245. Draft of a Memorandum of a Conversation, President Kubitschek’s Residence, Rio de Janeiro, June 10, 19581


  • President Kubitschek
  • Ambassador Briggs
  • Roy R. Rubottom
  • Mr. Halliwell
  • A member of the President’s civilian household who arrived about one-third the way through the conversation

President Kubitschek received me in his residence (Laranjeiras) instead of at the Presidential office (Catete). He greeted me and immediately expressed his pleasure at the manner in which President Eisenhower had chosen to reply to his letter by sending me as his emissary. He said that while he had never met me personally he was aware of my interest in and activities on behalf of the improvement of U.S. relations with Brazil and other countries of Latin America.

I told Dr. Kubitschek that President Eisenhower had been delighted with his letter and that I considered my mission in delivering it to be a most important one. The President did not take time to examine the letter when I handed it to him, stating that he had already read the copy which we had given to the Foreign Minister yesterday [Page 680] afternoon. He did suggest that one or two changes be made in the Portuguese translation which we had furnished the Foreign Minister and him prior to the letter’s publication.

The President stressed his desire to have our consultation on the highest and broadest possible basis, aimed at correcting any misimpression in the world that the relations between the United States and Latin America were any less close and less vital than before Vice President Nixon’s trip.2 He had no desire to discuss any U.S.-Brazilian problems. While the present financial discussions in Washington might have been carried out at a faster pace, he said, he was fully aware of our cooperative attitude and did not want to engage in any talks on this or any other matters pending between his country and the United States. Even though he was fully aware of what the United States had consistently done to help Latin America, and here he recalled the program which he had planned for his preinaugural visit to the U.S.3 and during which visit he had been able to encourage private investment to the point that it had entered Brazil at the rate of $500 million per year for the last two years, and even though other Chiefs of State and government officials in Latin America knew that the United States wanted to help them similarly, the outward evidence to the world of U.S.-Latin American relations was the terrible treatment given Vice President Nixon on his recent tour. The President returned to this subject later in the discussion and I was able to reassure him as to the positive and constructive results of the Vice President’s trip, pointing to his own initiative and President Eisenhower’s reply as one example of a beneficial result.

(I was struck by the President’s reiterated concern that the United States not interpret his initiative as bearing on any U.S.-Brazilian problem, but rather as one designed to strengthen the U.S. position in the eyes of the world. He seemed quite sincere in this approach, and did not overplay his hand. His entire presentation was on a very statesmanlike plane.)

The President said that he had had prepared for delivery to me a memorandum outlining some of his ideas as to the next steps to be taken in these discussions.4 He read from one section of the memorandum a suggestion, in the event subsequent talks made it propitious, that a meeting of Presidents be held.

There was no opportunity for me to examine the memorandum at this stage. I told the President that, without being able to react on behalf of President Eisenhower or Secretary Dulles, I nevertheless [Page 681] would respond in the same frank vein which he had urged earlier. Much preparatory work would have to be carried out before the American Presidents could meet, I stated. He quickly read again from the same section of the memorandum to underline his point that any such meeting would take place only after preliminary discussions and detailed preparations. I suggested that a meeting of Foreign Ministers, an idea which already seemed to have some acceptance in the Americas, might serve a very useful purpose. He at first played down this suggestion and said that the only way to dramatize American solidarity in the way he felt necessary was by a meeting of Presidents who would solemnly declare their unity as well as announcing certain steps which would make clear their unanimous approach to solutions to the practical economic and other problems of the hemisphere. He stressed that President Eisenhower’s importance and prestige in the world was so great that a meeting in which he would take part would be the best assurance of succeeding in the high purpose which he envisaged.

Later the President seemed to relent somewhat in his reaction against a Foreign Ministers’ meeting and he did acknowledge that this kind of meeting might play a useful part in preparing for a Presidents’ meeting. The President implied that I had expressed opposition to the Presidents’ meeting at which point I politely reminded him that I had not attempted to react to his proposal on behalf of the President or the Secretary of State who would have to examine his suggestion carefully in the light of the others included in the memorandum and specifically requested that he not place any interpretation on my questions or my statements regarding the proposed Foreign Ministers’ meeting except as they were designed to obtain additional information or to contribute constructively to his overall plan.

