123. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 17, 1956, 10 a.m.1


  • Meeting of Eisenhower Committee on Organization of American States2


  • Dr. Milton S. Eisenhower
  • State
  • ARA—Asst. Secy. H. F. Holland
  • Mr. R.R. Rubottom, Jr.
  • Amb. Harold Randall
  • Mr. William Krieg
  • Mr. Ralph Hilton
  • Mr. Robert A. Conrads
  • E—Mr. Hamlin Robinson
  • IO—Mr. James Green
  • OIC—Mr. R. S. Wheeler
  • S/AE—Mr. Philip J. Farley
  • U/MSA–Mr. Joseph S. Farland
  • S/S—Mr. Robert Sturgill
  • Atomic Energy Commission
  • Admiral Paul F. Foster, Special Asst. to General Mgr.
  • Mr. John Hall, Director, Div. of International Affairs
  • USIA
  • Mr. Lewis C. Mattison,
  • Act. Asst. Dir. for Latin America
  • Health, Education and Welfare
  • Mr. Herold C. Hunt, Under Secretary
  • Commerce
  • Mr. Marshall Smith, Act.
  • Asst. Secy, International Affairs
  • Mr. George Wythe
  • Agriculture
  • Asst. Secy. Earl Butz
  • Mr. Gwynn Garnett, Adm., FAS
  • Treasury
  • Asst. Secy. Andrew N. Overby
  • Mr. C. D. Glendinning, Deputy Dirctor, International Finance
  • ICA
  • Mr. Harry Yoe, Act. Regional Director, LA
  • Bureau of the Budget
  • Mr. R. M. Macy, Chief, International Div.
  • Mr. George Vaishvila
  • Eximbank
  • Mr. Samuel C. Waugh, President

Dr. Eisenhower opened the meeting and immediately turned the floor over to Mr. Holland who briefly outlined the purpose of the meeting, the goal sought by the Eisenhower Committee, a proposed organization to achieve that goal insofar as U.S. participation is concerned and a suggestion of the procedure to be followed in the work of the Committee.

[Page 457]

Mr. Holland stated that the end product sought by the Eisenhower Committee is a report containing recommendations to the Presidents of the American Republics for means to make the Organization of American States a more effective instrument in the fields of finance and economy, technical assistance and social welfare. In order to advise Dr. Eisenhower, as the personal representative of the President, concerning his participation in the work of this Committee, Mr. Holland suggested that an interdepartmental committee similar to that which prepared for the Rio Economic Conference and is now engaged in preparing for the Buenos Aires Conference,3 be established.4 This sub-cabinet committee would avail itself of the services of the two standing committees, one in economic and the other in social affairs, which could start immediately to review the work of the OAS in the fields under study.5 It would also be necessary to establish a separate nuclear committee to make a special study and formulate recommendations in that field.6 The committees would make the appropriate surveys and give preliminary thought to the areas of the OAS in which improvements could be made.7 At the same time all the representatives of the presidents would be asked to meet in Washington on the 17, 18, and 19 of September. At this preliminary meeting, they would present their proposals as to the areas in which the OAS could be improved and better utilized by its members. The Committee would then adjourn to analyse the proposals made at the first meeting and prepare for a longer meeting to take place some months later. During the interim between the September meeting and the later meeting, the preparatory work would be completed, views could be exchanged between the representatives and differences of opinion could be eliminated. When the [Page 458] representatives finally meet again they would draft a report to the presidents. Mr. Holland emphasized that it was important for us as the nucleus of a policy-guiding group to see our goals clearly and determine our objectives rather specifically before the preliminary meeting opens on September 17.

Dr. Eisenhower then stated that a logical point at which to begin consideration of the problem before us was a review of the present structure and work of the OAS in the economic and social fields. He gave the floor to Ambassador Randall, U.S. Representative on the IA–ECOSOC, who described the OAS and its subsidiary agencies and their work in the economic and social fields. When Ambassador Randall had concluded his presentation, there were a number of questions and comments. It was noted that the Pan-American Sanitary Organization is the only OAS specialized agency that is fully recognized and utilized as the regional operating arm of its UN counterpart agency, in this case the World Health Organization. Dr. Eisenhower commented that it would be well if the UN were to recognize the Inter-American Economic and Social Council and utilize it similarly. Mr. Macy commented on the lack of interest in certain OAS projects and described his visit to a training school in Rio on natural resources which was operating on very limited funds. He commented that it would be well for the Committee to take a hard look at whether some of the groups functioning in this field are really producing.

