The Ambassador in Ecuador ( Simmons ) to the Secretary of State

No. 224

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s mimeographed circular instruction of December 24, 1947,1 entitled “United’ States-Information Policy”, with its enclosed memorandum entitled “U.S. Information Policy with Regard to Anti-American Propaganda”, and to submit the following comment concerning this memorandum with particular reference to its applicability to the present situation in Ecuador.

The Communist Party in Ecuador is a small but closely knit organization. [Page 582] Its propaganda activities have little effect in Quito or other more or less isolated highland cities of this country, but its activities are apparent in more concentrated form in the commercial center and seaport of Guayaquil and to a lesser extent in other parts of the coastal region of Ecuador.

The general Communist line, discernible in its propaganda in other parts of the world, is parallel in Ecuador and consists in large measure in recurrent, although not too vitriolic, attacks on United States imperialistic policy, in support of a Latin American regional bloc of nations, presumably united against United States hegemony in the Americas, in attempts to belittle and undermine our European Recovery Program and, negatively, in an absence of criticism of Soviet obstructionist policies in world affairs.

In addition to these general lines of policy, there are certain special objectives of Communist propaganda which apply particularly to Ecuador. These consist chiefly in a more specialized attack against alleged United States imperialism, in the form of a whispering campaign, and occasionally, though not recent, press articles against the continuance of our maintaining an army base in the Galápagos Islands.2 Another line of Communistic propaganda is a continuous stirring of ultra-nationalistic views in Ecuador. The basic objective of these views is thought to be that of arousing in this country a more basic and general anti-United States feeling. Its more particular manifestation, however, has recently been a series of attacks, both in the press and in private speeches, against alleged encroachments of Peru and against the injustice of Peruvian claims in the Lagartococha area which involves Ecuador’s most recent boundary dispute with that country.

In general, the Communist line of propaganda has been to exploit the sad lot of the working man in Ecuador and to leave no stone unturned in increasing the already strong discontent of the Indians, prone to be somewhat apathetic as regards their low economic and social status here.

I thoroughly agree with the Department’s viewpoint, as expressed in this memorandum, in regard to the new and more energetic line which we must take as a means of combatting this type of propaganda. The time has come when passivity or even a spirit of kindliness or indifference towards Soviet attacks is not sufficient. We must increase the active aspects of our information policy and we must lose no time in carrying out such activities.

As for the best media of implementing this policy, it is my view [Page 583] that, in general, the most important media would be the press, the radio and motion pictures, in that order.

As regards the press, I am convinced that a considerably more effective effort could be made through the improvement and enlargement of means which are in general already at our disposal. One handicap in our program of providing press material to the local newspapers is the fact that the Department’s daily wireless bulletins are received here only four days or more after their dissemination from Washington. This is due to the fact that we have no wireless and receiving processing service here but must depend upon bulletins mailed either from Panama or Lima. The time lag involved here largely nullifies the value of this service. If funds could be provided for the setting up of a receiving and processing station at this Embassy, invaluable aid would be given to this form of press service, of which timeliness is the crux. I know from experience here that a considerable number of newspaper editors would be very happy to have material thus available given to them promptly and would use it to great advantage as regards our basic information program. I feel that, with the additional funds now available for the OIE service, it may be possible to enlarge our organization in Quito and to carry out a wider and better implemented program, particularly as regards the aspect of this question described immediately above.

As to the question of radio service, the psychology of the Ecuadoran people lends itself to a wide and rapid acceptance of programs having some special theatrical or emotional appeal. Short plays, sketches from the lives of our forefathers or of recent dramatic events in our history, short adaptations of certain of our folklore, biographical data or historical events, presented in attractive and dramatic form, are much more effective here than are the normal type of presentation by the simple exposition of facts, often presented in a too prosaic form and not calculated to capture the popular imagination in this country. Since there are few short-wave radio sets in Ecuador the objective should be to broaden and dramatize our locally disseminated long-wave programs.

As regards motion pictures, this program of course reaches a mass of the more uneducated Indian elements who might be impervious, due to their low educational and economic status, to other informational media. The type of program which is being found most effective consists chiefly of educational films, studies of plant and animal life, films concerning our industrial and engineering development and sports programs.

Among certain more general observations to be made concerning Ecuador, there are certain points which should never be lost sight of. [Page 584] Our informational service has previously been too greatly concentrated in Quito and too little attention has been given to Guayaquil. Guayaquil is even more important than Quito as regards combatting Soviet propaganda and an immediate effort should be made to strengthen our informational service in that city.

Another factor in Ecuadoran life is the intense interest of the university student groups in both national and international politics. These groups are predominantly of a left-wing turn of thought, and include a large nucleus of communistic thought. A large number of socialists is also included among these university groups and there is no question that, although more vociferous than their actual political influence would justify, they do nevertheless represent a strong factor in the political and social life of Ecuador. Any plans for increasing and strengthening our informational program should always have this fact in mind.

The Ecuadoran press is in general most receptive to whatever timely material we may be in a position to give them, and an increase in our sources of material, as well as in our translating staff and in the general organization of our informational service, would be most helpful.

In conclusion, I cannot overlook one aspect of the situation as regards our informational activities in Ecuador. I refer to the unfortunate effect on local public opinion which has been caused by the publication of certain unsponsored articles, cartoons and photographs. Typical of this influence is a series of articles by American columnists which appears regularly in one of the Quito newspapers. In one of these recent columns, Mr. Drew Pearson was critical of what he considered General Marshall’s timidity about aiding the allied cause before our entry into the war. In another column also published in Spanish under the name of the same columnist, a detailed description was given (El Comercio, December 15, 1947) of the secret intelligence service which has been established in all of our Embassies abroad. Some details of this service were given, and it was even stated that, in the case of one Embassy, the Ambassador himself was the actual agent concerned. …

Another example in point was the publication, under INS sponsorship in the local press, of photographs of American soldiers fraternizing supposedly with low-class Japanese women.

While I have nothing to suggest to remedy this situation, in view of our basic belief in the freedom of the press, I nevertheless cite it as an unfortunate influence which certainly does not help us in our efforts to improve our informational services abroad.

Supplementing the general observations which I have made herein, [Page 585] I am forwarding to the Department with unclassified despatch no. 225 of today’s date,3 entitled “Suggested OIL [ OIE ] Program in Ecuador During Fiscal Year 1949”, a memorandum, dated March 2, prepared by Mr. Francis W. Herron, Acting Public Affairs Officer of this Embassy, containing a number of practical suggestions for the OIE program in Ecuador during the fiscal year 1949. I endorse these suggestions and wish to forward them to the Department as my recommendations.

Respectfully yours,

John F. Simmons
  1. Not printed.
  2. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 226 ff.
  3. Not printed.