Holland files, lot 52 D 295, “1954–1956”
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland)1
- Participants: President Perón
- Henry F. Holland, Assistant Secretary of State
At 9:00 a.m. on September 19, Ambassador Margueirat accompanied me to visit President Perón at his summer residence in Olivos. The President received us with the Minister of Education2 and an aide, Sr. Renner. The five of us talked very generally for about twenty minutes. Thereupon, the others withdrew and the President and I continued talking for about two hours. The conversation generally fell into three fields.
Perón’s Domestic Policy
He gave me what I assumed to be an abbreviated discussion of Justicialismo. He said that the traditional Latin is an intense individualist who works exclusively to improve his own personal status and with no regard for the welfare of his community. Perón is trying to preserve this personal incentive, but, at the same time, make the individual conscious of his obligation to improve the welfare of his community and country.
He pointed out that this intense individualism traditionally makes the Latin a great individual performer but a very poor member of a team. He is trying in his educational system to emphasize team athletics as a means of achieving the purpose indicated above.
He discussed at length his efforts to create employment, saying that when he took over the Government in 1946 there were four million Argentines gainfully employed, whereas there are now eight million. He described the extent to which the standard of living has generally been improved throughout the country and his plans with respect to further improvements, particularly the need to persuade people to vary their preponderantly meat diet.
He described his theories of social security and the Government’s program for extending uniform retirement benefits.
He described in some detail his Five Year Plans, saying that some 800 objectives have been identified; that general stages of development [Page 474] have been agreed upon for the next 25 years, these being broken down into five-year periods of which detailed programs have been prepared for the next period. He said that a weakness in our efforts to combat Communism lies in the fact that Communism promises people specific definable benefits, whereas the free enterprise system does not. These programs serve as a weapon against Communism because through them the Government offers the people specific benefits superior to those offered by Communism.
Perón says that he intends to place greater emphasis on private enterprise, doing everything that he can to encourage it to take over production and business in the country. He cited various examples of factories which he says he has encouraged businessmen to establish instead of having the Government undertake them. He also cited two examples of local factories which he said that the Government established and then sold to private investors. He agreed with me that the Government should do everything possible to encourage private enterprise to invest in the country’s economic development and without discrimination between domestic and foreign investors.
He stated that he has records on approximately 50,000 communists and fellow travelers throughout Argentina and said that each one has assigned to him a particular individual who reports on his movements and who is assigned the duty of liquidating him in the event of war or other crisis. Thus, he said, in case of war Argentina will solve its Communist problem within a week.
He discussed at some length his cooperation with the Embassy on Communist matters3 and the extent to which he has penetrated his local Communist organization. He states that he has agents in the highest policy levels of the local party.
He says that the local party is directed by the communist party in France which sends instructions to Prestes in Brazil who is in charge of the Communist party throughout South America. He says that he has succeeded in penetrating the Communist party in France and is frequently aware of instructions sent to the Argentine before they are received by local leaders.
He argued strongly that there must be closer cooperation between the American States in their police actions against Communists, saying that our individual efforts are nullified if a Communist sought by one Government can escape to an adjacent country and can continue his operations unmolested there. He maintains some 800 Communists in prison in Southern Argentina. When the Russian Ambassador complains, he offers to release any prisoner whose return to Russian that Government will approve.[Page 475]
He says that asylees returning from Guatemala will be closely supervised and that the four most dangerous agents are immediately being sent forward to Poland.
I had expected him to raise the question of a Hemisphere conference on Communism. Instead, he said that publicized programs to combat Communism were of little benefit; that our coordinated efforts should be worked out through secret conferences with carefully selected officials in each Government and reduced to secret agreements. He offered his fullest cooperation in pursuing such a plan and emphasized that any carelessness in the selection of officials with whom to deal in the other Governments would amount to a disclosure of our plans to the Communists.
As regards Argentina, in summary, he says that he is seeking to combat Communism by a course of police measures on the one hand and on the other by outdoing the Communists in popular appeal.
He described the Communist situation in Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Bolivia. In Brazil, he says, the Communists have penetrated the army extensively and are multiplying rapidly under the leadership of Prestes who now moves openly about the country. He says that the educational system in Uruguay is substantially penetrated and that the Uruguayan policy of complete freedom of press makes the Government powerless to combat the local Communists.
