11. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Ambassador Stevenson’s Trip to Latin America

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • The Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson
  • Assistant Secretary Harlan Cleveland

The following is a summary of consensus and action and not a detailed record of a meeting which lasted about an hour and a half on several subjects.

The President expressed the view that Ambassador Stevenson should take the proposed trip to Latin America. He made or agreed to the following arrangements regarding the trip:

Purpose.

The purpose of the trip is not to encourage common action against Cuba nor to explain about the Cuban episode. The announced purposes will be to consult with our South American neighbors on the policy and proposals set forth in the President’s speech to the Latin American Ambassadors at the White House, on the Alianza para Progreso, and the speech by President Kennedy to the Council of the Organization of American States at the Pan American Union on April 14.2

The purposes of the trip are therefore to (a) lay the groundwork for the meeting of IA-ECOSOC in Montevideo; (b) to seek ways to improve economic and social and political cooperation in a hemisphere which needs to be more tightly bound together through cooperation in all spheres and (c) to consult with our Latin American friends on a wide range of matters of special interest to Governor Stevenson as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Both the announcement and the background guidance given to the press should stress that this trip is not for the purpose of developing a hemispheric conference of Foreign Ministers to mobilize against Cuba, or anything of the sort. It was agreed that political action of this type and [Page 27]at this level is not in the cards for the time being, at least before the ECOSOC meeting. The President emphasized that the purpose of U.S. policy was not in any sense “retaliation” against Cuba; that he looked to the future, not the past; and that the less said for the time being about Cuba the better.

In the course of the discussion of the idea that the President might personally visit the ECOSOC meeting, the President expressed the view that such a visit should be at the end of the Conference, and not decided on and announced beforehand in order to avoid a confrontation with Castro which would be to Castro’s benefit. The Secretary of State recommended, and the President agreed that no decision whatever should be made about the President’s participation in the Montevideo Conference until about July 1, after Ambassador Stevenson had returned from his trip.

There was a brief discussion of the tractors-for-prisoners proposal.3 The President directed that a collection of editorials in the hemisphere press on the subject, which Edward R. Murrow had showed him, should be made available to the American press.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Stevenson Trip to Latin America. Secret. Drafted by Cleveland on May 25 and approved by M. Manfull of S/S the same day. A note on the source text reads: “not cleared by the President or the Secretary.” The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. For text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, pp. 276-279.
  3. This was a plan to supply American-built tractors to the Cuban Government in exchange for the release of prisoners taken during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. See volume X.