2. Report From the Task Force on Immediate Latin American Problems to President-elect Kennedy1

The Task Force on Immediate Problems of Latin America reports as follows:

I. Position of the new Administration: Basic Assumptions

Your campaign aroused high hopes in Latin America, based on your statements, on the cooperation achieved under President Roosevelt, and on prospects that the conflicts in the area (possibly approaching climax—an “historical moment”) may find new solutions. Exaggerated visions have also been raised by the Communist press, perhaps to produce chaos-making disillusionment later. This offers opportunity for dramatic moves for the better.

In Moscow and Peiping revolutionary seizure of parts of Latin America appears to have been agreed on as an early target in the “Cold War” now active in the Caribbean littoral.

Substantial Latin American apprehension exists that the incoming Administration, while justifiably upgrading Asia and Africa, may continue to leave Latin America a step-child.

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We think the incoming Administration promptly on inauguration should

(a)
emphasize its vivid interest in Latin America,
(b)
outline forcefully a line of approach,
(c)
provide, administratively, top-level direction for Latin American problems.

Doctrine and Principle

We are agreed that the greatest single task of American diplomacy in Latin America is to divorce the inevitable and necessary Latin American social transformation from connection with and prevent its capture by overseas Communist Power politics. The specific offensive plan of the Soviet Union and China, measurably successful to date, has been to convert the Latin American social revolution into a Marxist attack on the United States itself. On its side, the United States has stated no clear philosophy of its own, and has no effective machinery to disseminate such a philosophy.

We recommend that the policy of the United States be erected on four basic propositions (the “philosophical principle” so sought by Latin Americans). These are:

(a)
The imperative principle of human freedom. From this proceeds the obligation to maintain decent human rights, standards of conduct in dealing with individuals.
(b)
Recognition that genuine freedom necessitates advancing social and economic well-being for everyone. Men are not free when enslaved by disease, ignorance, poverty, and inhuman conditions, or where their creative energies are thwarted by hopelessness.
(c)
The principle that governments take their legitimacy from the free assent of their peoples and therefore can from time to time be changed without force. This carries with it the general conclusion that the only legitimate governments are freely elected governments.
(d)
The principle that American governments shall not become either prisoners or tools of extra-American Power politics. The Western Hemisphere must remain master in its own house.

While transformations almost invariably involve economic problems affecting the United States, these can be resolved among men of good-will. Our experience with the Mexican and Bolivian revolutions proves this.

Basic Assumptions

1.
That Latin America is and will continue to be an area of primary concern to the United States.
2.
That the new Administration will undertake a new approach in dealing with the serious problems that already confront the United States in the Latin American field, and others that may arise.
3.
That such an approach ought to be sought with confidence in the new Administration’s success in improving substantially on the [Page 4]approach followed by its predecessor, but also with recognition of the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient; that it cannot solve, but can only help the Latin Americans try to solve, most of the problems of their highly diversified region in their own way, and that its freedom of choice in this matter is subject to the limitations indicated below.
4.
That it is and will continue to be the policy of the United States to maintain and develop the O.A.S. within the framework of the United Nations and to respect its obligations as a member of both organizations.
5.
That the present ferment in Latin America, which facilitates Communist penetration, is the outward sign of a tide of social and political change the United States cannot and should not check. The United States can help well-disposed Americans (of whom there are many) to direct the transformation into channels that are, or ought to be, acceptable to it as well as beneficial to the people involved.
6.
That from the United States point of view, the present Communist challenge in Latin America resembles, but is more dangerous than, the Nazi-Fascist threat of the Franklin Roosevelt period and demands an even bolder and more imaginative response.

[Here follow Sections II, “Latin America in the Cold War,” III, “Personnel Changes,” IV, “Emergency Situations Requiring Immediate Action,” V, “Approach to Economic and Social Policy,” and VI, “American Orientation.”]

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, Pre-Presidential Papers, Transition Series, Task Force Reports 1960, Latin America. No classification marking.