The Task Force was conceived as a mechanism of transition. With the
appointment of the new Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs,
the period of transition has substantially ended. The emergency problems
pending solution on January 20 last have been or are in process of being
dealt with. Under your leadership, the new direction of policy, I am
convinced, offers good opportunity and prospect of success. I therefore
ask that the Task Force be now discharged.
Prior to your inauguration, you constituted an informal group to report
on Latin American policy.2 That group made one
suggestion not yet acted on. It proposed the creation in the Department
of State of the post of Undersecretary of State for Latin American
Affairs. This would provide a high level straight line channel through
the Secretary of State, by which the widely scattered activities of the
government affecting Latin American affairs could be coordinated. This
recommendation I venture to renew. Management of hemispheric affairs,
comprising a continent and a half organized as a regional alliance, is a
huge task. It is difficult to carry out so great an enterprise from a
subordinate bureaucratic position.
The Task Force report suggests enlargement of the
education-information-propaganda effort. An informal working group
headed by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Coombs has been studying
this possibility. Copies of their preliminary reports have been
delivered to Mr. Richard
Let me pay special tribute to the effective cooperation and support of
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John M.
Leddy and Assistant Secretary of Defense Haydn Williams. We are indebted to both
for their wisdom and unstinting effort.
With the discharge of the Task Force, my own assignment comes to an end.
Please feel free to call on me if at any time hereafter I can be of
REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT’S TASK FORCE ONLATIN
I report herewith on the operations of the President’s Task Force on
Latin America. Being a task force and not a committee, this report
is made on my responsibility as Chairman. Though a small hard core
of individuals were continuously members of the Task Force, others
were added for specific problems, so that its personnel varied with
the problems encountered.
As stated at its first meeting,
“the Task Force is an action and not a study group, acting
under the direction of the Secretary of State and the
President. The Task Force does not supersede the Bureau of
Inter-American Affairs which remains responsible for foreign
policy operations with respect to Latin America.”
Its function was to assure that urgent problems were brought to the
attention of the Secretary of State and through him or at his
direction to the President, and to expedite action in accordance
with decisions taken.
The Task Force held its first meeting on February 2, 1961. It has met
regularly thereafter at intervals of two weeks. Informal sub-groups
reporting to it have worked on aspects of the chief matters under
consideration, and on a number of special questions.
From the outset it was assumed that the Task Force would not be
permanent. It was designed to deal with problems raised by
transition from the previous to the present Administration, and by
certain substantial changes in Latin American policy attendant upon
its entrance, and to coordinate action on them.
The most important single function, as it has been the most important
single result, of the Task Force activities has been to focus
attention [Page 40] on the importance
of Latin America to the United States, on the urgent nature of its
problems, and on assuring that these problems receive prompt and
adequate consideration. This appears to have happened. The
inter-American world no longer considers Latin America as a
stepchild of American official thinking.
A number of substantial tasks, some of them of emergency nature,
required immediate action. The more important of these were:
1. Securing legislation appropriating $500 million
to implement commitments made by the Government of the United
States at the Conference of Bogota held on September 5-14,
Members of the Task Force, notably Professor Lincoln Gordon, Assistant Secretary
of the Treasury John Leddy
and myself, under supervision of the Secretary of State and the
Secretary of the Treasury, made the presentation in behalf of this
legislation before the committees of the House of Representatives
and the Senate, respectively. The appropriation was passed by the
House of Representatives on April 25, 1961, by the Senate on May 9,
1961, and became law on May 27, 1961.4
2. Financial assistance to Brazil.
The financial condition of Brazil when President Janio Quadros assumed office and
took over administration of its government on February 1, 1961, was
under strain. The Task Force proposed initiation of financial aid to
that government, both in the form of a possible emergency loan
(which later proved unnecessary) and recommended negotiations
looking toward readjustment of Brazil’s external debt, together with
additional financing so that it might more readily normalize its
economic condition. This proved to be a large job. The figures are
somewhat misleading, since the large portion of the financing
involved rescheduling of already outstanding loans due to the United
States and to American banks, rather than new money. A group was
constituted, functioning under the Secretary of the Treasury, headed
by Assistant Secretary Leddy.
The operation, so far as it related directly to the United States,
comprised $338 million of new financing, and rescheduling of $559
million of outstanding debt due to the Export-Import Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and American banks. Assistance was also
given in rescheduling Brazilian debt outstanding in Europe and
elsewhere amounting to nearly $300 million, and in securing certain
European credits. This is being concluded now.
3. Financial assistance to Venezuela.
A somewhat similar problem was presented by the request of the
Venezuelan government for financial assistance. The Task Force
agreed that prompt attention should be given to the Venezuelan
request. A [Page 41] group was
constituted for that purpose. This task has been completed in
substantial part and the emergency phase of this assistance has been
taken care of. Certain additional phases, more especially the
financing of projects which will tend to relieve the burden of
unemployment in and about Caracas and at the same time strengthen
the social-economic conditions in Venezuela are moving forward in
4. Expediting Colombian projects.
The Task Force considered certain economic projects of social and
military importance previously agreed upon with the government of
Colombia but which had encountered difficulties in execution.
