5. Analytical Summary Prepared by the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Latin America1 2

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Analytical Summary and Issues for Discussion

The basic IG paper is a comprehensive five-part study which ranges from basic concepts to narrow operational issues. The precis concentrates on basic conceptual choices, and this paper, plus the first section (Overview) of the basic study, will constitute the focus of the discussion.

The meeting should essentially cover the current situation in Latin America, problems and trends, and a consideration of the basic conceptual alternatives for our policy. The purpose will be to discuss and outline these alternatives, not to reach decisions.

This memorandum summarizes the reasons why the US is concerned with Latin America, the current environment we face in the region, and outlines the major conceptual choices for discussion:

Should we have a “special relationship” with Latin America?
What should be the basic nature or concept of our relationship to the region?
What is it we want to see in Latin America? What is the basic purpose of our relationship?
What style or technique should we use to pursue that purpose?
Should we pursue uniform policy lines throughout the hemisphere, or do we have different interests in different parts of the region?

We will want to spend most time on issues 2 and 3 above, since these are the most basic. If time permits, you may wish to have some illustrative specific problems discussed. These are listed in Section III below.

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A. Why be Concerned with Latin America?

There are several “packages” of reasons why the United States is interested in Latin America:

Conventional economic and security concerns which derive from such facts as geographical propinquity and the implications of geography for US security; the areas major participation in our foreign trade and the favorable trade balance we enjoy with the region; its role as a supplier of important raw materials and as a locus for large direct U.S. investment; the Panama Canal’s role in commerce and security terms.

The diplomatic and political help the region is in a position to extend to us in achieving our world policy goals: 23 votes in the UN; a capacity to play a role in international trade, fiscal, commodity and economic arrangements; a general willingness to follow our lead on “East-West” issues. Conversely, the region could have a cumulative negative effect on world order and on our foreign policy objective if it were riven by conflict, seized by destructive ideologies or if it simply acted in opposition to us.

The long range potential of a region which by any geopolitical measurement is potentially a major world area. With 11% of the world’s land area, major natural resources, and the greatest population growth rate of any region of the world, a unified Latin America which could realize its economic potential could be significant in world power terms. Brazil and Argentina could some day become “intermediate” powers in their own right. This long-range potential underlines the value of the area’s continued cooperation with us.

The interests structured by the “North-South” problem of development, and the fact that technology and the world’s growing economic interdependence is pushing together in intimate contact a world of diversity, great and [Page 3] growing power gaps, rich and poor countries. Our need to construct an overall strategy compatible with these objective facts is crucial with relation to Latin America, whose major characteristics are change and the need to modernize. If that region, which has had a special relationship to us and has already achieved a higher level of development than other developing areas, fails to achieve a reasonable degree of modernity or a satisfactory relationship to us, we will hardly be able to demonstrate any overall success in achieving a world order of the kind we would like.

The interests that derive from the ties of tradition and historical association, the common psychological acceptance of community, and the formal international arrangements and commitments of the inter-American system.

The humanitarian concern for a region seeking to develop and escape poverty. To leave the nations of the hemisphere to drift alone into economic problems and social upheaval would not only open the hemisphere to hostile foreign powers, but would also tax our consciences and be incompatible with our values and history.

In terms of these interests, there is political value in a constructive relationship with Latin America. That relationship has to be worked out in terms of the area’s need for development and modernization, the political and social dynamics this sets in motion, and our response to those factors.

B. The Latin American Setting

Latin America is completely caught up in its drive to modernize. Modern industrial culture has had a disruptive impact on traditional forms of social and political organization throughout the region. The “psychological stability” and the internal “balance of power” of many of these societies is being upset.

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Many governments cannot handle the growing social and economic problems—rapidly expanding populations stream into urban areas; high rates of inflation, lagging agricultural production and similar economic obstacles inhibit the marshaling of sufficient economic resources to satisfy public needs; jobs do not grow as rapidly as job-seekers. Change has spurred demands for political participation by more and more people, particularly students, labor and church groups. But the lack of effective institutions or processes to channel demands by these groups leads to additional frustrations.

