John Gerassi, The Great Fear in Latin America, 1963, 1965.

Chapter 17

-- A Digression: United States -- Latin American Inter-History

Latin America, as we have seen, is in deep need of reforms. Not just a new tax structure or an improved federal agency, not just putting the outs in and the ins out, is required. To toss out one oligarchy in favor of another will solve nothing, even if the new oligarchy is modern and progressive and willing to make less profits on its investments and ready to delegate some of its power to technicians. What is needed is a total rejuvenation, a change in attitude, habits, interests, and alliances, a change in philosophy and a change in practices.

"Self-help!" Adlai Stevenson told the Inter-American Press Association in an October, 1961, speech; "that is the key to much of our common concern." He added: "If it is lacking, no amount of money in outside aid will do much good" in Latin America. But what Stevenson failed to understand was that the peoples of Latin America are perfectly willing to help their countries -- without outside aid. Those who are not are the ruling classes -- who receive all the outside aid.

In that same month of October, sixty-six tax experts from Latin America (except Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic) met in Buenos Aires. They complained that the maximum tax on top-bracket Latin Americans is 37 percent (compared to 91 percent in the United States), that many countries do not even have profit, property, or income taxes, and that those that do lose $3 billion a year in delinquencies. No expert pointed out, however, that the reason most taxes do not get collected in Latin America is that the governments are run, directly or indirectly, by the richest, biggest, and the most corrupt tax dodgers around -- that is, by the oligarchies.

The oligarchies, which Stevenson would have us help, are supported by the policies and the armies. These in turn, are trained, equipped, and oriented by the United States. We insist that private enterprise be safeguarded above all else. In Latin America the private enterprisers are the oligarchies. Thus, the circle is complete. There is no escape from it except to break it. Cuba, Bolivia, and Mexico tried to do so, more or less, and have had to rely upon force. Uruguay broke the circle long ago -- without force but at a time when the free-enterprisers (mostly British) were not entrenched.

Many United States and some Latin American "Liberals," who see the vicious circle clearly enough, insist that Latin Americans are responsible for it. "If Latin Americans had any integrity," the liberals say, "they would not have let this circle clamp down on them." They ask: "Who is to blame when United Fruit obtains a giveaway concession? United Fruit, whose purpose is to make money, or the givers-away, whose purpose should be to protect their country's sovereignty?" Again: "Who is to blame, the United States, which sees danger wherever a Nationalist regime takes over a Latin American country and therefore tries to have it condemned, or the other Latin American countries that do condemn it and therefore help destroy it?" Once more: "Who is to blame, our pentagon, which thinks it is a good thing to arm Latin America, or Latin Americans who beg for and avidly accept the military aid with which they are dominated and repressed?"

The questions are loaded. True, the rulers of Latin America are cipayos ("sold out"), as Argentines call them. They are cowards, bigots, and swindlers. But they are the rulers precisely because they belong to the oligarchies that profit from the circle they impose upon their countries. Elections are meaningless; whenever popular candidates manage to win, the military tosses them out. Who have been the popular candidates in the last decades? Peron, the post-Peron Peronists, Vargas, Quadros, Alessandri pere, Velasco Ibarra, Arbenz -- all forced out of office or prevented from taking it by military coups planned by and for the oligarchies. Even Haya de la Torre, forgetting whatever personal or financial interests may have guided him to compromise, is an excellent example: every time he has been allowed to campaign for election, he has won, and every time he has won, he has been deprived of power.

Never has any freely elected candidate from Right, Center, or Left who showed himself the least bit independent of our policies been able to last out his whole term. Always the forces that threw him out have been trained and equipped by and sometimes in the United States. The only exceptions have arisen when popular revolutions had previously destroyed these forces. Thus, the Latin American patriot, the Nationalist, the genuine reformer has had to buck us as well as local oligarchs. Today, if we are to understand him, we must not only accept this fact; we must also realize that to him all our aid, our treaties, our loans, and our military missions are evil.

The Latin American Nationalist has had too many examples of United States intervention in his continent during the last few years to let him forget the long list of our interventions in the past. Memories are short only when suffering is short. Latin Americans' memories are long because they are still suffering. And any policy that we may adopt, if it is aimed at reconquering Latin America as our friend, must be careful never to forget that such a long list exists. It goes back very far. Let us glance at it rapidly, starting only from the last century, in fact, from 1823 when the Monroe Doctrine was conceived.

To us, the Doctrine was and is virtuous because it warned non-hemisphere nations to stay out of the American continent. To Latin Americans it is despicable because it asserted no bar to our own ambitions.

One year later, in 1824, we made clear those ambitions in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Saying that the Monroe Doctrine "must not be interpreted as authorization for the weak to be insolent with the strong," our Secretary of State (later President) John Quincy Adams told Simon Bolivar, one of Latin America's great liberators, to stay out of (that is, not liberate) Cuba and Puerto Rico, which were still under the Spanish yoke. Bolivar, who was also miffed when we refused to attend the first Pan-American Conference called by him in Panama in 1826, said in 1829, "The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty."

