18. Memorandum From the Assistant Director, Latin America, United States Information Agency (McKnight) to the Deputy Director (Wilson)1
- Propaganda Against the Food for Peace Program
You may think the following matter worth bringing to the Director’s attention for inclusion among “problems and conflicts” in the weekly report to the President, or for the Secretary’s staff meeting:[Page 65]
After amicable consultations with the Food for Peace mission,2 the Argentine Government reversed its position and began a campaign of opposition to the program. Its motive is peculiar to Argentina, i.e., defense of the country’s primary exports; and the propaganda appears so far to be local. However, it is intensive and colorful enough to give Communists and others some sharp language to pick up and use throughout the Continent. For example, they are saying that Food for Peace means “fed today, starved tomorrow.”
It is true, also, that the wide publicity engendered by the Food for Peace mission does have a tendency to push other aid programs out of mind, fostering the impression among the half-attentive general public that this alone is our current recipe for assistance.
Now that the mission has returned, early clarification by an authoritative source, putting the new program into context with the broad spread of development aid, could be useful in Latin America. Perhaps the President’s speech3 could touch on this. Consideration might be given to scotching the Argentine slogan in specific terms by pointing out that the aim of our combined programs is “fed today,4 self-sufficient tomorrow.” This would have a welcome ring in Latin America and might incidentally warn the Argentines off.
- Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Entry UD WW 288, Box 130, Food for Peace 1961 IOP/823. Official Use Only. Wilson sent a copy of the memorandum to Sorensen under a March 9 typewritten note, to which he also attached his March 9 response to McKnight. An unknown hand, presumably Sorensen’s, wrote on Wilson’s note: “McKnight to do memo for me to pass McG, wrapping it up.” (Ibid.)↩
- In a January 31 memorandum to Rusk, Freeman, and McGovern, the President expressed his belief that it would be “useful to send a food-for-peace mission immediately to Latin America to explore the manner in which our food abundance can be used to help end hunger and malnutrition in every area of suffering throughout the hemisphere.” The memorandum is printed in Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. IX, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 87. The Washington Post reported on February 9 that McGovern and Schlesinger would travel to Argentina and Brazil, while Food for Peace Deputy Director James Symington would head a technical group, including Food for Peace staff member Stephen Raushenbush, which would travel to other Latin American countries. (“2 U.S. Food-for-Peace Missions To Tour Through Latin America,” Washington Post, p. A2) For Schlesinger’s report on the mission, see Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, vol. XII, American Republics, Document 7.↩
- See footnote 4, Document 17.↩
- Glenn Smith underlined “fed today,” placed a vertical line in the right-hand margin next to it, and wrote: “patronizing in any such form. gs 3/8.” In his March 9 response to McKnight (see footnote 1, above) Wilson stated: “I am concerned about the Argentine reaction to Food for Peace. However, I don’t think your slogan is quite right. It strikes me as patronizing. I think the President’s speech will help us out on this but maybe we need some direct action in Argentina. Why don’t you think it over again and see if you can come up with a better idea of the approach to this. Please consult with Tom Sorensen on this since he is the Agency representative to George McGovern.”↩