68. Memorandum From President Kennedy to Secretary of State Rusk 1

I would like to create the position of Under Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.2 This would be the fourth ranking position in the Department. Its occupant would have responsibility for the Alliance for Progress as well as for the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (each of [Page 159] which would continue under officers at the level of Assistant Secretary). In addition, he would have general concern with all government activities relating to Latin America. Obviously he would have no supervision over Assistant Secretaries of State outside Latin America.

I am familiar with the argument that, if we do this for Latin America, other geographical areas must receive equal treatment. But I have come increasingly to feel that this argument, however plausible in the abstract, overlooks the practicalities of the situation.

The top officers of the Department, for good and sufficient reason, are absorbed in the problems of Europe, Asia, and East-West relations. It seems to me inevitable that this should be so, but the consequence is that Latin American policy does not get the day-to-day, high-level attention which our national interest demands.
There are, moreover, strong reasons for distinguishing Latin America from the other regions of the world. Historically Latin America has been the area of primary U.S. interest. Currently it is the area of the greatest danger to us. It is the area where the U.S. is most intimately involved in day-to-day operations, and where it is held most accountable for the results. All these considerations would seem amply to justify a special place for Latin American affairs.

Since I am familiar with the arguments against the establishment of the Under Secretaryship, I would like this time to have a positive exploration of its possibilities. If we decide to move quickly on this, it would be advantageous for the new post to be announced in Washington during the period of the IA-ECOSOC meetings at Sao Paulo. Such an announcement at such a time would drive home the seriousness of our commitment to Latin American affairs.

John Kennedy
  1. Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, White House Correspondence. Confidential.
  2. This recommendation dates to the Report from the Task Force on Immediate Latin American Problems to the President-elect of January 4, 1961; see Document 2.