In 1833 England invaded the Falkland Islands belonging to Argentina. Instead of invoking the Monroe Doctrine, we backed England, which still owns them today. Two years later England occupied the north coast of Honduras. Again we refused to remember the Doctrine. In 1836 England invaded Guatemala, tripling its Honduran territory, and in 1839 it took over the island of Roatan. Instead of moving against England, we moved against Mexico.

Hardly had Mexico gained its independence when United States landseekers swarmed over its borders, bringing Negro slaves with them despite the fact that slavery was outlawed in Mexico. When Mexico objected, the newcomers proclaimed their own republic, calling it Texas, and agitated against their hosts. When Mexico, understandably, tried to stamp out the rebels, we annexed Texas outright. In the war that ensued, we seized the whole region from Texas to the California coast. In its first generation, independent Mexico lost half its territory -- and the richest part of it. Mexicans have never forgotten.

Nor did we let them forget. In the 1870's, for example, we complained that our residents in Mexico were being compelled to pay taxes -- just like any Mexican. "Foreigners locating in a country accepted the mode of life of the people," retorted Mexico's President Porfirio Diaz. He added: "Foreigners should enjoy the same guarantees and the same legal protection as natives, but no more." Our President Hayes reacted by sending troops to the Rio Grande, and when Mexico protested, Hayes' Secretary of State scoffed at "the volatile and childish character of these people and their incapacity to treat a general question with calmness and without prejudice."

Mexicans are not the only Latin Americans to bear grudges. In 1853 former Secretary of State and then Senator John M. Clayton affiirmed that we "never can nor will want to recognize" the British Territory of Honduras; but three years later we did just that, by the Treaty of Dallas-Clarendon. Meanwhile, in 1854, we settled a minor argument with Nicaragua by sending a warship to bombard San Juan del Norte. Three years later, when one of our citizens was wounded there and President Buchanan levied a fine of $20,000, which Nicaragua could not pay, we repeated the operation, this time followed by a landing of our Marines, who proceeded to burn down whatever was still standing after the shelling. The next year we forced Nicaragua to sign the Cass-Irisarri Treaty, which gave us the right of free passage anywhere on Nicaraguan soil and the right to intervene in its affairs for whatever purpose we saw fit.

The period from 1840 to 1860 is also full of United States adventurers who tried (and often succeeded) to conquer parts of Latin America with private armies. They are known as "filibusters," the term which originally referred to the seventeenth century buccaneers who plundered the Spanish colonies and which in recent years has come to mean obstructionists in legislative assemblies. When Texas was still Mexican, United States filibusters were quite common. Two who were prominent there went on to gain ill-repute in Latin America.

One was John Anthony Quitman (1798-1858), a New York-born attorney who practiced law in Mississippi, then took part in the Texas Revolution, became a general, and served under Zachary Taylor in the Mexican War. Quitman later fought under General Winfield Scott at Veracruz, Puebla, and at the storming of Chapultepec, and was made governor of Mexico City during the 1847-1848 United States occupation. Returning to Mississippi, Quitman became governor and used the office to plan a filibuster expedition against Cuba, to be led by a Venezuelan adventurer named Narciso Lopez (who had fought with Spain against Bolivar and in Spain against the Carlists). Indicted for violating the peace between Cuba (Spain) and the United States, Quitman resigned as governor but went unpunished. He was then elected to the House of Representatives, where he defended states' rights until his death.

Another, better known, filibuster was William Walker. Born in 1824 in Nashville, Tennessee, Walker was a qualified doctor, lawyer, and journalist by the age of twenty-four, but practiced none of these professions. A frail-looking -- he weighed one hundred pounds -- tight-lipped, restless egocentric, ascetic and puritan, he wandered about for a while, showing up in San Francisco in 1850 with an indestructible faith in America's "manifest destiny" (to run the world) and in his own destiny as America's prime mover. In 1853-1854 he led a private army into Lower California, was badly beaten, returned home, was tried for violating neutrality laws, and was acquitted by a sympathetic jury.

In 1855, better armed and with more men (financed by private United States corporations bent on exploiting Central America), Walker invaded Nicaragua, captured Granada and, though he failed to occupy Rivas, had himself "elected" President of Nicaragua in July, 1856. Though Guatemala's envoy to the United States, Antonio Jose de Irisarri, lodged a strong protest, President Franklin Pierce received Walker's messenger and toyed with the idea of recognizing Walker with the purpose of admitting Nicaragua to the Union as a slave state (Nicaragua had long outlawed slavery).

But Walker, whose main financial backers were competitors of Cornelius Vanderbilt's Accessory Transit Company, canceled Vanderbilt's concessions in Nicaragua. Vanderbilt thereupon threw his weight and power behind other Central American governments opposed to Walker. As a result he was defeated at Santa Rosa. He surrendered himself to the United States Navy at Rivas, and once again returned home a hero.

