54. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Snow) to the Secretary of State1


  • Vice President’s Trip to South America (Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela)

The initial purpose of the trip was to provide high-level official United States representation at the important presidential inauguration in Argentina on May 1. The Vice President had attended the inauguration of President Kubitschek in Brazil in 1954 with success.

Another purpose was good will visits to various countries as a means of expressing U.S. interest in the area, to discuss problems of mutual concern with officials and other leaders, and to achieve the favorable public impact which we considered to be characteristic of the Vice President’s travels in foreign countries, including his trip to the Caribbean area in 1955.

These purposes were achieved except possibly in Venezuela. The visits in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia can be clearly labeled as successful. Even in the case of Peru, where there were a few hours of ugly demonstrations, there were fruitful discussions with government officials and on the whole a fairly good public reception.

Neither the Department nor our Embassies found adequate reason to recommend against the Vice President’s visit to any of the eight countries. In those instances in which there were reports of possible troubles, especially in Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, the governments gave assurances of adequate security measures. For example, up [Page 237] to and including the day before the Vice President’s arrival in Caracas, our Embassy reported that the Venezuelan Government was taking the necessary security precautions.

There were some minor but apparently harmless manifestations of anti-Americanism in Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia. It was, of course, in Peru and especially Venezuela that hostile demonstrations were serious. The pattern of organization and of slogans in all cases points to Communist inspiration and direction, as do certain of the intelligence reports.

A number of factors have combined in Latin America to provide a fertile background which the Communists exploit. Economic instability, for example, has been intensified by declining export receipts (due in part to the U.S. recession). Political instability and weak governments characterize the countries emerging from dictatorships (Peru and Venezuela). There are numerous alleged or real grievances against the U.S. Most of these are currently in the economic field, such as tariffs, quotas, surplus disposals, and the magnitude of financial assistance. Some of them are political, particularly the issue of U.S. relations, both past and present, with dictatorships in the area and U.S. policy on granting visas to political exiles (such as ex-Venezuelan dictator Perez Jimenez).

The Communist bloc has intensified its efforts in the economic, political, and cultural fields in Latin America in the past few years. Soviet technological successes (particularly the earth satellites) have raised widespread doubts about U.S. scientific superiority. The preponderance of U.S. influence in Latin America is being challenged.

The hostile acts against the Vice President in Peru and Venezuela, as unfortunate as they are, may well serve the useful purpose of dramatizing the internal Communist menace, which the Latin Americans and their governments have too often ignored. A considerable amount of indignation and revulsion have been generated in the area against the treatment the Vice President received in Lima and Caracas.

Many implications for U.S. policy can, of course, be deduced from the Vice President’s experiences. For example, the fact that the Communist agitators used students for the demonstrations suggests the desirability of our concentrating even more than we already are on students and other intellectual groups in our cultural and information programs. Also, since many of the issues which the Communists exploit are economic and derive from U.S. trade policies, the effect in Latin America of measures taken largely for domestic reasons in the U.S. should be given every possible consideration.

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Our basic policies, as set forth in the pertinent NSC documents,2 are believed to be essentially sound, but the Nixon trip, once we have had an opportunity to evaluate it fully, may lead us to recommend modifications, changes in emphasis, and more effective methods of implementation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Presidential Cabinet Meetings: Lot 68 D 350, CP–7 Eisenhower Cabinet Material—1958. Official Use Only. Drafted by Snow and Sanders.
  2. Presumably the reference is to NSC 5613/1, “U.S. Policy Toward Latin America,” September 25, 1956, printed in Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. VI, p. 119.