58. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • Inter-American Highway

Problem:

Announcement by the Administration that it will support a program to complete the Inter-American Highway in three years.

Discussion:

As a result of his trip through Central America, the Vice President is very anxious that an announcement be made that the Administration will support a program to complete the Inter-American Highway in three years.2 He believes that rapid completion of the Highway will assure maximum benefits to the United States from a program to which we are already committed and on which we have moved with such slowness in the past as to diminish its value to our foreign relations. I agree with him.

Since the Vice President’s return, meetings have been held with the Bureau of the Budget, Bureau of Public Roads, the Department of Commerce and the Export-Import Bank as to how this objective can be accomplished. The Bureau of Public Roads has estimated that [Page 311]such a program will cost $112,000,000 of which $75,000,000 will have to be appropriated by the Congress on the usual two to one basis. The cooperating countries in Central America have been queried as to whether or not they are able and willing to finance their one-third share. All have replied in the affirmative except Guatemala and, possibly Costa Rica, which state that they will require assistance in financing their one-third share. The Export-Import Bank is being approached for the purpose of obtaining a statement that it is prepared to consider favorably applications for loans from Guatemala and, if necessary, from Costa Rica. The Commerce Department through Under Secretaries Williams3 and Rothschild4 have stated they will be very glad to present the budget request to the Congress with the Department preparing the justification thereon. The Department is now preparing such statement and will confer with Commerce Department within a few days. The Vice President has stated that he has mentioned the desirability of this project to the President and to the Cabinet.

Recommendation:

It is recommended that you raise this matter at the Cabinet Meeting or the National Security Council for the purpose of obtaining a decision in order that the desirability of completing the Inter-American Highway in three years can be announced as Administration Policy immediately prior to presenting the proposal to Congress. If you concur, a statement will be prepared for your use.5

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 810.2612/3–1855. Official Use Only. Drafted by Nolan and initialed by Holland. Concurred in by Henderson; Bishop; Edward B. Wilber, Deputy Controller and Budget Officer; Corbett; and Neal.
  2. Between February 6 and March 5, Vice President Nixon undertook a good will tour of 10 countries in Central America and the Caribbean. For text of a statement by the Vice President to correspondents at Panamá on February 26 concerning the Inter-American Highway, see Department of State Bulletin, April 11, 1955, pp. 596–597.
  3. Walter Williams.
  4. Louis S. Rothschild, Under Secretary for Transportation.
  5. Attached to the source text is a note to Hoover from Scott, March 22, which states in part that Holland’s recommendation “does not take into account the normal procedures which are involved in Cabinet or NSC consideration of such policy.” According to Scott, “a simple memorandum to the President” recommending speedy completion of the highway would be sufficient. The note also contains, however, the following handwritten notation, evidently by Scott: “Not seen by U. Holland & Raab placed on Cabinet Agenda.” The source text contains the following further handwritten notation by Scott: “Will be in cabinet March 25.”