By Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (*)


São Paulo — According to the principles that I am honored to have professed and practiced during my life, I consider myself obligated to pay special attention to the situation of the heroic Vietnamese who are on boats in the China Sea and exposed to hunger, thirst, bad weather, and risks because they have not conformed to life under the Communist club. I dedicated a special article to them in the Folha de São Paulo, "The Epopee of the Noble Non-conformists," (July 3, 1977) and further, I mentioned the tragedy of these heroic non-conformists more than once in other articles that also appeared in the Folha de São Paulo.

Giving voice to the anguish of soul of the thousands of Brazilians who think and feel as I do in this respect, I sent a telex to Paul VI and President Carter asking them to exercise all the power corresponding to the high offices they hold on behalf of these glorious and unfortunate "boat-men."

My appeal moved the highest magistrate of North America. Correct, considerate, he asked Patricia M. Derian, Secretary of the Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, to reply to my message.

Here are the essential parts of the communication that I received:

"Since the fall of Indochina into the hands of the Communists, in 1975, the United States Government has assumed a leading role in assisting those unfortunate people who have fled what used to be their homeland. We received 146,000 Indochinese refugees in the United States and we began a new program to admit another 15,000, of which 7000 are Vietnamese who fled in small boats. We share the anguish, sir, that you feel upon thinking about the fugitives that are being driven away by some Asian nations; but we also realize that many of the neighboring countries are underdeveloped, with large populations and few resources with which to provide the necessities of life for their own people.

"We are working closely with the U­nited Nation's High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to give assistance to those refugees who must remain in camps and in order to support the efforts of the UNHCR by way of obtaining a greater degree of international involvement in the program aiding the Indochina refugees.

"Until now, eighteen other nations besides the United States have offered conditions for accommodating the Indochina refugees. France, for example, is accepting a thousand refugees a month. Many countries are contributing funds to support and maintain the refugees in countries that give them a first sanctuary. Unfortunately, the international com­munity has not offered nearly enough of the refugee facilities necessary to resolve the problem completely; nor has there been adeguate financial support for the UNHCR program. Thus, much remains to be done, especially in the international sphere. We are continuing our diplomatic efforts together with the neighboring Asiatic countries with the aim of obtaining a wider acceptance for the sheltering and accommodation of the refugees...

"Much progress has been made in recent months towards alleviating their suffering, and I hope that much can be done with the help of men and women everywhere who are concerned with this question. Respectfully, Etc."

Gratefully acknowledging the courte­ous tone of the answer, I turn now to analyze several points that this reply makes to me.

We all know that the U.S. assumed "a leading role in the assistance of those unfortunate persons who fled their homelands." We know too — and the letter omits saying it, timidly avoiding from beginning to end any reference to Communism and the Communists — what the reason for this flight was.

A long time ago, the U.S. assumed public obligations with the people of Vietnam, obligations with which the entire world is familiar. For several years, Americans and South-Vietnamese fought side by side against a common enemy. And, having finally abandoned the South-Vietnamese to the fury of their enemies, it is quite natural that North America has assumed "a role of leadership" in assisting the victims of such a tragic abandonment.

In this respect, there cannot be the least doubt.

The special person instructed by President Carter to write to me appears to mention the number of refugees with a confidence bordering on presumption. "Indochinese," she says, and therefore not merely the Vietnamese for whom North America opened her borders.

I confess that I don't perceive the motive for this presumption.

Absolutely speaking, the number of these refugees is considerable. But given the prodigious capacity of the United States to absorb people, I am not certain that this number alone removes the duties of honor resulting from America's role of "leadership" in providing assistance.

Indeed, the extent of the obligations assumed by the Untied States, upon accepting this leadership responsibility, cannot be measured merely by the number of refugees already accepted in American territory. One needs to know the total of specifically Vietnamese refugees, and that of their companions from other nations of Indochina (since the letter mentions these). After that, one must carry out an investigation to determine the maximum number of refugees which North America can harbor in its ample and opulent lands. And finally, considering all these data, one is in a position to say whether the great nation from the north has done — what I especially have in mind in this article — all that it can and should for the Vietnamese.

The United States is the land of surveys, of appraisals, and of statistics, and everything leads one to believe that its officials prepare these data. It is a pity that Mrs. Patricia M. Derian has not given the figures to us, since it is only by having the pertinent data that I can touch with my hands the source of the motives on which she bases either her confidence or presumption.

Above, I said, " all that it can and should." I specify: All that the U.S. can and should do within its boundaries, since beyond these boundaries the White House controls an immense sphere of action which should also be at the service of the anti-Communist Vietnamese.

Along this line of thought, permit me to recall that some months ago President Carter was acting with all the Latin-American countries of the South American continent to urge them to respect fully the human rights banner which he had raised in the world arena. Well understood, the direct beneficiaries of his action were the Communists, or those suspected of being Communist, who were indicted or convicted in these various countries.

On that occasion, casting his eyes over Latin-America, Mr. Carter had in mind the human rights which, like all rational beings, the Communists, Para communists, Crypto-communists, Communistoids and the like, doubtless have.

These are the same rights belonging principally to those who, in one country or another, are unjustly suspected.

But Mr. Carter should not lose sight of the fact that, in the majority of instances, these are the aggressors against the sovereignty of the Latin-American countries so tenaciously attacked in the last decades by Moscow's revolutionary psychological war and bloody acts.

Now, it would be very logical if President Carter, looking towards the Latin ­American world, had remembered the human rights of the anti-communist refugees. Why didn't he request an estimate from these governments as to the number of refugees they could receive in the still uninhabited vastnesses of Latin America? At the same time, why didn't he propose a joint effort between the U.S. and the Latin-American governments to establish these refugees in productive circumstances? Why didn't he ask the various great powers of the West to pro­vide financial assistance for this expense?

These are some of the questions that came to my mind when I read the White House answer. Later, I will say something about the other questions.


(*) Folha de S. Paulo”, 25th November 1977.