In Chile he says the situation is deteriorating rapidly and that he can foresee just what the outcome will be.
He says that he has great confidence in the President of Bolivia4 as a strong anti-Communist, but that the great poverty of the Indians makes them particularly susceptible to Communist propaganda. The first problem there, he feels, is to raise the standard of living of the workers. He feels that the Bolivian Indian will naturally resist Communism if his minimum physical needs are satisfied.
The Rio Conference
I explained to him in considerable detail our views regarding the conference. Its basic goal must be definition of means to elevate the standard of living of the American peoples. That burden must be borne primarily by each people. Each country must seek means to assist others. We conceive that our own help will fall primarily in the field of trade, government finance, and technical aid. I described in considerable detail our Export–Import Bank policy and the opposition and criticism that we expect from those sectors which aspire to a massive grant-aid program.
He said that he was fully satisfied with our policies and promised the support of his delegation. He said that extensive loans to Latin American Governments would prejudice our prestige and relations in the Hemisphere. Of any amount loaned, 50 percent would be stolen by [Page 476] Government officials and the remainder inefficiently invested, with the result that any benefits would have been achieved at an exorbitant price. When the people are called upon to repay such debts they are exceedingly resentful because they feel that the real benefits of the loans have gone to Government officials.
Perón urges instead a policy of loans to private enterprises, both domestic and foreign, and with the added assurance of a guarantee by the local Government. He says that Latin American Governments themselves, his own included, are notoriously poor builders and administrators. Loans to private enterprises will insure the most efficient possible utilization of money.
He talked at length about the fact that the United States spends more on propaganda than any other country in the world and achieves less. He pointed out the success of Soviet propaganda at convincing Latin America that the United States supports colonialism whereas Russia is the real champion of oppressed groups. He said that the United States in fact was the only country in the world that supported social justice without reservation, that the United States had no colonies and no aspirations for colonies, whereas Russia maintains fourteen nations in a state of slavery.
He said that in our propaganda and in our actions we should be careful to avoid anything which would offend the intense nationalism which prevails generally in Latin America and particularly in Argentina. He says that this can be achieved by greater tact in the manner in which we express our views rather than by any change in the substance of our positions.
In this connection he referred to the Antarctic, saying that the Argentine people are particularly sensitive on the subject and that any untactful statements by our government officials would create considerable resentment. On the other hand, he said that any genuine differences between us could be worked out in private conferences. He urged that the Antarctic could have no real military value to us because he was prepared to assure us whatever bases we might need in the southern part of Argentina. He argued that if we had advance assurance of harbors and military bases in southern Argentina the Antarctic wastelands would have no military significance to us.
He said that war seemed very probable and that he would be prepared to cooperate with us closely in the event of war.
He said that he had taken the position with his own generals that in the event of another war Argentina must immediately and strongly identify itself with the United States and that if Russia should prevail he and they would be the first to be executed by the Russians.
He praised Ambassador Nufer highly, saying that he was able to talk with the Ambassador without any restraint and with great confidence in his judgment.[Page 477]
I stressed our satisfaction with the current state of our relations and assured him of the President’s interests and that of the Secretary of State in doing everything within our power to remove any problems that would place a strain on these relations. He said that he fully realized that we could not agree on every matter arising between us because each of us must defend, first, the interests of his own country, but that disagreement after a frank and friendly discussion would not prejudice our relations.
He was exceedingly cordial throughout the interview. When we finished he accompanied me on a tour through the grounds and buildings at Olivos. We visited the gymnasium, the hospital, the dining hall, the administrative buildings, and the athletic fields. Throughout the tour he stopped and talked with hundreds of school girls engaged in different activities around the place. He gets intense satisfaction out of their applause and was happy for me to see him against this background.
Drafted by Mr. Holland.
Mr. Holland visited Argentina, Sept. 18–22, 1954. An account of his visit was transmitted to the Department of State under cover of despatch 283, from Buenos Aires, dated Sept. 29, 1954, not printed (110.15 HO/9–2954).↩
- Armando Méndez San Martín.↩
- Documentation relating to this subject is in file 735.001 for 1954.↩
- Víctor Paz Estenssoro.↩