The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2024 31 1977 Documenting the Plight of Argentina’s “Disappeared” As one of the early officers to take on a human rights portfolio in the Foreign Service, F. Allen “Tex” Harris became a point of hope for thousands of families in Argentina whose loved ones had been kidnapped, tortured, and clandestinely executed by the military junta during the so-called Dirty War. Documenting nearly 14,000 cases, his work changed public perceptions and government policies around the world. Well, what I did was very straightforward. I opened the door to the embassy, and people started coming. Then we worked the operation like a high turnover doctor’s or dentist’s office. We had two inside offices. Blanca Vollenweider [a USAID employee who assisted Harris] put the people in the office, and she took down on a five-by-eight card—this was before computers—their name, their address, their telephone number, the name of their child or relative that had disappeared or friend who had disappeared, the date of the disappearance, and that was it. … If they had any papers, she took the papers from them, or any papers that they had filed with the police or other governments. Then she would go out, I would come, and I would interview the person, generally in Spanish … getting the facts, writing the information down on the card, and then I would thank them, and I would leave. I would go into the other office … and I would interview. Meanwhile Blanca would go back, escort the first interviewee to the elevators … and bring in the next person who wanted to report the disappearance of a loved one, and take their information. Then I would come from office number two to office number one, and we did this ping-pong every afternoon. … Now there were literally 13,500 disappearance cases that came to our attention during the time that we were collecting information. We sent what was probably the largest airgram ever sent to the Department of State listing the names of the Disappeared. … When I visited Washington after coming back from Buenos Aires, on both the desk officer’s desk and in the Human Rights Bureau, there was our airgram out there in piles A to F, G to M, and all the other parts of the alphabet with markers on them, so that when somebody called and they complained about information on a disappearance, they would go and look in the airgram and find the page where we had xeroxed two to a page our five-by-eight cards, so the airgram was about 700 pages in length. … I became extremely close to a number of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. … Every Thursday afternoon they would gather in front of the Casa Rosada, the Pink House, and march around with signs. … I would go to the Plaza de Mayo, not every Thursday but I would go often. … There wasn’t anything that I could really do to bring their kids back. [But] here was this great big, huge guy … a 250-pound, six-foot-six, two-meter fellow who pitches up and is easy to spot, easy to point to; and, lo and behold, the United States of America is interested in the disappearance of their children. That meant a lot to them, and it meant a lot to me to be able to do that. I got to know a lot of the mothers and the supporters of the mothers and became friends with them. It was really tough, because these were people who were just going through not only the hell of losing your child— the ritual of going to the gravesite was terribly important in the culture—these people didn’t have a body to bury. These people did not have any information as to how their children died or if their children were still alive or if they were being tortured or if they were in great pain, so the emotion and the suffering that these folks went through was absolutely horrific. 1981 Restraining Japan’s Auto Exports to Preserve American Jobs As trade officer in the economic section in Tokyo, Aurelia “Rea” Brazeal took on coverage of the auto sector, contributing to negotiation of the voluntary export restraint agreement that limited the export of Japanese cars to the United States, protecting the jobs of U.S. auto workers. The first Black woman to rise from the entry level of the Foreign Service to ambassador, Brazeal drew lessons from her work protecting American industry. Here was this great big, huge guy … easy to spot, easy to point to; and, lo and behold, the United States of America is interested in the disappearance of their children. That meant a lot to them, and it meant a lot to me to be able to do that. —Tex Harris