10. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Task Force on Latin America (Berle) to President Kennedy1


  • Hemispheric Policy

After reviewing all the apparent possibilities in the hemispheric situation, I suggest the following policy:

I. Isolation of Cuba, now to be considered a Communist bloc country.

Maintain close Navy patrol with orders to stop suspicious shipping.
Work out political bilateral defense pacts with those governments in the Caribbean area we believe subject to possible attack. Such agreements should provide for
immediate military assistance in case of attack from outside these countries or attacks from the inside determined by either party to be inspired, stimulated or directed by the Communist bloc, in which Cuba must presently be included,
prompt continuing cooperation in police arrangements to prevent, interrupt or seize arms, agitation and break up bloc organization and financing from within the Communist bloc.
Invoke the Trading with the Enemy Act2 in respect of Cuba. Revive measures under which the United States in the pre-World War II period, controlled trade in Latin America so that American trade shall not benefit Communist sympathizers or agents. Hemisphere-wide machinery for this purpose will have to be re-established.
Guardedly treat American financial aid to Latin American governments on a case by case basis so that in general we help our friends.
Call a meeting of O.A.S. and lay down a doctrine.

Alliance for Progress

II. Call the IA-ECOSOC meeting to organize the Alianza para el Progreso as soon as possible.3 Consideration should be given Montevideo as meeting place; Uruguay has already intimated to us that it would be glad to be host to such a meeting.

In this invitation, emphasis should be given to three heads:

social measures,
economic development,

in that order.

Behind this is a great deal of detailed information and calculation. It implies a commitment to do a great deal of work in American organization. The mobilization of Latin American political parties presently in progress is one very hopeful line. On our side, we must also reorganize our propaganda so that it is more than mere “information” our cultural work so that American books can be bought as cheaply as Communist books; our educational exchanges so that they reach into the high schools as well as the universities under men actually interested in students and capable of choosing the ablest, and generally capable of making contact with youth. Possibly the Peace Corps could be of help here. Our embassies in general are not so staffed at present.


This, I think, is the time to ask a very large fund at discretion of the President. I should suggest $2 billion. I think the Congress is in a mood to consider such a proposal.


This also is the time to free the financial and economic machinery we now have from a tremendous cobweb of legislation, agreements with [Page 25]Congressional committees and so forth, which for practical purposes inhibit rapid motion in any direction.

In practice this would mean:

Discretion of the President to direct loans from the EXIM Bank;
Discretion of the President to direct uses to be made of the ICA money and the PL 480 money, and the handling of the military assistance program;
The President should have power to allocate from his discretionary fund money for use by these agencies in reorganized form;
Consideration should be given to appointing a Chief of Hemispheric Operations who as deputy for the President might give instructions, directions and authorizations. Preferably he should be operating in policy matters under your general direction.

This, though not all-inclusive, covers some immediate steps which I think should be taken. It puts our operation in the hemisphere on a Cold War basis—thereby recognizing the actual situation.

In the current situation, it appears easiest to reach for the guns. But military operation now would obviously be a very bloody business and the losses in hemisphere support might be greater even than the gains of victory.

At the moment, hemisphere anti-Castrista sentiment is rising. The pro-Castro and Communist demonstrations have been turned out to be surprisingly weak. Faced with possibility of lack of defense by or in conjunction with the United States, and the reality of living undefended against the Communist bloc, Latin American sentiment is rather rapidly swinging towards the United States. In a period of time (it might possibly be a year or less) measures could be taken which are not practical today. I do not anticipate any immediate moves from Cuba against anyone; they would justify military intervention on a scale which the Cubans could not remotely meet, and they are clearly unsure how far the bloc would go in supporting them (so, I think, is the bloc). Khrushchev’s letter strongly suggests behind its bluster endeavor to give assurance that the bloc would not establish missile bases—though it is difficult to say whether the assurances are worth anything or not.

The polarization between the Soviet bloc and the Alianza para el Progreso has been forced by the Cuban failure.3 Everyone now knows what the alternatives are. I am clear the Alianza para el Progreso will polarize an already great and growing support.

A. A. Berle4
  1. Source: Department of State, Latin America Task Force Files: Lot 61 D 298, The President. Secret. Sent through Goodwin.
  2. P.L. 91, approved October 6, 1917; for text and revisions, see 40 Stat. 411 as amended.
  3. For details of the planning of the IA-ECOSOC extraordinary meeting, see Document 12.
  4. Reference is to the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion; for documentation, see volume X.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.