Again indicted for violating neutrality laws, he was again acquitted. In 1860 he invaded the Bay Islands, declared himself President of El Salvador and Honduras (where he decreed English to be the official language) as well as Nicaragua, "legalized" slavery (outlawed since 1823) and burned Granada to the ground. But once again he was defeated in battle and was forced to surrender, this time to the British Navy. Promptly turned over to Honduras, Walker was tried summarily and executed by a firing squad.

In detached retrospect, such filibusters as Quitman and Walker may appear colorful swashbucklers. But to Latin Americans there can be no detached retrospection. These men murdered, pillaged, and violated every law of the lands they invaded, and our government did not repudiate them. Worse still, we were on the point of profiting from their deeds, at least Walker's, and we considered them heroes. When one of our citizens, as we have seen, was molested by accident on Latin American soil, where he was neither welcome nor legally admitted, we exacted exorbitant compensations or carried out massacres as retribution. But when Latin Americans suffered en masse because of our citizens, no payment was offered, no retribution dished out.

But let us return to our list. In 1860 we intervened in Honduras. In 1871 we occupied Samana Bay in Santo Domingo. In 1881 we openly sided with Peru in its war against Chile in exchange for the port of Chimbote (for a United States naval base), nearby coal mines, and a railroad from the mines to the port. In 1885 our Senate's opposition to a Central American federation, because it might jeopardize an Atlantic-Pacific Canal owned by us, was enough to torpedo the project.

By then we were also intervening on the economic front through private individuals and corporations. In 1884-1885, a United States Government commercial commission toured Latin America, then reported: "Our countrymen easily lead in nearly every large town. . . . In every Republic will be found businessmen with wide circles of influence. . . . Moreover, resident merchants offer the best means to introduce and increase the use of our goods."

In 1895 President Cleveland forbade the British to deal directly with Venezuela in a border dispute between that country and Britain's recognized, pre-Monroe colony in Guiana. In 1897 (and again in 1899) we stopped federation attempts in Central America. Then, from 1898 on, we really got involved in the Caribbean.

After fabricating (with the agile aid of the Hearst press) a phony war with Spain, we annexed Puerto Rico and set up Cuba as a "republic" controlled by us through the Platt Amendment (1901). This amendment gave us the right to intervene in matters of "life, property, individual liberty" and "Cuban Independence" -- that is, in everything. Our intentions were clear enough: in 1848 we had tried to buy Cuba for $100 million, and when that failed, the non-official but popular "Ostend Manifesto" asserted that "by every law, human and divine, the United States has the right to take it by force." In 1902, also, we "negotiated" the contract that gave us Guantanamo Bay as a naval base for $2,000 a year for ever. Until the 1934 abrogation of the Platt Amendment, we repeatedly intervened in Cuba with force of arms, fashioning the island republic into a United States protectorate. Cubans, as we have since learned, bear their grudge to the present.

Unfortunately, there are scores of such incidents. President Theodore Roosevelt is known to every high-school student -- in the United States as well as in Latin America. We are taught to respect him; Latin Americans do not need to be taught to loathe him. They know that in 1903 he fomented a revolution by the Province of Panama against Colombia, of which it was then part and where the Panama Canal was being built. T.R., who proudly proclaimed that "the United States does not have in the world -- and does not need to have -- more than one single friend, the United States," recognized Panama as an independent nation before fighting ended, leased and fortified the Canal Zone from the yet-to-be-established new government, turned Panama into a United States protectorate, and in 1911 boasted, "I took the Canal!"

Latin Americans can also read that in 1904 T.R. decreed that weakness or misbehavior by a Latin American government "which results in general loosening of the ties of civilized society . . . require intervention by some civilized nation." The Platt Amendment already limited "some civilized nation" to the United States, and to make our role clear T.R. further stated that we must assume the "duty" of intervention to safeguard the investments of the civilized world. His declaration became famous as the "Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine," and the Doctrine itself as "Dollar Diplomacy."

Armed with this Corollary, we intervened, before 1933, some sixty times in the affairs and territories of Latin America. Never, unfortunately, did we do so to bring a better life to our neighbors; always did we intervene for purely economic or territorial gain, or as the strong-arm agents for wealthy companies or high-class adventurers. One witness report has often been quoted in Latin America: "I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. . . . I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interest in 1916 [occupied officially until 1924, unofficially until 1934]. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903. . . ." That harsh indictment was sired by a much-decorated United States patriot: Major General Srnedley D. Butler of the United States Marine Corps.

