112. Minutes of Cabinet Meeting1

The President opened the meeting of the Cabinet at 12:10 p.m.

He began with a brief summary of the week-end trip to Central America (see attached outline). After completing his formal report, the President said:

“I would say there is no problem in Central America that money and resources cannot cure. But the problems are many, and they are [Page 264] great. There is a great deal to do in education, in health, in housing, in transportation and communication.

“When all these problems are solved, we can expect to see a better life for all the people of this hemisphere, and we can expect to see greatly expanded trade between our country and all these nations.

“The trip was well worth the weekend. Never—not even on the last night of a campaign, surrounded by my closest friends—have I experienced such a warm spirit of affection and hospitality.

“Minor incidents—paint throwing and so forth—were really unimportant, negligible occurrences on this trip. Every place we went, there were thousands of people applauding the United States and applauding the President. They appeared to me about as friendly as any people could be.

“We received the same kind of welcome when we visited each country’s airport, to drop off their Presidents.

“All in all, it was a good weekend. Now I hope that AID and USIA and the other agencies will follow up this effort, and help these Central American countries as they have helped other countries.

“My most vivid impression is that there is so much to do—and so little time to do it.”

Attachment I


A. Purpose of the Trip

To show United States support for economic integration in Central America.
To dramatize the success of the Central American Common Market as an example for other areas of the hemisphere and world of what can be accomplished through regional cooperation.
To rally increased effort to expand the quantity and quality of education.

B. Direct Accomplishments

The meeting took place at a critical time when the Central Americans faced important adjustment problems in the Common Market; morale was sagging.
My trip to review their achievements and problems with them and offer increased US support recharged their confidence and determination.

Before I arrived, they made a frank assessment of their accomplishments, which are impressive:

  • —almost 700% increase in intraregional trade;
  • —an average annual growth in GNP of 6%, although it has slowed down in the past 2 years;
  • —a 65% increase in investment;
  • —a 50% increase in expenditures for education;
  • —effective regional institutions under dynamic, young leadership.

But more importantly, they also measured how much more needs to be done:

  • —in education, housing, health and population control;
  • —in diversifying and increasing exports;
  • —in linking the countries with better roads and telecommunications;
  • —in perfecting the Common Market institutions.

They agreed to redouble their efforts in these fields.
They committed themselves to ratify the protocol imposing a 30% surtax on exports—an essential first step.

C. Important Follow-Up

The trip convinced me more than ever before that the road to peace and progress lies through regionalism and subregionalism in Central America.
Central America can be made a microcosm for this process which will be a challenge and stimulus for other areas to follow.
I am impressed by the material gains I saw and the human talent available. I saw this particularly in the educational field symbolized by the LBJ School in a poor neighborhood and in the San Andres Normal School which will house the Instructional Television pilot project for Central America.
But as I drove through the streets and countryside and saw thousands of children and young people, I realized how much more needs to be done quickly in schooling, housing, health and jobs.

I am asking Walt Rostow to work with Secretary Rusk and Bill Gaud in organizing a working group to bring together resources in private industry, the universities and government to spur a major development effort in Central America.

A Political Side-Benefit

For the past 13 months relations between Honduras and El Salvador had progressively deteriorated as both sides refused to exchange prisoners seized in a border dispute area.
The increased bitterness between the two countries was also poisoning Common Market cooperative relations.
My trip prompted the two sides to work out a quick solution announced on the eve of my arrival.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, Cabinet Papers, July 10, 1968. Confidential. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Johnson met with the Cabinet, July 10, 12:10–1:15 p.m. The first item on the agenda was the President’s report on his trip to Central America. (Johnson Library)
  2. The outline was drafted by Rostow on July 9 as “Talking Points on the Central American Trip.” (Ibid., Cabinet Papers)