51. Memorandum of Conversation1
- U.S. Policy Regarding the Alliance for Progress
- United States
- President Lyndon B. Johnson
- Assistant Secretary Gordon
- Assistant Secretary Solomon
- Deputy U.S. Coordinator David Bronheim
- Mr. Fernando A. Van Reigersberg, Interpreter
- President Otto Arosemena
- Minister of Industries and Commerce Galo Pico Mantilla
- Minister of Finance Jose Federico Intriago Arrata
Responding to a question by Arosemena as to why the suggestions he had proposed in his speech before the Presidents at the [Page 128] Plenary Session that afternoon2 had not been approved and accepted, President Johnson stated that he had not wanted to get into the debate himself, since he felt that the Summit Conference document had been sufficiently well-prepared in advance and therefore satisfactory to all. He felt that the Latin Americans themselves should express their own views and that the American President should listen to their comments without actively participating in the debate. He assured President Arosemena that he would do everything possible to help the Latin American countries, but that his own position and internal problems should be understood by everybody. One difficulty is to try to convince people in the lower income brackets in the U.S. that they must contribute to foreign aid. Once this is achieved, it becomes very difficult to convince them that they should continue supporting assistance to Latin America when one of its presidents says that loans from the United States are tendered under unacceptable conditions. American taxpayers communicate frequently with their Congressional representatives, and if dissatisfied, make their views known in no uncertain terms. At the present time, the Foreign Aid Bill is the most unpopular piece of legislation facing the Congress.
The President said he had hope that the Latin American presidents would give him arguments which he could use to convince members of Congress of the importance of aid to Latin America. In his own speech, he had promised assistance in such fields as educational television, marine research, research on production of fish concentrates for food, and promotion of science and technology. The United States had increased its contribution to the Alliance for Progress by 35% in the last three years, but a recent request for additional funds had been turned down in Congressional Committee. He repeated that he needed arguments to try to change the views held by some United States Senators who appeared to be as difficult to convince as was the President of Ecuador, but that tonight he had fewer arguments to get the Foreign Aid Bill passed than he had twenty-four hours ago. U.S. press headlines tonight would probably make things more difficult and would probably compel the President of the United States to go back to his country able only to tell his people that in spite of everything it is still a moral obligation to support foreign aid.[Page 129]
The President discussed the historical background of the Summit Conference, indicating that while initially he had been reluctant to attend, he felt that his presence here would give new thrust to the Alliance for Progress. What really disappointed him was that, after being told in Washington that he was trying to do too much for the Latin Americans, in Punta del Este some had said that he was doing too little.
President Arosemena stated that he was very pleased to have met President Johnson personally, and that he felt that he was a different man from the kind of person Latin America thinks he is. He had felt that the President was a very human, practical, and compassionate man who faced many problems and many difficulties. It was not Ecuador’s intention to cause any difficulties for anyone. He suggested that Latin Americans must get to know President Johnson as he had and that many American Senators, including Senator Fulbright, should come to Latin America so that they could share the burden which was now carried solely by President Johnson. He further stated that people in the United States erroneously feel that Latin Americans do not pay enough taxes, while the Ecuadorean Government collects as many taxes as possible; if it collected any more, it might destroy the country.
After referring to the cost of the war in Viet Nam, to the increase in Alliance for Progress funds, and to his attempt to get more public and private funds channelled toward Latin America, the President emphasized that both he and the Ecuadorean President really worked for the same objectives, namely, to help the poor and hungry people.
President Arosemena said that he wanted to help, but that he had to face problems in his own country. He stated that he wanted President Johnson to go back to the United States with the support and backing of 300 million Latin Americans, and that this could be achieved easily by just adding two or three sentences to the Presidential Declaration. He stated that no U.S. monetary commitments would be necessary, and that the inclusion of these two or three phrases would give President Johnson the unanimous support of Latin America. He added that the Latin American presidents were really on his side, although they did not have the courage to come out and say so. He felt that, if he would sign the present Declaration, he would not be able to go back to Ecuador because his people consider the document a step backward from the Punta del Este Charter. While President Johnson had proved to him that the Alliance for Progress had been more vigorous in the last three years and had provided more funds than in any previous period, unfortunately, Latin America was not aware of this; the people did not know this, and they should be told.
President Arosemena asked President Johnson to help gain approval for adding a couple of sentences to the document so that he too could defend the Declaration as a worthwhile document. He suggested [Page 130] that the President could justify these additions before United States Senators by pointing out the advantages of preventing a popular upheaval rather than have to put one down after it got started, and also by the fact that United States loans are not really gifts, but rather down payments on an insurance policy aimed at protecting the hemisphere against communism and avoiding having the United States face a “gigantic Cuba” south of its borders.
The President once more referred to the highlights of his speech and to his personal pledge to assist the Latin American countries. He noted that the schools, classrooms, roads, highways and bridges that have been built are physical evidence that much is being done.
Assistant Secretary Gordon stated that every President and Foreign Minister attending the meeting agreed that the program for the future was a step forward and not a step backward from the Alliance.
The President said he could not understand how the programs which he had outlined in his speech could be interpreted as stagnation. He suggested that the President of Ecuador should consider a hypothetical situation in which Ecuador would have to assist the poor people of the United States, and in which after taxing humble Ecuadoreans heavily to obtain the assistance to send to the United States, the Americans would express their dissatisfaction and their President would say in a public meeting that assistance from Ecuador was insufficient, was slow because of red tape, and therefore was unacceptable.
President Arosemena stated that all he wanted was a slight change in the document and asked the President whether two sentences from his speech to the Summit Conference could be included in the final Declaration. This would satisfy Ecuador’s requirements and provide for unanimity.
The President answered that he did not know whether the other Presidents would agree to such a procedure, and since the pertinent sentences were not then available, the matter should be discussed further between President Arosemena and Assistant Secretaries Gordon and Solomon. Assistant Secretary Gordon said he would be unavailable due to a conflicting meeting and it was agreed Assistant Secretary Solomon would meet President Arosemena later.3
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 1 US. Confidential. Drafted by Reigersberg and Fisher on April 18 and approved in the White House on April 26. The memorandum is part 4 of 4. The full text of all four parts is in telegram 182377 to Quito, April 26. (Ibid.)↩
- Arosemena suggested that the Alliance for Progress must adjust to meet the economic realities of 1967; the terms required for assistance were unacceptable—the borrowing country was forced to contribute funds “above its capacity.” Arosemena also questioned why the United States “should be so concerned with democracy in a noble but distant country such as Viet Nam,” when democracy was so obviously in need of support in Latin America. An English translation of Arosemena’s address is ibid., ARA/EP/E Files: Lot 70 D 247, POL 3 Summit Conference.↩
- According to an attached handwritten note, much of the last paragraph was inserted by Solomon, reflecting his “annoyance at having been saddled by LG[ordon] with the dirty work.” (Fitzgibbons to Carroll Brown, April 24; ibid.) No record of Solomon’s meeting with Arosemena has been found.↩