The "American sugar interest" Butler mentions had by then become powerful enough to intervene openly in Central American affairs. In Nicaragua in 1912, for example, United Fruit ships carried both men and supplies for rebel General Juan Jose Estrada. Another example follows. It is part of a letter supposedly written in 1920 but not published until 1949, though often reprinted since, including in the respected Mexican magazine Cuadernos Americanos, March-April, 1954). The letter is said to have been written by H. V. Rolston, who represented the United Fruit-owned Tela Railroad Company in Central America in 1912 when it obtained its major concession from the Honduran government. Tela later absorbed the Cortes Development Company, on whose stationery the letter was written, and later still obtained its best concessions as a consequence of the 1954 invasion of Guatemala (from Nicaraguan and Honduran bases). Addressed to the company's lawyer, the letter was sent by messenger who, it explains, also bears a gift for "Dona Anita," wife of Honduras' then President, General Rafael Lopez Gutierrez. It then lists ten "instructions" or steps of action that the lawyer must follow to increase company's power. Seven of these instructions are herewith quoted in full:

Puerto Cortes, July 2,1920


Dear Luis:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3. We must obtain rigid contracts of such a nature that no one can compete against us, not even in the distant future, so that any enterprise that could establish and develop itself must be under our control and must adapt itself to our established principles.

4. We must obtain concessions, privileges, franchises, repeal of custom duties, freedom from all public liens, burdens and all those taxes and obligations which restrict our profits and those of our associates. We must erect a privileged situation in order to impose our commercial philosophy and our economic defense.

5. It is indispensable that we cultivate the imagination of these enslaved peoples [Central Americans], attracting them to the idea of our aggrandizement, and, in general, of the politicians and local bosses whom we have to use. Observation and careful study allow us to be certain that these, vilified by alcohol, are assimilable to our needs and directives; it is in our interest to concern ourselves with this privileged class, which we need at our exclusive benefit, so that it bows to our will; generally, these [the politicians and local bosses] as well as those [the enslaved peoples] have no convictions or character and still less patriotism, and they only crave for position and honors which, once obtained, we shall make appetizing.

6. These men must not act at their own initiative; they must act according to determining conditions, and under our direct control.

7. We must get rid of our friends who have been at our service [but] whom we consider vilified by their loyalty because sooner or later they will betray us, firing them without offending them and by treating them with some respect, but not using them any more. We do have a need for their country, for their natural resources, for their coasts and ports, which little by little we must acquire.

8. In general, all our words and thoughts must revolve around these words: power, material well-being, work camps, discipline and method. We must proceed with subtlety, without exposing ourselves to any idea which would indicate or justify [to others] our domineering pretensions. Summing up, no beneficial act or consideration or generous impulse. If our plans turn out badly, we would adopt a new course; we would become more modest, less demanding, more friendly and, maybe, good.

9. We must produce a disbowelment of the incipient economy of this country [Honduras], in order to increase and to help our aims. We have to prolong its tragic, tormented and revolutionary life; the wind must blow only on our sails and the water must only wet our keel.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We'll be seeing you,
[signed] H. V. ROLSTON

Naturally, against such interventions, some local patriots fought back. In Haiti, where our Marines landed in 1915 and stayed until 1934, two thousand "rebels" (called Caco) were killed before we "pacified" the island -- after two disguised Marines sneaked into the jungle camp of Caco Chief Charlemagne Peralte and killed him.

In Nicaragua, however, one such "rebel" took much more than two soldiers to kill. On November 26, 1926, a Liberal Party revolt, headed by General Jose Maria Moncada, overthrew the regime of President Emiliano Chamorro, a conservative general who had signed the 1916 Bryan-Chamorro Treaty giving us all ownership rights to a proposed Nicaragua Canal. That treaty ceded to us "in perpetuity and for all time" (Article I), "free from all taxation or other public charge, the exclusive proprietary rights necessary and convenient for the construction of a canal, by way of any route over Nicaraguan territory,"1 for a price of $3,000,000 (Article III) that must remain in the United States against Nicaragua's debts or credits. The treaty, aside from being immoral, happened also to be illegal: Nicaragua's Constitution specifically forbade all public servants from signing any treaty unless authorized to do so by Congress (and Chamorro had not been so authorized).2

Elihu Root, a former United States Secretary of State who had conceived the Platt Amendment, reacted: "Can a treaty which is so serious for Nicaragua and in which perpetual rights are conceded in that territory, be celebrated with a President who, we have just cause to believe [he had been imposed on Nicaragua by us], does not represent more than one-fourth of those governed in the country, and who is kept in his position by our military forces and to whom, as a consequence of the treaty, we would pay a considerable sum of money so that he could dispose of it as President? It would cause me disgust to see the United States place itself in such a situation." (The Treaty was also declared illegal by the Court of Central American Justice in 1917).

Very unpopular, Chamorro had tried for the presidency in 1913 but, opposed by us then, he had failed. In 1917, however, he was backed by our cruisers Chattanooga and San Diego, and he succeeded. So in 1926 we opposed General Moncada, who wanted to overthrow Chamorro. To make sure this did not happen, Secretary of State Frank B. Kellog denounced Central America and Mexico as centers of Communist agitation, declared intervention in Nicaragua politically and militarily necessary, and dispatched our Marines in sixteen ships, commanded by Admiral Julian Latimer.

