Secretary’s Staff Meetings, lot 63 D 75

Notes of the Secretary of State’s Staff Meeting, Held at the Department of State, 9:30 a.m., March 20, 1952 1

SM N–16

[Here follow a list of those present (25) and discussion relating to the Korean military situation, Communist propaganda activities, and an alleged statement by Mr. Eden concerning British membership in the Federation of Europe.]

[Page 407]

Report on Argentina

Ambassador Bunker reported that the situation in Argentina is baffling. The outstanding feature of U.S.-Argentine relations is the vituperative attacks in the local press on the U.S. and its “capitalistic imperialism.” Also, there have been personal attacks on the President, Mr. Acheson, and Mr. Miller. In addition, there have been attacks on our conduct of the Korean war. In general, they have attacked what they consider aggression on our part in various parts of the world. Ambassador Bunker noted that Argentina has played up the so-called anti-U.S. features in other countries. It was pointed out that Argentine labor attachés in other countries have been strongly against us.
There is a pro-U.S. group in the Argentine Government, including the Minister of Defense,2 the Foreign Minister,3 and a few others. Usually the most friendly group toward the U.S. includes those who have been to the U.S. and know something about us. Ambassador Bunker stated that his relations with the Foreign Minister have been extremely friendly. He felt that the Foreign Minister was making some progress which would be helpful to us but this would come about very slowly.
Ambassador Bunker said that one of the most important factors in Argentine affairs is their current economic situation, which is extremely serious.4 The present situation is caused by drought and government policy. They will have relatively little to export and their exchange earnings will be off about 30%. Government policy toward agriculture has caused food prices to stay down for the benefit of the workers, [Page 408] with no incentives for agriculture producers. In addition, the producers must sell at unattractive exchange rates. Argentina has been faced with the necessity for a change in policy and has come out with virtually an austerity program. The real test involved in this program is whether they can get away with it. They have instituted liberalized prices and two meatless days, and certain restrictions have been removed. Also, it is doubted that large wage increases will take place this year. Peron must be given credit for handling the present economic situation very cleverly.
Ambassador Bunker reported that another important factor is Evita’s health.5 She has not made a good recovery. Evita is extremely powerful in that she controls the CGT and the charity foundation monopoly. This foundation has done some extremely good work in housing, hospitals, schools, etc. Funds are provided liberally and there is no apparent accounting for the money. The question obviously arises as to the person who might succeed her in these enterprises.
Ambassador Bunker stated that many ask how firmly based is the present regime. He felt that the regime is strongly rooted and that free elections would produce virtually the same results as the last election. The army now is demoralized since its September revolt attempt.6 The CGT has made important inroads in the non-commissioned officer ranks.
With respect to the problem of Communism in Argentina, Ambassador Bunker said that Peron claims there are practically no Communists in his country. There is an important dissident group which split from the Communist party. This group is pro-Peronista, is anti-U.S., does not attack the Soviet Union or Communist policies, but does not openly support the Soviet Union. Ambassador Bunker explained that we are attempting to watch this group very carefully in order to see what significant role it might play in the future. Mr. Bohlen felt that this was an interesting development especially since groups which split from the Communist party are usually vigorously attacked by the Communists.
Ambassador Bunker felt that our recent policy toward Argentina7 [Page 409] has been effective. He also believed that there has been general approval of our policy by other Latin American countries, and he felt that the future would show some results in our favor. There have been efforts in Argentina to provoke us into anti-Argentine activities, but so far we have studiously avoided such traps.
Ambassador Bunker stated that he hoped the U.S. would not put on countervailing duties on wool, since it would have a very bad effect in Argentina. He explained that the anti-American feeling in Argentina did not originate with Peron but is a part of the Argentine “personality.” It is not clear what elements would succeed Peron if he disappeared from the scene.
  1. The Secretary’s staff meetings, at which the Secretary normally presided, were held twice a week during the period 1952–1960. They were attended by the Under Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State, certain members of the Executive Secretariat, and certain office directors.
  2. Maj. Gen. José Humberto Sosa Molina.
  3. Jerónimo Remorino.
  4. The notes of the Secretary’s staff meeting, held at the Department of State on Jan. 29, 1952, read in part as follows:

    “Argentine Grain and Meat Problem

    “5. The Secretary asked for some details on the grain and meat situation in Argentina. Mr. Miller reported that there will be no Argentine wheat available for export and, in fact, Argentina may have to ration grain in its own country. With respect to meat, there possibly will be a little available for export. Mr. Miller felt that these difficulties are caused by a combination of price controls, increased consumption, draining off of labor from the farms, and an unusual drought last year. Mr. Thorp agreed and pointed out the recent history in Argentina of building up industry at the expense of the farmers, which is the basic cause of the present difficulties. The Secretary asked whether this current situation would develop problems in Argentina and elsewhere. Mr. Miller said it would put the burden on us to provide more wheat to various parts of the world which had at one time been dependent upon Argentine grain. In this connection, he pointed out that Brazil has asked for almost five times the amount of grain which we had originally agreed to provide under the International Wheat Agreement.” (Secretary’s Staff Meetings, lot 63 D 75).

    For text of the International Wheat Agreement, opened for signature at Washington, Mar. 23, 1949, and entered into force for the United States, July 1, 1949, with respect to Parts 1, 3, 4, and 5, and Aug. 1, 1949, with respect to Part 2, see TIAS No. 1957, or 63 Stat. (pt. 2) 2173.

  5. María Eva (Evita) Duarte de Perón, wife of President Perón, died on July 26, 1952, after a long illness.
  6. For documentation on the abortive revolt, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. ii, pp. 1109 ff.
  7. Despatch 1084, from Buenos Aires, drafted by Ambassador Bunker and Chargé Lester D. Mallory and dated Jan. 10, 1952, commenting on U.S. policy toward Argentina, reads in part as follows:

    “Present policy, or the implementation of policy may be defined as one of ‘correctness’. That is not an end in itself nor does it contain an end in itself. Rather, it is for the purpose of allowing disturbed waters to become calm, of indicating to Argentina that we are not concerned with their often petty aberrations and in the expectation that the progress of events in the world may demonstrate that Argentina has considerably greater need of the United States than the United States has of Argentina.” (611.35/1–1052)