Mr. Holland made summary comments on the work of the OAS, stating that we believe it to be the most advanced and effective regional organization in the world. It has been particularly effective in the political field. Our policy calls for the Western Hemisphere to be a model for the rest of the world. The attainment of this objective becomes of strategic importance. The Organization of American States has grown up over a period of years through the establishment of its component agencies at different times and to meet differing needs. Never has there been an “efficiency survey” of the organization and the time is appropriate for this to be done. Mr. Holland concluded that there is no doubt that our objective for the hemisphere is one that we can attain and that it is worth the time and effort which will be required to attain it. In answer to Dr. Eisenhower’s question, Mr. Holland stated that there is no thought of diminishing bilateral programs to channel them through the multilateral mechanism. Dr. Eisenhower then asked Mr. Holland if he had specific objectives thought out for the Eisenhower Committee. Mr. Holland replied that he had no specific objectives in mind, but in general he felt that the OAS had floundered in the fields which the Committee is to consider, mainly because the governments of the other American Republics are not sufficiently interested [Page 459] in supporting the organization. The Eisenhower Special Committee should have as its objective the dissipation of this apathy and Mr. Holland would hope that after January we would see a real interest in the OAS and a willingness to support and utilize it fully.

Mr. Overby then asked if there was any thought of strengthening the OAS with relation to ECLA or if this was simply to be a dress rehearsal of the Buenos Aires Conference in which we would hear Latin American complaints. Mr. Holland answered at some length, pointing to the UN record in Bolivia and indicating that he felt very strongly that the best interests of the United States and of the hemisphere would be served by strengthening the OAS. He continued that this should be done not by remaking the OAS, but by causing it to be more effective within its existing structure. Latin Americans would undoubtedly come up with many ideas likely to be presented at the Buenos Aires Conference, such as an inter-American bank, the establishment of minimum prices for Latin American products, et cetera, but that these were ideas which could be handled by making it plain at the outset that the Eisenhower Committee was not to be used as a vehicle for airing these ideas. In response to Dr. Eisenhower’s question, Mr. Holland stated that the charter of the OAS does not preclude the establishment of an inter-American bank but that the terms of reference of the Eisenhower Committee do exclude it from the work of the Committee.

Admiral Foster then outlined a plan of the Atomic Energy Commission to establish an inter-American nuclear training and research center in Puerto Rico in cooperation with the University of Puerto Rico and indicated that the AEC is prepared to make substantial contributions in this field. Dr. Eisenhower commented that he hoped announcement of this program could be made at the first meeting of the Committee on September 17. In response to a question from Dr. Eisenhower, Admiral Foster indicated that he felt that determining the place of the OAS in the field of nuclear development in the Americas should be one of the objectives of the Eisenhower Committee. Dr. Eisenhower agreed that this could make the economic phase of the OAS work many times more effective.

Mr. Butz commented that the programming of local currencies generated through the sale of our agricultural surpluses could constitute a positive contribution in the economic field. Mr. Holland stated that PL–4808 funds are being generated at the rate of $150 million this year, of which about $15 million is in local currencies and is available to the local governments and agreed that this would be an important contribution.

[Page 460]

Mr. Holland came back to the question of organization and procedure and stated that he felt the sub-cabinet group should be established and that the three working committees should be set to work to come up with thoughts on all of the subjects mentioned. Dr. Eisenhower indicated that we would need firm guidelines before September 17. Mr. Holland agreed that with Dr. Eisenhower’s authority we would proceed to the establishment of the necessary organizational machinery. Mr. Overby commented that he thought it important not to await the formal exchange of letters to start to work, and it was agreed that initial preparations should begin immediately.