The Marines put down Moncada's rebellion and imposed a new election plan. But one of Moncada's men, a farmer and mining engineer named Augusto Cesar Sandino, refused to accept it, and withdrew with his troops to a mountain town called El Ocotal. Marine Brigadier General Logan Feland thereupon ordered El Ocotal bombed and strafed, but Sandino escaped. When the news that three hundred Nicaraguans had been killed in the raid reached the United States, Illinois Governor Edward Dunne, among many others, protested our "indecency" (in an open letter to President Coolidge) and demanded that Feland be punished. Instead he was decorated, and El Ocotal was declared a "heroic victory."

Sandino, however, continued to fight, and we continued to bomb Nicaraguan villages -- seventy in all (including Las Timas in Honduras by mistake). Finally, in 1933, our Marines were withdrawn, peace returned to Nicaragua, and General Sandino, never captured, retired to private life, launching a cooperative farm. Then, on February 21, 1934, he journeyed to the Presidential Palace for a conference. When he left he was caught in a trap set up by the new head of the National Guard -- Anastasio Somoza. Sandino, his brother, and two of his generals were murdered. Soon afterward, Somoza seized the government and ruled with troops and terror for twenty-five years.

Not unnaturally Sandino has become the national hero of a Nicaragua still ruled by the Somoza clan. More damaging to us, however, he will remain for years to come Nicaragua's rallying cry against us. Even in his death, according to Latin Americans, we had a hand: he was killed on our orders. This is their story, documented by their eyewitness reports:3

On February 21, 1934, Somoza called a "Great Council of Officials" of the National Guard at his house for "something very important." Present were sixteen officers, including two generals, a colonel, four majors, a captain, four first lieutenants and one second lieutenant. At 7:30 P.M. Somoza arrived (late) and said "I come from the United States ["Norte-Americana"] Embassy where I have just had a conference with Ambassador Arturo [Arthur] Bliss Lane, who has assured me that the government of Washington supports and recommends the elimination of Augusto Cesar Sandino, for considering him a disturber to the peace of the country." Somoza thereupon explained the details of an ambush plan. Sandino left the palace shortly before 1:00 P.M. He was dead on the hour. Later that night, Guardsmen surrounded Sandino's cooperative farm Wiwili and massacred three hundred unarmed men, women, and children. According to reports published at the time by San Salvador's El Diario Latino, the "elimination of Sandino's followers continued until May 5, 1934."

Despite these crimes, attributed to us, many Latin Americans began to think highly of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was then our President. His Good Neighbor Policy (announced on his very first official speech -- his March 4, 1933, inauguration address) proved to have some substance. To the surprise of the 1933 Montevideo Inter-American Conference delegates, we voted in favor of a nonintervention pledge. F.D.R.'s Secretary of State Cordell Hull also promised Latin America tariff reductions and special trade agreements. Though F.D.R. was trying to salvage our own depression-riddled economy, the Reciprocal Trade Act of June 12, 1934, was hailed by our neighboring businessmen, and was followed by Reciprocal Trade Agreements with Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

We were not yet good neighbors. Our navy again intervened in Cuba; said, correctly, its President Grau San Martin when he resigned in 1934, "I fell because Washington willed it." We continued to incense Haiti; and its delegate to the Montevideo Conference said, justifiably: the United States has brought "indescribable anguish" to Haiti. F.D.R. also invited Dictator Somoza to visit Washington in 1939, and we refused to abrogate the illegal Bryan-Chamorro Treaty. Wrote Luis Quintanilla, a pro-United States Mexican diplomat: "How could one speak of the inter-American solidarity, Pan Americanism, or Good Neighborliness when the stumbling block in the path of good relations was nothing less than the most powerful republic of the hemisphere? The situation could change only if and when the United States decided to abandon once and for all its imperialistic interventionism."

But we tried. Sumner Welles, F.D.R.'s Assistant Secretary of State admitted that "The effect of these [United States] interventions was to arouse widespread and bitter resentment against the United States." F.D.R. dumped the Platt Amendment, launched the Export-Import Banks (in 1934 and 1935), and ordered an end to Dollar Diplomacy. Furthermore, we reversed ourselves on the subject of our residents abroad. Welles said in 1935: "It is my belief that American capital invested abroad, in fact as well as in theory, be subordinate to the authority of the people of the country where it is located."

Latin Americans had a chance to test the sincerity of our new attitude in 1938 when Mexico's President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated our oil companies. Cordell Hull was shocked. He dispatched strong notes urging Cardenas to reconsider, then to guarantee prompt payment, and finally to abide to third-party arbitration. Relations were strained. But neither F.D.R. nor Hull ever questioned Mexico's right to expropriate property, and in the World War that soon followed, Mexico remained a firm ally. (Today, Latin Americans inevitably ask why did we not follow the same policy when Fidel Castro, then still not within the Communist camp, did in 1959 exactly what Cardenas had done in 1938?)

