810.20 Defense/1–2247

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State (Braden) to the Secretary of State

HR 6326—Latin American Arms Program

The conditions under which the Department agreed to support HR 6326 last spring have changed. The entire program should be reconsidered in the light of these changes, which include the following:

It has been demonstrated that even the so-called interim program, which according to FLC can only be executed if credit is extended, is beyond the economic capacity of the Latin American countries, and if carried through will substantially increase the armaments of Latin America.
Stocks of surplus military equipment, the availability of which is essential to the exchange feature of the bill, are no longer adequate.
Responsible opposition to the arms program both here and in Latin America is increasing.
The United States has taken a leading role in seeking the adoption by the United Nations of a disarmament program.

[Page 109]

HR 6326 was proposed to Congress on the express understanding that it would not lead to an increase in the armaments of Latin America, nor impose any heavy financial burden on the Latin American countries. The developments mentioned above make it clear that the program envisaged in the bill cannot now conform to that understanding.

The Department has consistently maintained that any considerable increase in Latin American armaments—which it is now clear would be the inevitable result of the program—would be highly undesirable because it would:

Unless subsidized by the United States, impose a heavy burden for unproductive purposes on the weak economies of Latin America, thus retarding social progress and perpetuating low standards of living, health, and education—all conditions dangerous to hemisphere security.
Perpetuate the grip of reactionary military groups in Latin America.

It has now been estimated that completion of the so-called interim program would cost Latin America upwards of 75 million dollars. The program envisaged under HR 6326 approaches one billion dollars—an arms sale of unparalleled magnitude in time of peace and infinitely beyond the economic resources of Latin America. One billion dollars is:

Fifty times the total funds expended by this Government in the cooperative program with Latin America in the fields of agriculture, science, civil aviation, education, et cetera, since 1940.

Twelve times the total funds made available by the Government of the United States and the other American republics for the health, sanitation, and agricultural programs of the Institute of Inter-American Ail airs from 1943 to 1948.

Ten times the total payments due this government for lend-lease transfers to Latin America during the entire period of the war.

Three times the total disbursements of the Export-Import Bank in loans to Latin America during the twelve years of the Bank’s operations.

The program envisaged in HR 6326 would:

Increase indefensibly the total arms potential of Latin America.
Promote an arms race.
Strengthen those Latin American forces which are antagonistic to the purposes and interests of the United States.
Increase the danger of Communism by (a) perpetuating conditions favorable to its spread and (b) running the risk that Communists, already infiltrating Latin American armies, would seize the arms.
Aggravate the destructive effects of future revolutionary upheavals in Latin America.

[Page 110]

It is the conviction not only of the undersigned, but also of my principal associates—including the Director and Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs43—that to proceed with this program would be disastrous to our inter-American relations. In addition, the bill is vigorously opposed by the three outstanding authorities on Latin American Affairs recently selected by Assistant Secretary Russell44 to assist the Department in the formulation of over-all Latin American policy.

Spruille Braden
  1. Deputy Director Edward G. Trueblood.
  2. Donald S. Russell, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.