which we consider establishing relations desirable because of their importance, in case there is a real possibility of our initiative steps to be well-received and returned, we must follow an initiative foreign political line with the aim of being present at least in the most important Latin-American states. These Latin-American countries are Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela. An exception is Cuba, with which we must form the most active relations in all fields.


-We support the Soviet Union’s and other socialist countries’ Latin-American initiatives as far as possible. For this we must be regularly informed about the new initiatives in the friendly countries regularly,

-To realize our Latin-American political, economic and cultural aims, on the most important questions we must still consult the friendly countries - if it is needed - we must ask them to help with the realization of these aims.”

(Parenthetically I must remark that the so-called leaning on friendly countries was obligatory but it also proved effective, as Hungary had fewer relations with the Latin-American states than e.g. Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union because of her belonging to the axis powers in the Second World War and her isolation following the revolution and fight for freedom of 1956.

The “Directives” naturally considered one of the most important goals the expansion of relations using all possible forms, “setting up an embassy, legation, accreditation from other countries, setting up a consulate or trade representation, sending employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or of consulates to the foreign trade representations, etc. The “Directives” suggested sending a high rank, goodwill delegation on a Latin-American tour.

In 1961 we opened a foreign trade representation, in 1963 we signed an inter-bank agreement with Chile. In 1962 a decision was made about setting up a legation in Bolivia, which represented the interests of this country as well after the Bolivian-Cuban breaking off of relations.

According to the guidelines approved of in the mentioned Political Committee resolution of 1964, among the Latin-American countries the most attention must be paid to Argentina and Brazil, in developing relations we must concentrate first of all on Mexico, Chile, Uruguay and Columbia and Venezuela. The resolution also says that in the activity of Hungarian foreign representations in Latin-American countries more emphasis must be laid on the task of developing bilateral economic relations. The Political Committee called upon the Economic Committee to put on its agenda and analyse the development of our Brazilian and Argentinean trade and make plans how to solve the problems.

Hungary established diplomatic relations with the individual Latin-American countries in the following chronological order:

21 February 1965 Chile, August 1969 Ecuador, 29 April 1969 Venezuela, 14 May 1970 Costa-Rica, 24 June 1972 Columbia (where there was a foreign trade representation from 1966, and there was a consulate general from 1968), 2 July 1973 Honduras, 14 May 1974 Mexico (from 1964 there was again a trade representation), 8 June 1975 Trinidad-Tobago, 10 July 1975 Guyana, 5 October 1975 Panama, 1 June 1977 Surinam, 22 July 1977 Grenada, 1 June 1978 Barbados, 1 October 1979 Nicaragua, 27 July 1984 Dominican Republic.

In the case of Chile we established relations with the government of President Eduardo Frei, which were suspended as a result of the military putsch - accepting the position of socialist countries - with effect from 26 September 1973.

The establishment of relations with Ecuador, Columbia and Venezuela in 1967 was prepared by a Hungarian goodwill delegation visiting the three countries. The postponement of the date of the official establishment of relations was caused by the Soviet (and other socialist countries’) military intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1967. This serves as a partial explanation for the fact that later Ecuador asked to change the date of diplomatic relations to 1946. It is worth mentioning that the leaders of the leftist military take over of power in Peru in 1968 confirmed the intention of establishing diplomatic relations with Hungary in one of their first declarations already. After this the Hungarian-Peruvian economic relations developed extremely intensively.

The formalization of the establishment of diplomatic relations took place at the UN headquarters in New York usually. Each of the common declarations published about it had a non-public clause which defined specifically the number of legations to be set up. This the representatives of Latin-American countries insisted on. During personal conversations they admitted several times that the specification of this condition is done at their American friends’ request.

Hungarian foreign politics in Latin-America placed the emphasis on the promotion of bilateral economic relations from the beginning and more and more definitely and openly. This is reflected in the character of high rank delegations visiting the continent: in 1967 István Szurdi, Minister of the Interior, (Argentina and Uruguay), in 1970 Péter Vályi, Minister of Finance, (Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela), in 1971 Mátyás Timár, Vice-Premier in charge of economic matters, (Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador), in 1982 József Marjai, Vice-Premier, (Mexico) and Lajos Faluvégi, Vice-Premier, the Head of the National Planning Bureau, (Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and Argentina) visited the continent. The Hungarian Foreign Minister visited Mexico, Nicaragua and Cuba in 1981, Havana, Mexico and Managua in 1986.