In 1938, also, F.D.R. set up the Interdepartmental Committee of Cooperation with American Republics, which was, in effect, the precursor of today's Technical Aid Program of the Organization of American States (OAS). And during the war, the United States Department of Agriculture began helping Latin American nations to cope with soil-conservation problems; by June 2, 1945, ninety United States research teams were on the job in neighboring lands.

But under the cover of good neighborliness, F.D.R. encouraged an economic policy that has since become the major source of friction. Government and private interest, said F.D.R. early in 1940, should invest heavily in Latin America in order "to develop sources of raw materials needed in the United States." On September 26, 1940, he increased the Export-Import Bank's limitations from $100 million to $700 million, and by Pearl Harbor Day most Latin American nations had received "development" loans.4 Neither the loans nor the investments, however, were aimed at helping Latin American nations cure their economic ills, which were mainly caused by reliance upon one crop or commodity productions. The loan's object, Roosevelt said, was to force those nations to become totally dependent, economically, on the United States.

That policy succeeded. When war began, we could demand (and received) valuable concessions, especially bases in the Caribbean. Latin America's economic dependency was further secured during the war through our Lend Lease program, which poured $262,762,000 worth of United States equipment into eighteen Latin American nations. The two excluded were Panama, virtually ours anyway, and Argentina.

Until World War II, F.D.R.'s hands-off Latin America policy applied to all twenty nations -- whether governed by dictators, oligarchies, or popular governments. But during most of the war, Argentina was ruled by neutralist (if not pro-Axis) generals, notably General Pedro Pabro Romirez. Though dictatorships, their regimes were ostensibly revolutionary and loudly nationalistic, which simply meant anti-imperialist, that is, anti-British and anti-United States.

In no condition to understand Argentina's problems, and naturally reluctant to help a potential enemy, F.D.R. gave it no aid, no Lend Lease and no letup from pressure. In 1943 it was excluded from the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture in Hot Springs, Virginia, and from the United Nations Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Administration Conference in Atlantic City, and in 1944 from the Bretton Woods Monetary and Banking Conference. Roosevelt cannot be criticized for his tough stand on Argentina; but even if only economically, he did steer us back onto the road he himself had abandoned -- the road of United States intervention in Latin America.

President Harry Truman found the road to his liking. Late in 1945 he appointed as Assistant Secretary of State one Spruille Braden, up to then our Ambassador to Argentina, a vociferous advocate of help-only-your-servants policy. There was no doubting the significance of the appointment; Braden was chosen, said Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, for his "accurate interpretation of the policies of this government in its relations with the present government of Argentina."5 To make certain no misunderstanding arose, Secretary Byrnes further agreed, on November 27, 1945, to the Larreta Declaration, a note prepared by Uruguay's Foreign Minister Eduardo Rodriguez Larreta which justified occasional multilateral intervention in Latin America. No Latin American government, except Uruguay's, favored such intervention, and it was severely denounced then and since, but it was legally recognized by and incorporated into the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance Pact (Rio Treaty) signed in Rio de Janeiro in August, 1947. We convinced member hemisphere states to accept the intervention provision in exchange for the promise of military aid, which all Latin American militarists (in control of most governments) sought.

With multilateral intervention becoming an inherent part of Inter-American "cooperation," the OAS increased its strength and importance. To Latin Americans, however, multilateral intervention was just a fancy phrase for United States intervention, and the OAS came to represent a new institutional arm of the hated Monroe Doctrine. The OAS headquarters were in Washington, its operating funds mostly contributed by the United States, its delegates known as staunchly pro-United States. But if the OAS was discredited in Latin American eyes before President Eisenhower was inaugurated, it became dubbed a "tool for United States aggression" shortly thereafter.

For a while, Eisenhower and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, exhibited little interest in Latin America. They were deaf to its problems and blind to its needs. Then, . too late, they were shocked out of their slumber by events in Guatemala where United Fruit lands were to be expropriated for an Agrarian Reform. As Guatemala's regime became more and more radical, our tactic was to smear it with the charge of Communism. Finally, in January, 1954, United States Ambassador to Guatemala John Peurifoy said: "Public opinion in the United States might force us to take some measures to prevent Guatemala from falling into the lap of international Communism."

To Latin Americans, that statement was already sheer interference. Then our motives were challenged when it was published that

  1. Foster Dulles' law office had written the drafts of United Fruit Company's 1930 and 1936 agreements with Guatemala;
  2. CIA Director Allen Dulles had been president of United Fruit (actually he had been a director, not president);
  3. John Moors Cabot (then Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and more recently United States ambassador to Brazil) and his family were United Fruit shareholders; and
  4. Spruille Braden, then chief of United Fruit public relations, said in a Dartmouth College address on March 12, 1953, that to act with arms against a foreign country representing a Communist threat does not constitute intervention.

