562. Memorandum From the Officer in Charge of River Plate Affairs (Watrous) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Uruguay: Prospects for a PL 480 Program

With regard to your inquiry concerning a possible P.L. 480 program for Uruguay, the situation is as follows.

The Uruguayan Government in general, and Batlle Berres in particular, has long been the most vocal critic in South America of this Program. Early in 1957, however, Uruguayan proponents of an agreement persuaded the National Council of Government to discuss the possibility of making purchases from us under the law. At this time Batlle is reported to have stated that, although he had not changed his antagonism to the program, he would not stand in the [Page 1118] way of an agreement in view of the drought conditions afflicting the country.

Even under emergency conditions, however, the Uruguayan Government felt that political bickering would not allow Congress to ratify a completed agreement. The only hope was felt to be a blanket law authorizing the Administration to negotiate an agreement. The draft of such a law was submitted by the NCG to Congress on May 14 of this year. No action of any kind has been taken on it since.

Our Embassy has made various inquiries regarding the bill since that time, from which it has become increasingly apparent that with Uruguay’s recovery from the drought and, perhaps more importantly, with Uruguayan politicians immersed in preparations for the 1958 elections, the bill is simply to be allowed to die a natural death. (The Congress is actually now in recess until March 15, at which time political pressures will undoubtedly be even greater than they are now). Ambassador Patterson raised the subject with President Lezama as recently as December 10; according to the Ambassador, “President Lezama replied flatly that there was no hope for the measure … ”2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 733.5–MSP12–2657. Confidential.
  2. Ellipsis in the source text.