55. Minutes of the Cabinet Meeting, White House, Washington, May 16, 1958, 9:05–9:50 a.m.1

[Here follow a list of attendees and brief reports by Secretary Dulles on the recent NATO meeting and on the Algerian situation.]

The Vice President, in reporting on the South American riots during his trip, emphasized that Communist inspiration was evident from the similarity of placards, slogans and techniques in all the areas in question. Particular items of American policy bearing on individual countries could not be considered the major cause. The Vice President believed that the political complaint against the United States for harboring refugee dictators was more important than various economic complaints such as the price of coffee, tariffs, and proposed legislation on lead, zinc, copper, etc. He did not, however, wish to underestimate at all the significance of the latter.

The Vice President stressed that the Latin Americans much prefer to be friends of the United States rather than Russia and that the great problem was how we could best cultivate this friendship. He stressed the advent recently of the lower classes into the political scene and the ensuing requirement that American ambassadors and other officials must begin now to broaden their contacts beyond the traditional elite to include university leaders, communications people, group leaders, etc. The United States must not, he said, do anything that would support an impression that it is helping to protect the privileges of a few; instead, we must be dedicated to raising the standard of living of the masses.

Sec. Dulles stated his agreement with the analysis of the problem, then pointed to the difficulty of dealing with it since democracy as we know it will not be instituted by the lower classes as they gain [Page 239] power—rather they will bring in more of a dictatorship of the masses. In regard to broader contacts, the Secretary noted strictures on ambassadorial activity, hence the need for broader non-official contacts.

The Vice President thought his trip would have effect in dissipating naiveté to Communist influence in these countries. He then stressed the importance of educational exchanges and his hope that our exchange programs could be at least doubled. In response to Sec. Benson’s question, he indicated that US businessmen in South America tend to mingle only with their American associates and Latin American counterparts without going farther afield.2

[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Cabinet Series. Confidential. Prepared by Minnich.
  2. In a May 20 memorandum to Murphy, Gerard C. Smith, Rubottom, and Berding, Davis E. Bister, Secretary of State’s Staff Assistant, forwarded the following excerpt from the Record of Action of the Cabinet meeting of May 16:

    A. Discussion of the Vice President’s Trip


    “The Cabinet noted with interest the analysis made by the Vice President of the problems of American-Latin American relations, and especially his suggestions that:

    • “1) Presidents and leading officers of American universities and Land Grant Colleges establish closer ties, including personal visits, with men and women in the intellectual life of Latin America;
    • “2) Methods be explored for widening and supporting more effectively the reservoir of firm friendship for the United States in all the Latin American countries;
    • “3) Our educational exchange program with Latin American countries, especially the sending of American teachers, has a particularly great potential.” (ibid.)