Obstacles were overcome. Arrangements in respect of certain of them
were expedited, and they are being or have been carried out.
5. Latin American defense policy.
The Task Force has had for consideration a redraft of the paper
covering United States defense policy in respect of Latin America.
This involved preparation of a new paper for submission to the
President through the National Security Council. The Department of
Defense, represented on the Task Force by the Assistant Secretary of
Defense, Mr. Haydn Williams,
undertook to prepare such a draft—a substantial piece of work. This
was done; concurrence of the interested agencies was secured; the
draft was approved by the Task Force on May 19, 1961 and through the
Department of State has been forwarded to the National Security
6. The Bolivian economic situation.
The Task Force considered the situation in Bolivia whose economic
situation had become precarious with attendant political problems.
Informally the Task Force stimulated decision to organize a special
interdepartmental group to deal immediately with that problem,
comprising the representatives of the various interested agencies.
The group was constituted, went to Bolivia, worked out a program,
returned, and the program in large measure has already been
implemented. Full implementation will follow in due course,
conditions in Bolivia permitting.
7. Communist bloc offers to Latin American
The Task Force considered a suggestion that the United States cease
to discourage Latin American governments from accepting preferred
Soviet economic aid. After examination, the Task Force recommended
no change in current policy of dealing with each of these situations
on its merits.
8. The 11th Inter-American Conference.
The 11th regular Inter-American Conference was scheduled to have been
held at Quito, Ecuador, on May 24, 1961. It was, however, clear that
substantial sentiment existed among Latin American governments for
postponement, certainly until after the Special Meeting of the
Inter-American Economic and Social Council proposed by the
Government of the United States. Taken on the initiative of a number
of Latin American governments, the situation was resolved by action
of the Organization of American States in favor of postponement of
The foregoing list scarcely reflects the amount of patient, difficult
and devoted work required to bring these affairs to conclusion
within the comparatively short period of five months. Trips to Latin
America were carried out by four members of the Task Force.
In addition to these matters (which are either concluded or in such
shape that they will be concluded in due course), the Task Force has
considered and recommended action on a number of other less
extensive problems of significant importance. In a number of these,
action was secured.
9. Education-information-propaganda: an unfinished
The Task Force has under study and consideration one subject of major
importance, namely, expansion to adequate proportions of the United
States education-information-propaganda-cultural program and
facilities in Latin America.
Criticism of existing agencies is not here implied. They work with
the money and tools given them. But there is general agreement
(shared by the agencies themselves) that the present program is
inadequate, and that its various elements have tended to become
disparate. Its extent should be increased; and its depth of impact
must be intensified. Under current conditions, probably its
conception needs to be changed. An adequate program must develop the
Western World thesis of political, economic and social progress
under freedom; must demonstrate how this is done; must educate
students in its theory and practice; must produce substantial
numbers of men and women in each country in each year trained to
carry theory into practice; must create a climate through mass media
supporting the development of a socially effective free society.
Low priced books and educational materials at high school and
university levels must be provided. Expanded contact must be
developed with student groups from high school through university.
Mass media must support the Western World thesis and the many Latin
American parties, organizations and groups of men who hold that
thesis and are endeavoring to give it reality.
American effort must compete with and defend against a Communist-bloc
program presently organized, and operating on a scale approximately
seven times that of current United States efforts, measured by
comparative expenditures. (All United States agencies combined spend
[Page 43] about $15 million. The
Communist-bloc countries are spending in the neighborhood of $100
million.) In many Latin American countries the stratum of
intellectuals and politically conscious people is narrow.
Communist-bloc educational and propaganda agencies thus can
infiltrate educational systems, select groups for special training,
and over-run the intellectually conscious life of the less developed
countries. Absent any other system, by providing a few hundred or
(as planned in the case of Brazil) a few thousand trained Communists
each year, the Communist-bloc effort can, after a few years of
operation, virtually take over the functioning of the country.
Underdeveloped countries with adequate educational systems are ready
targets for this kind of imperialism. There is no reason why a
vacuum should be left to be filled by our enemies.
Development of a plan for an education-information-propaganda
organization, and outlining legislation to make it effective, will
take some time. The subject ranks with that of political or military
defense. I believe it goes beyond the function of the Task Force. I
therefore suggest that a special White House-sponsored group be
constituted to take it over.
A final word. It must be taken as personal.
The present struggle will not be won, and can be lost, by opportunist
support of transitory power-holders or forces whose objectives are
basically hostile to the peoples they dominate. Success of the
American effort in Latin America requires that at all times its
policy be based on clear, consistent, moral democratic principles. I
do not see that any other policy can be accepted or indeed stands
any real chance of ultimate success. The forces sweeping Latin
America today demand progress, and a better life for the masses of
their people, through evolution if possible, or through revolution
if that price must be paid. A preponderance of these forces want the
resulting forms to provide liberty, rejecting tyranny whether from
the right or from the left. This deep current corresponds to the
principles outlined in the President’s speech of March 13, 1961,
elaborating the “Alliance for Progress.”
Task Force on Latin