The result has been increasing loss of confidence in traditional liberalism and representative government, disappointment and antagonisms, and confusion and puzzlement as to political systems or regimes. Civilian and military leaders alike are increasingly determined to modernize their societies but are fundamentally uncertain about the proper means.

This sense of frustration creates insecurities. Elites find that responding to social pressures by opening the door wider to participation by broader segments of the population both erodes administrative effectiveness and threatens their own power. There is an increasing temptation to rely on authoritarian modes of governing to achieve results and authority.

This trend is coupled with growing nationalism which is in turn taking on a more radical character. The U.S. looms so large in the life of Latin America, that this nationalism tends more and more to find us a tempting and inevitable target, and to manifest itself as anti-U.S. sentiment.

Recognizing the usefulness of nationalism as a tool to elicit popular support, political and pressure groups of all persuasions increasingly tend to exploit nationalistic sentiment with its anti-U.S. overtones to justify their causes. Governments are tempted to widen their popular base by domestic actions targeted against “foreign” investors, and by “independent” foreign policy positions; leftist groups embrace sweeping reforms in the name of national redemption; conservative groups use nationalism to resist the competition of foreign investment or the stimulus of external assistance to tax and other reform measures.

Together with the region’s increasing tendency to want to demonstrate “independence” from the U.S., Latin Americans continue to [Page 5] ascribe value to a cooperative relationship and to recognize the need for financial and technical assistance and the value of our trade. In short, there is a growing ambivalence in Latin American attitudes toward the U.S.

In the early and mid-1970’s therefore Latin America is likely to exhibit the following characteristics:

—Rapid and widespread change in economic, social and political institutions.

  • —Widening gaps in many countries between economic aspirations and performance, intensified by rapid population growth and even more rapid urbanization beyond the capacity of any economic system easily to absorb.
  • —Political and social instability, with parallel growth of political radicalism and increased temptation to turn to authoritarian ways to handle problems.
  • —Sharply increased nationalism in many countries, articulated by both “left” and “right”, usually targeted against the U.S. because of the omnipresent American political, economic and cultural influences in the region.
  • —A growing tendency to act independently of us.
  • —An increased trend among Latin military groups to take over responsibility for government—and a heightened determination among the military to recast political and economic systems.

C. The Major Problem

Despite our preponderance in wealth and power, our ability directly to control and direct developments is increasingly inhibited by rising anti-American nationalism, self-assertiveness, and the growing social and political complexity in the area. Thus circumstances and the region’s development are forcing a re-definition of our historical relationship. The major problem for our policy is how to readjust [Page 6] our association to these changing circumstances in ways that will not harm our national interests and larger goals.

It is probable that Latin America’s modernization cannot occur except at the expense of U.S. influence, at least in terms of the paternalism with which we have expressed it in the past. Anti-U.S. coloration of nationalism is not itself new or unexpected. What is disturbing is the threat that this nationalism may present when taken in conjunction with a Soviet presence and a Soviet willingness to offer itself—partially or hypothetically—as an alternative to Latin dependence on the U.S.

Major questions therefore are whether the region’s nationalism will be “independent” but basically cooperative, Nasserist or anti-US, and whether we can do anything to affect the outcome.


A. Should there be a “Special Relationship”?

Historically we have had a special relationship with Latin America. This had its base in the common historical desire to establish the Western Hemisphere as a political area distinct from Europe and free from European influence. This has become solidified in historical association, the psychological acceptance of the concept of hemisphere community and in the web of international organization, treaties and commitments of the inter-American system.

The association and the persistent verbalization of the concept have become self fulfilling. That special bonds exist between the United States and Latin America is widely believed to exist and is a political and psychological fact.

Should it be continued? There are probably no basic security or economic reasons to treat Latin America differently than any other area. But there are political and psychological reasons to do so:

  • —To fail to maintain a satisfactory relationship would be widely interpreted as a loss of our national power and influence, given the wide belief in Latin America, the U.S. and the rest of the world that special bonds do exist;
  • —The best way to achieve a constructive relationship is in terms of special treatment and special bonds. The Latin nations are more likely to be responsive to this relationship, and to react destructively if we reject the concept.
  • —To reject the concept would create a psychological vacuum, and hostile foreign powers could more easily increase their influence.

