13. Memorandum for Record1

SUBJECT

  • Memorandum of Conversation in the Cabinet Room Monday, May 11, 4:45 p.m.

PRESENT WERE

  • The President
  • Ambassadors or Chargé d’Affaires of the Latin American Republics
  • Dr. Carlos Sanz de Santamaria (head of CIAP)
  • Acting Secretary George Ball
  • Ambassador Duke
  • Mr. McGeorge Bundy
  • [Assistant Secretary Mann]

The President opened the meeting by offering a welcome to the Ambassadors who were seated around the Cabinet table. He said that this group of advisers might well be more effective than his regular Cabinet, and he then read or paraphrased the attached statement.2 At the close of his statement the President announced that he was proposing the appointment of The Honorable Walt W. Rostow to replace Mr. Teodoro Moscoso as the American Representative on CIAP. The President initially asked that this announcement be kept private, [Page 34]because he had not had a chance to discuss it with Mr. Rostow, who was airborne—but while he was making the announcement, Acting Secretary Ball was called to the telephone and reported that Mr. Rostow had accepted the President’s proposal. The announcement was greeted with obvious pleasure by the Ambassadors.

The first reply to the President’s remarks came from Dr. Sanz de Santamaria, who described his recent swing through Central America. He said that he conceived of CIAP as a political motor for the promotion of the Alliance. He had found a very affirmative response in every country from Mexico to Panama. All were trying to do their part. He particularly praised the efforts of coordination of the Central American nations. He believed that they had made great progress in integration, and that their effort compared favorably with the achievement of the European nations over a similar period of time.

Dr. Sanz said that he made it a practice to emphasize that the Alliance for Progress was not simply another name for AID, and that AID was merely one agency for the work of the Alliance, and that indeed the Alliance must never be conceived of as an effort by the U.S. alone.

Dr. Sanz reported that in some countries he found that the people were not yet interested in the Alliance. The Governments and the larger business interests were actively engaged, but the Alliance had a need for the people as a whole and for political action.

Dr. Sanz reported that he had repeatedly been asked whether he himself believed in the Alliance for Progress and that his standard answer had been a strong “Yes.” He has explained that he had talked to President Johnson, Secretary Rusk, and Secretary Mann, and he knew of their own personal commitment to the Alliance, commitments reemphasized again by this meeting.

Dr. Sanz praised the appointment of Walt Rostow. He said that this was a very intelligent appointment which would be received with favor in Latin America and he emphasized the importance of this appointment in the light of the very great service which Teodoro Moscoso had rendered to the Alliance.

Dr. Sanz said that it was his practice to discuss needed improvements frankly both with the U.S. officials and with officials in Latin America. He was proud that in Mexico he had been invited to speak as if he were a Mexican. He had done so, and he believed that much could be accomplished in both directions by this kind of candor. He believed that in the case of the U.S. there was a need for the reduction of red tape, and for an ability to make decisions promptly even if the decision was negative.

The President asked if Mr. Mann found it difficult to say “No,” and Mr. Mann promptly defended himself, while agreeing that the criticism offered by Dr. Sanz was justified.

[Page 35]

Dr. Sanz said in conclusion that he was asked in Latin America why the U.S. insisted on a development program when the U.S. itself had never had such a program. Dr. Sanz said that his answer was that it was not the United States but the Latin American countries themselves which had requested such programs, and that when resources were limited and choice was necessary, it was entirely natural that a lending or granting agency would need to know how a given proposal fitted into the general program of the country concerned.

The President said that Dr. Sanz had made a very constructive statement. We agreed with it, and the President could say that however long he was in the White House, he was going to be at work on the Alliance. There was not a man living that cared more than he did, and no one more competent to work for the Alliance than Tom Mann. The President agreed that there was too much red tape and he believed it could be cut down. We were going to act for the Alliance and we were glad to have the help in this work of such men as Dr. Sanz.

The next speaker was Dr. Francisco R. Lima of El Salvador. He spoke briefly and made four points: (1) that at Geneva there was a significant difference between the hopes of the Latin American countries and the position of the United States delegation; his Government hoped that the U.S. could take a more sympathetic position;3 (2) that the assignment of sugar quotas was a matter of the greatest importance to Latin American countries, and that his Government hoped for part of the Cuban quota. The President interjected that his Government was not alone. (3) That coffee prices should go up, and that the housewife should be brought to accept the need for higher coffee prices. The President interjected that producers always had believed in high prices, but that consumers were not so easily persuaded. (4) That concern with the U.S. balance of payments was interfering with relations between the U.S. and countries of the Hemisphere.

At the President’s request, Ambassador Mann replied briefly to Ambassador Lima saying that sugar quotas were under careful review, that the U.S. expected to pass legislation supporting the coffee agreement, and that in cases where transactions having a very minor effect on the balance of payments were impeded by restrictions growing out of this problem, it should be possible to make arrangements that would prevent delay or obstruction on this account.

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Ambassador Correa of Ecuador emphasized the concern of his country with the fate of the IDA legislation.4 The President responded by saying that this was one of the many great problems we have this year, that we were working very hard on it and that we were worried about it too, and that he proposed to discuss it with the Legislative Leadership. The President telephoned on the spot to Mr. Lawrence O’Brien and asked for an up-to-date report on the legislative account. A little later in the meeting he received a telephone answer from O’Brien’s office and reported to the meeting that the current estimate was that there would be 215 votes in the House for the measure, which would probably be just enough.