We did, of course, act with arms against Guatemala. Later, when its new ruler, Dictator Castillo Armas, was assassinated, Eisenhower called the death "a great loss to his own nation and to the entire free world. President Armas was a personal friend of mine." Ike then dispatched his brother Milton to represent him at the funeral.

Latin Americans were shocked. Everywhere, homage was paid to Romeo Vasquez Sanchez, the half-Indian Armas bodyguard who had shot down his boss. But the real damage had already been done: it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of our intervention in Guatemala in the shaping of Latin American public opinion; not one professor fails to mention it, not one student forgets to denounce it, not one popular politician misses the chance to brandish it as a warning to United States apologists.

As for the OAS, its chances of gaining respectability were permanently drowned at the 1954 Caracas conference, where we got Guatemala's radical regime branded Communist in what is termed in Latin America "the most infamous of victories." Unfortunately, the facts support the epithet: our partners, co-signers in the Caracas declaration, included Cuba's Fulgencio Batista, Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza, Venezuela's Marcos Perez Jimenez, Colombians Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, Paraguay's Alfredo Stroessner, Peru's Manuel Odria, Dominican Republic's Rafael Trujillo -- some of the most vicious and bloody dictators Latin America has ever known.6

Is it strange, then, that Vice President Richard Nixon was hooted and heckled throughout his Latin American tour in the spring of 1958? When Nixon was stoned in Caracas, Venezuela's provisional President, Wolfgang Larrazabal, who had led the rebellion that ousted Dictator Perez Jimenez, was asked why more precautions had not been taken. (Nixon had also been stoned in Peru.) Larrazabal was reported to have replied: "If I weren't an official and if I were younger, I would be in the streets too, to tell Nixon what we all think of United States complicity with Perez Jimenez." It is ridiculous to blame Communists for the fiasco of Nixon's tour or, for that matter, of Eisenhower's own tour in 1960 which, despite our press reports to the contrary, was also a failure. Anti-Yankeeism was then the one characteristic common to most Latin American politicos, parties, and populations. Promising a new look at our Latin American policy, Washington acted as if it had understood the reasons -- at long last.

Eisenhower now made the promise at the 1956 Panama meeting of the hemisphere's Chiefs of State. He had set up a Committee of Presidential Representatives that issued a few recommendations, appointed a few subcommittees, then quietly died. Now, after Nixon came home a new try was scheduled. Brazil's President Juscelino Kubitschek proposed an Operation Pan America to rebuild hemispheric solidarity, and in August, 1958, Dulles flew to Rio to give it our O.K. The hemisphere's Foreign Ministers assembled in Washington in September and called for a "Committee of 21" conference in December.

Experts from all twenty Latin American nations showed up on schedule; some, such as Brazil's Auguslo Federico Schmidt, even had plans for raising Latin America's per capita income to $480 by 1980. But the delegate from Nation Number 21, United States Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs Thomas Mann, passed off the plans ("the United States has never itself had any") as well as the conference, for he rarely attended, leaving as his substitute an alternative ambassador to the OAS who was not even accredited to the "21."7

The conference collapsed. Said Chairman Alfonso Lopez of Colombia: "Perhaps it is better that we go home and tell the truth. When the United States put on a 'new look' in Latin America, after the lamentable Nixon stonings, I had hopes, great expectations. I was mistaken."

To Latin Americans there was no "new look." True, we had softened our let's-be-friends-with-dictators policy, but, said our neighbors, only because of circumstances: Perez Jimenez, Odria, and Rojas Pinilla were overthrown; Somoza, Sr., and Armas were dead; and Batista was having heart troubles.

And on Trujillo we had not changed, Latin Americans were convinced. It was not that our ambassadors in the Dominican Republic were overtly pro-Trujillo. That had been the case before when Ralph H. Ackerman praised Trujillo in a public speech as "your own illustrious President" and his bloody rule for "the great benefits he has already succeeded in bringing about." Nor was it because one or two of our congressmen felt the same way. That, too had happened when such undemocratic Democratic senators as James O. Eastland or Allen Ellender said, "I wish there were a Trujillo in every country of South and Central America."

In 1958, however, Latin America could point to our whole House of Representatives, which went on record as opposing unfavorable action toward Trujillo, and the whole House, after all, is almost the government.

What happened was this. After newspaper reports indicated fairly convincingly that an Oregon pilot named Gerald Lester Murphy, who worked for Trujillo, was involved in the kidnapping from New York of Columbia University History Teacher and Trujillo-critic Jesus de Galindez and then himself disappeared, Oregon Representative Charles O. Porter tried to get the House to move against Trujillo. He suggested that we start "openly condemning dictatorial regimes and praising democratic ones, . . . giving wholehearted support to those . . . who are striving to liberate their countries . . . by democratic means." Specifically he proposed two amendments to the bill authorizing "mutual-security" funds for the fiscal year of 1958: one would set up priorities for democratic regimes; the other would allow the State Department to cut out all aid to dictatorships.