B. What Should Be the Basic Nature or Concept of our Relationship?

There are three theoretical approaches which we could adopt toward a relationship with Latin America:

A “sphere of influence” relationship in which we would exert a protective umbrella, seek basically to control developments and assume responsibility for what happens all in return for friendship and loyalty. This was basically the concept that informed our policy toward the region through most of our history.
A “disengagement” to lower visibility, return to conventional diplomatic relationships, assuming no particular responsibility for what happens or effort to direct developments.
A wide range of possible “partnership” relationships, mutually acceptable, involving U.S. assistance to their development needs and efforts to influence their cooperation; the characteristic would be shared interests and responsibilities, and partnerships rather than tutorial or paternalistic relationships.

These theoretical concepts are obviously not totally realistic or separate. In recent years our policy has been a mixture of tendencies toward hegemony and partnership, with emphasis varying depending upon the circumstances and setting of each particular decision.

The following relevant considerations and implications are involved with regard to this issue:

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  • —We probably do not have the resources or will to exercise the sort of direct control and widespread intervention that a consistent hegemony over time would require.
  • —The Latins would probably not let us exercise a pure sphere of influence relationship; this would run contrary to rising nationalism and create more rather than less friction, requiring us either to lessen the hegemonic aspects of the relationship or increasingly to exert direct control and intervention.
  • —It is not clear that we have any real need or direct interest in the evolution of internal developments which would require a hegemonic relationship.
  • —Disengagement in the sense of withdrawal is not realistic since it would forego the value of political cooperation that the region can give us and hostile powers to increase their influence. In the sense of lower visibility, it may be realistic.

The trend of history and the dynamics of the region suggest that to maintain the kind of paternalistic relationship we have had in the past will be increasingly costly and counter-productive. The model most likely now to be effective in eliciting Latin American cooperation in the future would be that of the practical politician seeking to maximize cooperation and shared interests rather than the paterfamilias.

C. What Should Our Predominant Purpose Be in the Hemisphere? What Are We After in Latin America?

The paper lists four possible options. These are not mutually exclusive, and one need not be chosen to the exclusion of the others. They do however indicate different possible trends or emphasis which we could adopt and each would have different policy implications. The pros and cons and the policy implications are summarized on pages 7 to 12 of the precis.

Option 1: Promote representative government and social reform

This choice would argue that countries with democratic systems are most likely to see things as we do, and that [Page 9] over the long run we would benefit from the existence in the region of a system of democratic states. It would imply a conclusion that any correlation between economic growth and representative government or peaceful national behavior is tenuous; that what is decisive is not economic growth but the kinds of values, institutions and attitudes that result; that assistance efforts aimed at institutions and values are more important to our long-term interests.

Option 2: Promote long-term development, primarily economic, without particular concern about internal political systems.

This choice implies a best judgment that political and social change can best result from a broadening of the economic base, and that while economic growth does not guarantee democracy, democracy is not likely to emerge from economic stagnation. It assumes that our capacity to influence another country’s values and institutions is limited; that we know little about it and know much more about the economic dimension which is more easily and properly subject to external aid instruments; it would conclude that pluralistic societies are more likely to develop from an expanding economy than a stagnant one; that we should not be concerned with short-term political reactions but focus on long-term economic and social goals.

Option 3: Promote anti-Communist, friendly governments willing to follow our lead.

This choice would emphasize the desirability of keeping things quiet in the hemisphere to safeguard our diplomatic and security flank while we remain engaged in other continents. It would consider the kind of political system any country has not necessarily relevant to U.S. interests. It would reflect skepticism about our capacity to influence another country’s internal development, and not give priority per se to economic or social reform or change.

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Option 4: Promote a Latin American system of more independent self-reliant states.