The President of the Presidium visited Venezuela, Peru, Panama and Cuba in 1976, Mexico and Ecuador in 1977, then after a long break Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina in 1987.

In the second half of the 60s, the Cuban leaders and some communist parties expressed their criticism and disapproval because of the fact that the Hungarian government urged the establishment of relations and the development of economic co-operation with the reactionary Latin-American governments and military dictatorships.

Genuine talks of the highest ranking first leaders of parties took place only in case of Cuba (at the time of Fidel Castro’s Budapest visit of 1972), Grenada (Prime Minister Bishop’s visit to Hungary in 1983) and Nicaragua (President Daniel Ortega’s visit to Budapest in 1984), when the leaders of these countries asked for political assistance to solve their problems proving unsolvable at state level (aids, making payable long-term purchase loans and postponing their repayment).

At whatever level these talks took place, the Hungarian talking partner represented a Soviet-friendly position in foreign political matters. Hungarian foreign politics in all situations stood for the political, peaceful solution by talks of conflicts (supported the efforts of the so-called Contadora group). It expressed its solidarity with the nations fighting for their freedom, but it rejected to support the armed fight. The Hungarian government gave President Allende’s government and Grenada symbolical economic assistance. The size of the trade with Cuba and Nicaragua and the aids were smaller in order of magnitude than the level of co-operation between the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, and the mentioned two countries.

The endeavour to satisfy its own interests and the practical activity of Hungarian foreign politics can be seen the best in the questions of foreign trade in the so-called Third (or developing) World. The Hungarian leadership considered the developing world a theatre of war less and less, because they were aware of the fact that the chronic and increasing deficit resulting from the trade with developed Western countries could be counter-balanced by the powerful increase of Hungarian export in the framework of economic co-operation with developing countries.

In matters of foreign economy it was the different party and government organs (in the first place the Committee of Economic and International Economic Relations) that took up a position, accepted guidelines of obligatory force and made decisions. Here are some measures set in chronological order that reflect the process of satisfying Hungarian interests, their realization in the given historical situation.

In 1966 according to the guideline published by the competent organ of government, we may provide help for the economically under-developed countries to an extent that corresponds to our interests. Although providing aid is not an activity that directly brings profit, but the field and form of assistance must be possibly chosen to provide presumably the returns of costs.

In 1970 the Political Committee urged the making of a decision (which actually took place), according to which the realization of the goals of the five-year plan should stand in the centre of the economic-political work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took place in the work of the various inter-departmental committees dealing with foreign economic questions from 1970.

In 1980 The unified system of foreign assistance was created, that is, the donations to the expense of their own financial limits of the individual ministries and state organs and professional (National Council of Trade Unions) and social organizations (Solidarity Committee, National Peace Council, Patriotic People’s Front, etc.) were regulated (preliminary approval was a condition). According to the explanation of the order, the possibilities of Hungarian economy do not allow further sacrifices.

At the conference of ambassadors of 1980, it was first admitted that developing countries are parts of capitalist world economy, including the countries with socialist orientation. Socialist countries cannot compete with the developed capitalist countries. The relations between developed and socialist countries served not the decrease in their dependence but strengthening of their positions in the talks with capitalist countries.

In 1983, we could hear from the Hungarian leaders speaking at the conference of ambassadors that the United States had advantages in several areas over the Soviet Union, but concerning defence capacities, the Soviet Union does not allow that any disadvantageous changes take place in relations of military strength.

The position published in 1983 informed us that the emphasis of our political relations must be laid on developed countries, the focus of economic co-operation must be the solvent developing countries. Differentiation and ranking should be done taking into consideration our political and economic interests.

The 80s are the years of the indebtedness crisis in Latin-America. The volume of trade, especially Hungarian export decreased significantly. Because of indebtedness, the possibility of making deals of great volume with the state sector of Latin-American countries ceased. In the private market competition grew stronger, all this meant advantages for the (Western) suppliers and investors with greater traditions and having their own market organs.

