Robert C. Hill

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Robert Charles Hill
United States Ambassador to Costa Rica
In office
4 November 1953 – 10 September 1954
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byPhilip B. Fleming
Succeeded byRobert F. Woodward
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
In office
4 November 1954 – 21 September 1955
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byMichael J. McDermott
Succeeded byThomas C. Mann
United States Ambassador to Mexico
In office
25 July 1957 – 1 December 1960
PresidentDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded byFrancis White
Succeeded byThomas C. Mann
United States Ambassador to Spain
In office
12 June 1969 – 12 January 1972
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byRobert F. Wagner, Jr.
Succeeded byHoracio Rivero
United States Ambassador to Argentina
In office
15 February 1974 – 10 May 1977
PresidentRichard Nixon
Preceded byJohn Davis Lodge
Succeeded byRaúl H. Castro
Personal details
Born(1917-09-30)30 September 1917
Littleton, New Hampshire
Died28 November 1978(1978-11-28) (aged 61)
Littleton, New Hampshire
NationalityAmerican
Alma materTaft School 1938;
Dartmouth College;
Boston University

Robert Charles Hill (30 September 1917 – 28 November 1978) was a United States diplomat.

Education[edit]

He was born in Littleton, New Hampshire. He attended Dartmouth College in the class of 1942. In 1947, he was a member of staff on the Senate Banking Committee.

Ambassador[edit]

He served as U.S. ambassador to several Latin American countries—El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico—and to Spain throughout his career. In 1961–1962, he was elected to the New Hampshire General Court. His last posting was in Argentina in the late 1970s, a period of great unrest in that country. He was also Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations under President Eisenhower and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under President Nixon.

Argentinean controversy[edit]

Human rights advocacy[edit]

In Argentina, the five-time conservative Republican ambassadorial appointee became best known for his efforts to keep the Argentina military junta that took power in March 1976 from engaging in massive human rights violations like those of Captain General Augusto Pinochet in neighboring Chile following his September 1973 coup. Upon finding out that Kissinger had given the Argentine generals a "green light" for their own so-called "dirty war" in June 1976 while at an Organization of American States meeting in Santiago (at the Hotel Carrera, a place later made famous in the film Missing), Hill immediately engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to roll back the Kissinger decision. Hill did this although Kissinger aides told him that, if he continued, the Secretary of State would likely have him fired, and even as left-wing Argentine guerrillas attempted to assassinate both the U.S. envoy and members of his family living in Buenos Aires. Hill's role as ambassador to Argentina again became prominent in 2016, when President Barack Obama traveled to that country to mark the 40th anniversary of the dirty "war" generals' supposedly bloodless coup.[1]

Disagreement with Kissinger[edit]

As an article published in The Nation in October 1987 noted: "'Hill was shaken, he became very disturbed, by the case of the son of a thirty-year embassy employee, a student who was arrested, never to be seen again,' recalled former New York Times reporter Juan de Onis.[2] 'Hill took a personal interest.' He went to the Interior Minister, a general with whom he had worked on drug cases, saying, 'Hey, what about this? We're interested in this case.' He questioned (Foreign Minister Cesar) Guzzetti and, finally, President Jorge R. Videla himself. 'All he got was stonewalling; he got nowhere.' de Onis said. 'His last year was marked by increasing disillusionment and dismay, and he backed his staff on human rights right to the hilt."[3]

In a letter to The Nation editor Victor Navasky, protesting publication of the article, Kissinger claimed that: "At any rate, the notion of Hill as a passionate human rights advocate is news to all his former associates."

Kissinger aide Harry W. Shlaudeman later disagreed with Kissinger, telling the oral historian William E. Knight of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project: "It really came to a head when I was Assistant Secretary, or it began to come to a head, in the case of Argentina where the dirty war was in full flower. Bob Hill, who was Ambassador then in Buenos Aires, a very conservative Republican politician -- by no means liberal or anything of the kind, began to report quite effectively about what was going on, this slaughter of innocent civilians, supposedly innocent civilians -- this vicious war that they were conducting, underground war. He, at one time in fact, sent me a back-channel telegram saying that the Foreign Minister, who had just come for a visit to Washington and had returned to Buenos Aires, had gloated to him that Kissinger had said nothing to him about human rights. I don't know -- I wasn't present at the interview."[4]

Navasky later wrote in his book about being confronted by Kissinger, "'Tell me, Mr. Navasky,' [Kissinger] said in his famous guttural tones, 'how is it that a short article in a obscure journal such as yours about a conversation that was supposed to have taken place years ago about something that did or didn't happen in Argentina resulted in sixty people holding placards denouncing me a few months ago at the airport when I got off the plane in Copenhagen?'"[5]

Personal life[edit]

On 1 December 1945, Hill married Cecelia Gordon Bowdoin, who later became known as an accomplished mid-Atlantic tennis champion, duplicate bridge player, and an excellent horse woman.[citation needed] She died on Palm Sunday, 1 April 2012.

Hill's papers are held at Dartmouth College.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andersen, Martin Edwin. "Andersen: Will Obama declassify 'dirty war' docs?". CNN.com. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  2. ^ Juan de Onis Blog
  3. ^ Andersen, Martin Edwin (31 October 1987). "Kissinger and The "Dirty War"" (PDF). The Nation. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Oral History of Harry W. Shlaudeman, Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training" (PDF).
  5. ^ Navasky, Victor (2005). A matter of opinion (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. p. 298. ISBN 0374299978. OCLC 56615627. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  6. ^ "The Papers of Robert C. Hill at Dartmouth College". Dartmouth College. Retrieved 29 January 2013.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Philip B. Fleming
United States Ambassador to Costa Rica
4 November 1953 – 10 September 1954
Succeeded by
Robert F. Woodward
Preceded by
Michael J. McDermott
United States Ambassador to El Salvador
4 November 1954 – 21 September 1955
Succeeded by
Thomas C. Mann
Preceded by
Francis White
United States Ambassador to Mexico
25 July 1957 – 1 December 1960
Succeeded by
Thomas C. Mann
Preceded by
Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
United States Ambassador to Spain
12 June 1969 – 12 January 1972
Succeeded by
Horacio Rivero
Preceded by
John Davis Lodge
United States Ambassador to Argentina
15 February 1974 – 10 May 1977
Succeeded by
Raúl H. Castro
Government offices
Preceded by
Thruston Ballard Morton
Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs
9 March 1956 – 6 June 1957
Succeeded by
William B. Macomber, Jr.