This choice would imply a judgment that to continue a tutorial relationship will lead to growing conflict with Latin interests, and to intensified instability and nationalism; it implies a conclusion that a careful relaxation of the paternalism we have exercised in the past in the inter-American system is the wiser long-run course; it would reflect confidence that over the long run it will be possible to sustain or develop sufficient mutuality of interests to create a cooperative relationship that would still protect our most vital interests.

A mixture of 2 and 4 would appear to be the best theoretical choice, though it is conceivable that variations of all could be utilized in different places and different circumstances.

D. With What Style Should We Pursue Our Purpose? Should we press Latin American nations, be involved, be reactive, be indirect in our relationship through multilateral forms?

The paper suggests three possible options of style:

Option 1: Muster as much energy as we can and adopt an activist approach, pressing and prodding the Latins.

This choice would be consistent with any of the purpose options except the last. It implies a conclusion that unless we continue to be the driving force in the hemisphere the Latins will not move rapidly to modernize. It implies a readiness to provide high levels of aid, whichever of the first three purposes we select.

Option 2: Maintain a substantial level of support and involvement but shift responsibility to Latin or multilateral agency shoulders.

This is most consistent with purposes of options 2 and 4. It implies an acceptance of the likelihood that results might flow more slowly than under the first choice, but accepts this to avoid political friction.

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Option 3: Propose a mutual restatement of hemispheric goals at attainable levels.

This would be consistent with all but the first purpose option. It assumes that our longer-term relations would be healthier if our goals were mutually agreed and more realistically stated.

Option 2 appears most reasonable; the third may not be practically achievable, and the resource levels needed for option 1 will probably not be forthcoming. Option 2 moreover reduces the political friction that could be excited by the style of 1 or 3.

E. Should We Pursue Hemisphere-wide Policy Lines As Consistently as Possible—At Whatever Level of Involvement and for Whatever Purpose? Do We Have Different Interests in Different Countries?

Realistically there are clearly differences among countries that call for differences in treatment. But the existence of the community concept, the OAS and the inter-American system, cultural commonalities, all make it desirable and necessary to have some common principles and concepts; on the other hand, the countries are sufficiently different to warrant different emphasis and even instruments. The options lie in the area of emphasis:

Option 1: Stress as much as possible hemisphere-wide policies.

This would imply a high overall aid level and application fairly uniformly to all countries.

Option 2: Concentrate diplomatic attention and aid efforts on a few countries that have significance for us—e.g.:

On the large, potentially powerful countries whose long-term “specific gravity” is greatest (Brazil, Argentina, Mexico);
On friendly countries or civilian democratic governments;
On countries making the best use of assistance, whatever their political complexion or long-term importance. (this is closest to present criteria);
On countries which provide the greatest potential threat to the US (Mexico, Caribbean, Central America).
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If time permits you may wish to have the following broad policy issues discussed as illustrative of some of the implications implicit in the above conceptual choices. We would not wish to get a decision but merely describe them and open discussion and hear views.

A. How Should We View Internal Political Developments in the Various Countries? Should we be concerned with it, and if so, can we do anything about it?

This issue has faced us on many occasions, and will in the future, largely in the form of should we deal with military or authoritarian regimes? During the 1960’s, we tried to use various policy tools—e.g., recognition—and, to promote political democracy. We were not notably successful, because (a) we did not use the tools consistently; (b) the tools are blunt instruments more suited to bringing down government than helping create democracy; (c) the institutional framework of many countries cannot yet support a consistent democratic process; and (d) we know little or nothing about building political institutions in foreign lands and have little capacity to do so effectively.

Involvement in internal political development basically depends upon a conviction that our vital interests require it. It is not clear that this is so now in Latin America, although there is the moral argument that we should use our preponderant power and influence in a fashion consistent with our ideals. Short of a clear threat to our national security, it is not clear that we have the need to direct the shape of internal development.

The paper suggests six variations (again not mutually exclusive) in viewing political relations, which relate closely to the purpose options in Section II (see also pages 15 to 17 in the summary paper):

Actively promote representative democracy.
Same, but tailor pace and style to the Latin context.
Continue public commitments to goals of democracy, but leave political internal content to Latins: provide economic and social goals, some warmth to democracies, but otherwise a neutral posture.
A completely apolitical approach concentrating on helping long term economic development.
A disengaged conventional, diplomatic relationship, as with other areas of the world.
Maintain U.S. hegemony, intervening if necessary to prevent hostile or communist regimes.