The Ambassador of Uruguay remarked that trade also was very important, that we should work at the increase of trade as a part of the whole program, and that we were not yet working on it as we should.

Acting Secretary Ball, in response, emphasized the concern of the U.S. with the expansion of trade and, with a reference back to the earlier comments of Ambassador Lima, he remarked that there was real hope for progress in the UNCTAD meeting in Geneva during the last five weeks of hard work. He himself hoped that there would be answers that would not be too disappointing to the assembled group.

Mr. Ball pointed out that we face a real problem in framing our policy on tariff preferences. This was a problem on which we ought to work together. The U.S. has to trade with all the world, and if the U.S. should introduce tariff preferences specifically for Latin America, we would be one step further along on the road toward the creation of a series of closed trading systems, in place of the traditional target of a single world-wide open system.

The President said that we ought to list some of our common interests and work on them some more. He reemphasized his conviction that the Latin American future was the American future, that “your welfare is our welfare.”

The Ambassador of Chile remarked that some of the criticism which the Alliance for Progress was now receiving was the result of understandable impatience. In order to launch the Alliance for Progress we had set it at a very high pitch, and the things said at the beginning may have made the overall task seem easier than in fact it is.

The President entirely agreed with this point and said that in his view we had indeed started off on a very high pitch and that we must now show leadership in getting the real difficulties better understood.

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The Ambassador of Chile continued that we had nevertheless accomplished a good deal, although there was a natural tendency for each of us to suppose that he was doing everything and that the other fellow wasn’t doing enough. The President agreed, remarking that is his experience the other fellow always thought it was the President of the United States who wasn’t doing his part. The Ambassador of Chile replied that in the U.S. press it always appeared that it was the U.S. that was doing the work and no one else was doing enough. The Ambassador recognized that we all had bureaucratic problems. He thought that CIAP was a good way of meeting responsibility, but that it had taken too long to get organized. Nevertheless, most of our countries had prepared or were preparing development programs, and programs for tax reform and agrarian reform, and while we should not relax, we need not feel frustrated either. The Latin American countries were doing better. The weakest point was in the private sector. The conditions for a perfectly stable private sector were very complex, and in his judgment only two countries in the world could meet all the desired standards: the U.S. and Switzerland. He did not think Latin American countries could turn Swiss overnight. The Ambassador felt that Latin America faced a heavy requirement for political and social reform, and such programs commit governments and they have to go on forward with them.

The Ambassador pointed out that annual debate of public funds available for the Alliance put the whole case in suspense and created an element of doubt and concern.

The Ambassador of Venezuela conveyed the apologies of President Betancourt.5

The President concluded the meeting by emphasizing the need for optimism and enthusiasm in supporting the Alliance. He remarked that if you want to lose an election all you have to do is predict that you will lose it. If you want to lose a baseball game, all you have to do is announce your doubts. The President believed that we had come a long way and we should emphasize our success and do all that we can to create the appearance of success as well, since the appearance would reinforce the reality. The President reemphasized his complete confidence in Secretary Mann, who was going to be the one “Jefe” here in Washington for the Alliance. The Ambassadors should think of him as a friend, that if they would work with us we would keep at the improvement of the Alliance. But if we should predict its failure, the Congress would make it a failure. The program was surrounded by outsiders who liked to criticize and editors who looked for diplomats [Page 38]whom they might quote in a critical vein, and the President believed it of great importance that we should do our best to build up the Alliance, not tear it down.6

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Alliance for Progress. Secret. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Bundy wrote “OK” on it. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room.
  2. Not found. During a telephone conversation Johnson had asked Mann to prepare a “page” for the meeting. Mann replied: “All right. I think the scenario is that you’re going to open up with a couple of things. We’ve primed two or three of them to set the right tone.” Both men agreed that this might avoid a “gripe session,” which would inevitably leak to the press. (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, May 11, 12:50 p.m., Tape F64.26, Side B, PNO 3)
  3. Reference is to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which met in Geneva, March 23–June 16.
  4. Reference is to a bill authorizing an increase in the U.S. contribution to the International Development Association, a World Bank affiliate. The House approved the legislation on May 13; the President signed the bill into law on May 26. (78 Stat. 200)
  5. Bundy inserted the following phrase by hand: “for his inability to attend the meeting in response to the President’s invitation.”
  6. After the meeting the President invited the participants to the East Room, where he delivered an address and signed 12 loan agreements under the Alliance for Progress. Earlier that afternoon Johnson discussed the address with Mann: “I think we need some facts in there about what we’ve done the last 6 months. We ought to know if we’ve done anything worthwhile, in the achievements, and we ought to point them out, not defensively but rather positively, so that we can show that we haven’t been asleep, and—This damn Schlesinger is going all over the world denouncing us. I saw a cable yesterday, it had been circularized to everybody, about how our whole policy on Latin America had changed, and how we’d abandoned the Alliance. And so I think we ought to answer him by saying: ‘We’re building this big waterworks here, and we’re doing this road here, and we’re doing this here—all this has been done in the last 90 days.’” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Thomas Mann, May 11, 12:19 p.m., Tape F64.26, Side B, PNO 2) For text of Johnson’s remarks, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book I, pp. 677–681.