In answer to Mr. Smith’s question concerning correlation of our domestic industry interests with the preparation of the conference (American and Foreign Power plans, for example), Mr. Holland stated that there certainly should be a correlation and he would anticipate that this could be accomplished through such bodies as the Business Advisory Council and the National Planning Association. Admiral Foster pointed out that accelerating the development of nuclear power depends to a large extent on encouragement given to private enterprise and continued that the AEC is considering ways of encouraging private enterprise and suggested that perhaps the Eximbank could be of help in this direction. Mr. Overby cautioned that it is well to exploit the publicity value of atomic energy development but that we should be careful not to lead the Latin American countries to false expectations. Admiral Foster indicated that he and the AEC are well aware of that pitfall.

Dr. Eisenhower then turned to the question of possible confusion between UN technical assistance programs, OAS programs and U.S. bilateral programs. There was a feeling that in some cases more harm than good results and there is little coordination. The present case of Argentina, where numerous studies of its economy have been prepared by different entities was used as an example. Mention was also made of troubles that result for the United States by reason of doctrines sometimes espoused by individuals in UN organizations, including ECLA, and sometimes by the entities themselves. Mr. Holland pointed out that a frontal attack on ECLA, whose establishment had been opposed by the U.S., would not be productive and would be resented in Latin America. Hence the appropriate tactics would be to strengthen the OAS to such a degree of usefulness that its recognition in Latin America would make it the primary agency. Mr. Smith commented on the experience of ECE vis-à-vis OEEC in Europe as shedding light on this possible development. Mr. Waugh commented on the strong staff available to Dr. Prebisch in ECLA and noted the scarcity of U.S. citizens on his staff. In response to a question by Dr. Eisenhower, Mr. Macy indicated that the Bureau of [Page 461] the Budget could obtain for him a statement of the funds spent by each of the agencies of the United Nations in Latin America.

Dr. Eisenhower then made summary remarks more or less as follows:

The United States is in a critical situation in regard to this problem of strengthening the OAS. Our President has made the proposal that we study it and this therefore places an obligation upon us to come up with ideas. The stakes in this race are high. It appears that the United Nations agencies in Latin America are either deliberately or ignorantly working in conflict with United States objectives, and it seems clear therefore that we must make every effort to strengthen the Organization of American States in order to make the UN regional activities in this field unnecessary. Each agency represented here today and any others that may be concerned should give urgent thought to this problem.

Dr. Eisenhower asked Mr. Holland to call such meetings as might be needed to get this work under way quickly and asked that one other meeting of the entire group be called between now and the 17th of September. He stated that he would come back to Washington again as often as needed to carry out this important work. He wanted to make sure that if the Eisenhower Committee fails to achieve its goal, it will not be for lack of willingness or creative thinking on the part of the United States.

The meeting adjourned at about 11:15 a.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, OAS Files: Lot 60 D 665, President’s Committee to September 1956. Confidential. Drafted by Conrads and initialed by Holland.
  2. In September, this Committee was renamed the Inter-American Committee of Presidential Representatives.
  3. Reference is to the plans for the Economic Conference of the OAS which was convened on August 15, 1957, in Buenos Aires. For documentation, see Documents 135 ff.
  4. In his August 22 memorandum to Hoover, Holland wrote that it was decided that a special Interdepartmental Policy Group would be established under the chairmanship of Milton Eisenhower to make the substantive preparations for his participation in the Committee. (Department of State, Central Files, 361/8–2256)
  5. Reference is to the Interdepartmental Committee of Inter-American Economic Affairs and to the Interdepartmental Committee on Social Welfare Policy.
  6. In addition to the group on nuclear energy which was created after this meeting to handle working level preparations, two additional groups were established: a departmental working group and a public information, education, and cultural exchange working group. These three working groups and the two interdepartmental committees were instructed to submit papers to the Interdepartmental Policy Group on ways in which the OAS could be strengthened.
  7. In late August and early September, the Interdepartmental Policy Group considered the substantive proposals from the five working groups and wrote position papers on all the proposals chosen for submission by the United States to the Eisenhower Committee at its first meeting on September 17. These position papers are in Department of State, OAS Files: Lot 60 D 665, Position Papers.
  8. Reference is to the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954; for text, see 68 Stat. 455.