B. Military Assistance

There are two policy issues related to military assistance:

1. Should We Extend Aid to Military and Civil Police?

The internal security capability of Latin American forces has improved since the early 1960’s. The poorer countries continue to have limited budgetary resources for needed equipment, and cannot meet all their training and technical assistance requirements without outside help. However, Congressional opposition to U.S. military programs in Latin America is rising.

Our options in this field are:

Terminate all material and training assistance, including elimination of both military and police missions. This would reduce the U.S. risk of identification with repressive regimes whose utilization of our assistance is often beyond our control; but could eliminate useful military contacts and diminish the internal security capability of poorer countries.
Terminate materiel assistance, but retain military and civil police missions for training and contacts with military leaders. This would provide the most critically needed forms of assistance and would maintain U.S. contact with Latin security forces. Equipment maintenance would suffer, and the influence of our resident missions would shrink.
Terminate military assistance and phase out military Missions on a selective basis; continue police assistance in most countries. This would keep pressure on certain countries to assume full responsibility for their internal security, while supplying essential assistance.
Continue assistance to internal security forces in all countries now receiving it. This would maintain internal security capabilities and preserve whatever U.S. influence on Latin military that now exists. Dependency on the U.S. would continue, however, as would U.S. political identification with the local security forces.

2. A Second Choice In the Security Field Relates to Military Equipment.

U.S. restrictions on grants and sales of military equipment have been a major cause of recent frictions with the Latin American military, particularly in the larger countries. The Latins feel the need for modern replacements for obsolete ships, aircraft, and other equipment; but the focus in the U.S. Congress has been to view such expenditures as unnecessary resource diversions from development objectives.

Our past efforts to stimulate a multilateral arms limitation agreement in Latin America have failed. Continued U.S. efforts to bar modern arms will probably only turn the Latins to European suppliers.

The U.S. desire to reduce Latin arms expenditures, therefore, comes in conflict with the fact that, as part of a re-equipment cycle, many Latin nations will be making substantial purchases of large military equipment items in the next few years. Our choices are:

Try to hold back all Latin expenditures for major new equipment, cutting economic assistance as a penalty when violated (“Conte-Long” and “Symington” amendments).
Try to persuade Congress to remove penalties or efforts at restraint toward Latin arms purchases.
Try to workout a phased program with each major country, focused on a reasonable level of equipment purchases.

C. In the Economic Field, What Use Should We Make of Bilateral vs. Multilateral Channels?

There are various operational alternatives available within the framework of the two basic options, which can be dealt with only after the basic choice between them is made.

The two options, in their briefest form are:

Transfer the bulk of AID lending to multilateral organizations; or
Continue a substantial bilateral aid program in Latin America.

The multilateral approach would tend to insulate U.S. from Latin political pressures for aid without adequate self-help performance conditions, thus eliminating a constant source of friction in our relations. On the other hand, there does not yet exist a wholly satisfactory international substitute for AID lending in Latin America.

Continuing with bilateral lending emphasis gives us more direct leverage for assuring self-help performance; and keeps the administration of capital and technical assistance together.

It would not, however, help to remove the political frictions which are likely to increase in bilateral aid negotiations over the coming years.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–23, NSC Meeting 7/9/69, Latin America. Secret. Forwarded under cover of an undated memorandum from Kissinger to Nixon, in which Kissinger recommended that the President make no decisions at the July 9 NSC meeting on Latin America. The memorandum is not published. The IG Paper is published as Document 4. NSC meeting minutes were not found, but Alexander Haig kept handwritten notes. (Ibid., Box H–121, NSC Meeting, July 9, 1969)
  2. To brief the NSC for its July 9 meeting on Latin America, the NSC Interdepartmental Group for Latin America outlined U.S. interests in the region and discussed the possible directions that United States-Latin American relations might take during the Nixon administration.