13. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy1


  • Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, Department of State

I had a long talk yesterday with Dr. Arturo Morales-Carrion, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. Morales is an intelligent and balanced man who discussed his Bureau with reluctance but in the conviction that he owed the White House a frank report on the situation.

The Foreign Service officers in Latin American affairs, according to Morales, constitute a tightly-knit club of men who believe that they alone know Latin America, who have enjoyed an undisturbed monopoly for a long time and who now keenly resent the intervention of “outsiders” in the field. Their attitudes are entrenched, their minds are set, and they regard new approaches and ideas with automatic skepticism. They are predominantly out of sympathy with the Alianza.

“The President’s vision of Latin American policy,” Morales says, “is bound to be defeated when the men running the day-to-day operations are unsympathetic with that vision. To get change in Latin America, you must have people committed to change. Among this group there is no joy, no purpose, no drive. ‘What is our headache today?’ is their attitude. They form a sullen knot of resistance to fresh approaches. They have no realization of the forces at work in Latin America today. They do not understand that our policy can succeed only as it enlists the support of the democratic left. They have no sympathy for the democratic left. They are uninterested in the intellectual community of Latin America or in the labor movement. They very rarely even see Latin Americans in Washington except on formal and bureaucratic occasions.

“All they do is sit around the table discussing things. When something comes up, they talk for hours and end up with ten reasons for doing it and twelve for not doing it. They have no instinct for decision or action.

“We have been striving for a new look in Latin America. But, if our operating people exhibit the same old attitudes and use the same old cliches, we are going to look in Latin America like the same old crowd.”

Morales says that, so far as he himself is concerned, he feels practically immobilized. He says that he has “pleaded” for a definition of his [Page 30] area of responsibility, but has never received any serious statement of functions. At first, he feared that he was being discriminated against as a Puerto Rican; but, as he saw the attitude of the regulars toward Goodwin, Gordon and Schlesinger, he realized that he was being discriminated against as an intruder. He says that his personal relations have been cordial and courteous. He is coming to feel, however, that he will probably be more useful to the Alianza outside the government than within. I urged him to wait for a few more months and see whether the situation does not improve.

Recommendation. When Bob Woodward2 comes, you might want to consider calling him in, telling him that the Alianza is the heart of our Latin American policy, that you expect ARA to overflow with affirmative commitment to the Alianza, and that those who think it is all nonsense should be transferred to some place where they will be happier.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr.3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Schlesinger Papers, White House Subject File, Alliance for Progress. Confidential. Copies were sent to Goodwin and Attorney General Kennedy.
  2. Reference is to Robert F. Woodward who became Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs on July 17.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.