Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Albert H. Gerberich of the Office of South American Affairs1


Subject: Agenda for Foreign Ministers’ Conference

Participants: Ambassador Zuleta-Angel, Colombian Amb.
Mr. Dreier, Amer. Amb. to OAS
Mr. Spalding, ARA/I
Mr. Gerberich, OSA

General Observations:

The Ambassador said he wanted to inform himself regarding our ideas on the various problems to be considered under the agenda proposed for the Foreign Ministers’ Conference on March 25.

Regarding the first section of the agenda—Politico-Military matters—he said he wanted to make it clear that he is not asking for any special assistance to Colombia or any other republic in its particular problems. He said it is essential that all such matters be put aside in the interests of overall American solidarity. He said that in his opinion the failure of the Conference would be nothing less than an international disaster.

On the second point for discussion—Subversive Activities2—he said that thus far the American Republics have taken one step forward by Resolution 32 of the Final Act of the Charter of Bogotà,3 but have never implemented it. Perhaps they should go farther. He questioned whether it was wise to declare the Communist Party outlawed throughout Latin America. Colombia has not done so. He thought it might be more advisable to continue to keep the Communist Parties under close surveillance and restrict their many fields of activity.

As to Economic Assistance he had been thinking of one project in particular—the Inter-American Highway.4 He thinks it would be a valuable project to complete because of the facilities it would offer for transporting supplies from one country to another and permitting each country to perform its share of the defense effort more efficiently. It would also be a very popular project throughout Latin America. [Page 932] In conversations with Nelson Rockefeller5 he has discovered that he is also thinking of going ahead with this project, but that he has in mind a route farther to the eastward than the one drawn at present, The Ambassador did not elaborate further on this.

He mentioned a conversation that he had had with Luis Quintanilla,6 and said that while Quintanilla has the best interests of America and of his country at heart he is not to be relied on as a spokesman for the whole Latin American community, as he dares not depart from the traditional Mexican position of suspicion and distrust of “US imperialist” motives.

Organization of Conference:

Ambassador Zuleta said he understood that there were some differences of opinion regarding the organization of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers among the members of the COAS Committee, and he expressed a desire to know the United States view. Mr. Dreier reported that the Committee that morning had agreed on a compromise between those who felt the Foreign Ministers should handle all difficulties in person and those who leaned toward a maximum use of committees to give preliminary consideration to all subjects. The Department believed it was important that the Foreign Ministers be presented with proposals which had already been considered by technical committees. Ambassador Zuleta recalled the experience at Bogotá where committees had wrestled with problems without making any progress until, the riots of April 9. Thereafter the heads of delegations had met and solved all major problems promptly—except for economic questions which continued to be handled by a committee and were in the last analysis a failure. Ambassador Zuleta therefore argued in favor of maximum discussion by the Foreign Ministers themselves. Mr. Dreier emphasized the importance in this regard of the preliminary work in the COAS whereby the main issues could be defined and presented to the Foreign Ministers for decision, leaving the working out of details to the committees. It was agreed that further consideration should be given to this important aspect of the Meeting.

Combatting Communism:

With reference to Point (2) of the agenda, Mr. Spalding assured the Ambassador that our thinking and his were running along parallel lines and that like himself we did not favor blanket decrees “outlawing” the Communist Party of the Hemisphere. Our belief was set forth [Page 933] that much of our own legislation, if copied and strictly enforced in other countries, would provide an effective method of dealing with communist and pro-communist activities, and it was explained to the Ambassador that although by US law to be a member of the Communist Party was not illegal, to act as such was now in nearly every case in contravention of US law. Reference was made to the Smith Act7 and certain provisions of the Internal Security Act of 19508 as the type of legislative provision that we had in mind, and the Ambassador expressed his satisfaction and approval of this approach to the problem.

Mr. Spalding indicated that we felt that communist activities among organized labor were of particular importance and that on that score we were exploring the possibilities of advocating legislative measures somewhat similar to certain provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act of 19479 which might deny the benefits of favorable labor legislation to communist-led groups, in addition to other measures to eradicate the influence of Soviet-oriented leaders in the labor field. Ambassador Zuleta expressed the greatest interest in this and asked that we provide him with any information that we might be able to supply concerning US legislation along these lines.

In closing, our ideas on the merits of a counterpart to the Emergency Advisory Committee for the Political Defense of the Hemisphere (CPD)10 were outlined to the Ambassador. He expressed general agreement with the necessity for a technical body of manageable proportions to work out the details and the implementation of anti-subversive measures.

  1. The source text indicates that the codrafters of this memorandum were Hobart A. Spalding, Intelligence Adviser, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and Ambassador John C. Dreier, U.S. Representative to the COAS.
  2. For previous documentation relating to the policy of the United States regarding anti-communist measures within the inter-American system, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ix, pp. 193 ff., and ibid., 1950, vol. ii, pp. 624671, passim.
  3. For text, see Ninth International Conference of American States, March 30–May 2, 1948: Report of the Delegation of the United States with Related Documents (Department of State Publication No. 3262, Washington, 1948), pp. 222–276, hereinafter cited as USDel Report.
  4. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 1038 ff.
  5. Mr. Rockefeller had been appointed Chairman of the International Development Advisory Board on November 24, 1950.

    The Advisory Board was established in pursuance of Section 409 of Title IV of the Foreign Economic Assistance Act of 1950 (Public Law 535), approved June 5, 1950; for text of the act, see 64 Stat. 198. For additional information, see Department of State Bulletin, December 4, 1950, p. 880; ibid., December 18, 1950, pp. 973974.

  6. Mexican Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
  7. Reference is to the Alien Registration Act (Public Law 670), commonly known as the Smith Act, approved June 28, 1940; for text, see 54 Stat. 670.
  8. For text of the Internal Security Act of 1950 (Public Law 831), approved September 23, 1950, see 64 Stat. 987.
  9. For text of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (Public Law 101) approved June 23, 1947, see 61 Stat. 136.
  10. For documentation on the work of the Emergency Advisory Committee, which was established in 1942, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. v, pp. 74107; ibid., 1943, vol. v, pp. 239; and ibid., 1944, vol. vii, pp. 126.