In 1983 The Political Committee, then the Economic Committee paid special attention to the state of economic relations with the most important Latin-American partners and came to the following conclusion:

  • it is still needed to maintain the continuity of inter-state relations and company work
  • we must not make worse the positions we had reached and that are in harmony with our long-term potential interests,
  • in order to maintain at this level and develop our export, export can be combined with import (linked buying)
  • we must try to form industrial co-operation without the direct export of capital (by providing specialists and appliances),
  • we must be careful that the risk of returns should be within the limits of reasonableness and the highest level of the stock of assets should be determined.

In 1986, according to the unambiguous position of the Hungarian government, in our trade with developing countries we consider determining the mutual advantages and our own economic interests. Later the standpoint said with great emphasis that in economic co-operation we have no interest in political differentiation. The unambiguous differentiation of economic interests and political assistance is necessary. In assistance our own possibilities are determining.

During foreign activity we must always give priority to the defence and realization of our foreign economic interests.


In the case of the Comecon we must avoid assistance independently of bilateral relations. According to the Hungarian standpoint, co-operation between the member states and third countries can take place only on bilateral basis. A basic principle is to consider mutual advantages, that is there is no one-sided and mutual assistance.

From 1988 at talks with Latin-American politicians, the Hungarian partner urged the formation and development of co-operation without ideological prejudices.

Taking Hungarian foreign relations as a whole, the developing world became depreciated by the end of the 80s. In the first place -besides Black Africa - Latin-America’s importance diminished in Hungarian foreign politics, which was closely connected to the decrease in trade volume, Hungarian export, which could not be stopped, and the deterioration in the composition of trade (import was several times more than export). Latin-America’s partake in Hungarian export: in 1955 5%, in 1980 1,1% and in 1990 0,5%.

The radical change in foreign political orientation took place within an institutional framework, through dialogue with the opposition forces of the system in 1989-90. (See the communication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the HTA, which was published in the papers of 30 June 1989.)

In the order of 19 June 1989 to the embassies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs orders the leaders of foreign representations to help the representatives of parties and organizations applying to the representations to find their way around in the relations between the recipient country and Hungary after the coming in force of the Hungarian party law.

According to the opinion of the Hungarian political direction of the time, President Bush’s visit to Budapest may strengthen the favourable international judgement of the reform efforts made in Hungary; it may urge the international support of political and economic transformation programs.

Before the elections of March 1990 and the inauguration of the new, democratically elected government, took place in Budapest the re-establishment of Chilean consular (5 September 1989), then diplomatic relations (January 1990) and the first meeting of foreign ministers of the Rio group, having an institutional relation with the European Community, and the European member-states of the Comecon. It was the Rio group that suggested the organization and the place of the meeting despite the fact that other countries had also applied.

In the foreign policy of Euro-Atlantic orientation of the Antall-government, with regard to Latin-America, in the foreground of our endeavours stood the task of developing economic relations with an emphasis on the fact that in case of controversies between the Latin-American states and the USA, we would politically support the position of the USA’s government. Naturally, the earlier regular meetings of the leaders of the socialist and later the closely co-operating socialist missions no longer existed, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not recommend the participation at the common meeting of the diplomatic representatives of Central-European countries. The government formed new relations with the Hungarian colonies. It established diplomatic relations with Guatemala (11 October 1990), with Paraguay (2 May 1991) and Salvador (26 May 1991); it opened the embassy in Chile, but made a decision about closing the embassies in Montevideo and Lima and also considered closing the foreign representation in Costa Rica. During this period, Hungary obtained observer’s status beside the Organization of American States.

At the elections of 1995, the victorious socialist-liberal coalition government, quoting budget problems (executing and completing the decision of the former government), temporarily suspended (that is closed) the Hungarian embassies in Montevideo, Lima, Caracas and Costa Rica.

Inspite of the mentioned Hungarian steps, the Latin-American governments maintained their former embassies (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Columbia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Ecuador, Mexico and Cuba) in Budapest, and even Panama and for a short time Costa Rica opened embassies in Hungary without mutuality.

As a result of the foreign investments, the settlement of multi-national firms in Hungary, in case of the individual Latin-American countries Hungarian export rose remarkably. The so-called bourgeois coalition government coming to rule in 1998 closed the Hungarian representation in Ecuador first, but it made a preliminary decision about reopening the Hungarian embassies in Peru and Venezuela.