The President inquired of me the next step following the delivery of the memorandum and consultation on points made by him in it. He alluded to the delicacy of maintaining our normal consultative position with other countries of the Americas, just as important to Brazil as to the United States. He leaned back and thoughtfully remarked, “What do we do next?” I suggested that I would have to read the memorandum first and that we would then proceed through normal diplomatic channels to consult further with his Government and with the other American governments.

The President said that he had found considerable pent-up feeling against the State Department in his travels to neighboring South American countries. He said that he had great respect for Secretary Dulles but had the feeling that the Secretary rarely if ever became interested in Latin American affairs. I pointed out that the Secretary, and the President too, paid detailed attention to the affairs of Latin America, in spite of his impression. Then I added that Secretary Dulles, in his travels elsewhere in other areas of the world, was literally [Page 682] defending the principles on which Pan-Americanism has been built and fighting for the very existence of our kind of world. The President quickly acknowledged this to be the case but stressed his belief that the psychological impression existed in the minds of others as well as his own that Latin America did not get as much high-level attention. He declared that President Eisenhower’s prompt reply to his letter had certainly done much to overcome this feeling.

The President lapsed into a discussion of the communist problem, describing himself as the only real bulwark against communism in Brazil. In spite of being a catholic country the church has not acted aggressively enough against the communist threat. Prestes, after being underground for ten years, was freed recently by a communist judge.5 Prestes is the most dangerous communist in South America. He has adroitly moulded together a group of more than 100 nationalist deputies and is using them for his purposes. This is especially dangerous in an election year like now. This nationalism has lashed out strongly against foreign investment, especially American. It has succeeded in making the subject of petroleum taboo except in the context of exclusive development by Petrobras and he sees no possibility of turning back in the petroleum field.

Communists are opposed to the economic development of any underdeveloped country. They recognize that they cannot achieve for sinister design if economic development is carried out. Yet they criticize the United States for encouraging economic development such as making loans and rale against private investment and all of the other steps designed to achieve economic progress. Therefore, it is all the more important that economic development proceed toward fulfillment as rapidly as possible.

I agreed with the President’s analysis of the communist threat. I expressed approval of his positive approach to the communist problem as being the right one but said that we must maintain a consistent alert to prevent their moving in by force, and offered U.S. cooperation in any way to meet this menace.

I enumerated some of the discussions now under way in Washington which were demonstrable proof of the U.S. sympathetic attitude toward Latin America’s economic problems both in the trade field and in the field of financing for economic development. I pointed out what we were doing in the matter of coffee and to help the metals producing countries. The President, apparently serious, acknowledged [Page 683] these steps and suggested that perhaps by the time the consultations had proceeded a while it would become apparent that the United States had taken most of the constructive steps that it needed to take. I reminded him of the necessity that every country develop to the maximum extent possible its own material and human resources.

  1. Source: Department of State, Rio de Janeiro Embassy Files: Lot 65 F 4, 320 OPA–I. Drafted by Rubottom. According to a notation on the source text, this draft was dictated by Rubottom, but not actually approved by him. A report on this meeting was transmitted to the Department by Rubottom in telegram 1699, June 10. (ibid., Central Files, 411.3252/5–2659)
  2. Regarding Nixon’s trip to South America, April 27–May 15, 1958, see Documents 42 ff.
  3. Regarding Kubitschek’s visit to the United States in January 1956, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. VII, pp. 684 ff.
  4. For a summary of the Brazilian aide-mémoire, June 10, see Document 248.
  5. In despatch 1050 from Rio de Janeiro, March 21, the Embassy reported that Judge Luíz Monjardim Filho of the Third Criminal Court of the Federal Court of the Federal District in Rio de Janeiro announced on March 19 that he had revoked the preventive arrest order of October 4, 1950, against Luiz Carlos Prestes, Secretary General of the Partido Comunista do Brasil (Communist Party of Brazil), and 12 other Communist leaders. (Department of State, Central Files, 732.00(W)/3–2158).