Porter's opposition in the House was formidable. Pennsylvania Democrat Daniel J. Flood was against because "the Dominican Republic has been honored by that great enemy of Communism, Cardinal Spellman, for their [its] outstanding fight against this menace." New York Democrat Victor L. Anfuso, who also admitted being influenced by Cardinal Spellman, added: "I cannot overlook the fact that the Dominican Republic is an ally of the United States, that she is part of our Western Hemisphere defense, that we do business with her." Kentucky Republican John Marshall Robsion seemed to think that no United States ally should be criticized, no matter how evil: "The two nations cooperate in plans for hemisphere defense." As for George S. Long, one of Huey's brothers from Louisiana, he didn't believe Trujillo was bad at all, and even if he were, so long as he's anti-Communist, all crimes should be permitted him: "I have learned by experience not to be taken in by the word 'dictator.' . . . The Dominican Republic and its chief of the armed forces [Trujillo] . . . have always and unequivocably been on the side of God and Christianity. . . . They have been to us a vital and necessary bulwark against the encroachments of atheistic Communism." Even House Majority Leader John W. McCormack, Democrat from Massachusetts, was opposed, having already spoken of the "broad, humanitarian policies of Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, L.L.D."

Other congressmen, less the defenders of Trujillo than of non-intervention, stressed United States pledges of never using economic means to intervene in Latin America. Others, in their heat to defend anti-Communist dictators, contradicted this by pointing out what good Guatemala Dictator Carlos Castillo Armas had done with the special favors (economic intervention) he had received ($30 million worth of gifts during 1956-1957). The result: both amendments were defeated 171-4 and 168-7.

But that was only the beginning of our trouble with dictators. In November, 1958, when Fidel Castro accused our ambassador of overfriendliness with Batista (both ambassadors Arthur Gardner and Earl Smith were, in fact, on excellent terms with the Cuban dictator), we roared in outrage. The New York Mirror told Castro to shut up or "he may talk himself into a restoration of the Platt Amendment," while the little Davenport (Iowa) Times, a sudden authority on history, forgot that the Platt Amendment ever existed and concluded that "the whole history of Cuba shows it has had the friendly assistance of the United States." Then, that same month, Washington sent Haiti a detachment of United States Marines (Dictator Francois Duvalier had barely escaped a revolt four month's earlier) and their presence was called "an act of friendship."

When Fidel Castro won, more disagreeable facts became public: our private companies in Cuba had long bought Batista's "cooperation" for $12 million worth of stocks; Batista had received another $34 million worth of stocks in foreign and joint United States-Cuban corporations; Batista's army, trained and armed by the United States, had been the center of government corruption; and Batista himself had fled Cuba with $250 million.

Castro's reaction is well known: he expropriated, confiscated, and executed, refused to pay off Batista's debts, and pushed his regime to the Left. Nevertheless, Castro first hoped to find help within the hemisphere. At the Buenos Aires meeting of the "21," in April, 1959, he pleaded that "$30 billion, spread over ten years, was required fully to develop Latin America." Nothing was done, however, except talk; in fact, the 21 talked 23 months.

Meanwhile, our self-criticism was mounting once again. The United State's "stop-and-start" Latin American diplomacy, said Indiana's Senator Homer Capehart, appoints "too many committees and fact-finding boards" that make reports "on which no action is ever taken." Finally, after another wave of Castro confiscations and his constant challenges to other Latin American countries to do the same, we announced our willingness to finance most of a $1.1 billion Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).8

Before the IDB began actual operations on October 1, 1960, we collected political returns -- so, at least, complain Latin Americans. The payoffs came at the second of two meetings of Consultation of Foreign Ministers of the Americican Republics under the Rio treaty held in San Jose, Costa Rica, during August, 1960. The first, called by Venezuela, condemned the Dominican Republic for plotting an assassination attempt against Venezuela's President Romulo Betancourt. The ministers ordered mild sanctions imposed on the Trujillo regime, but the press, both here and in Latin America, reported that we had voted in favor of the sanctions only in order to set up precedents applicable to Castro's Cuba.

The second meeting, called officially by Peru but essentially by us, "condemns energetically the intervention or the threat of intervention, even when conditional, by an extracontinental power in the affairs of the American Republics. . . ." The San Jose Declaration, as the resolution is labeled, was aimed specifically at Cuba (which it did not name)9 and at the Sino-Soviet powers (which it did). The "even when conditional" clause was directed at Russia, whose Premier Nikita Khruschev had warned that Russian rockets would come to the aid of Cuba if and only if the island were attacked by the United States.

That the San Jose Declaration was not "general in character," as Mexico hoped, but was specifically loaded against Cuba became clear to Latin Americans when they compared the scope of its full text to the narrowness of its application. Article 3 "reiterates that each state has the right to develop its cultural, political, and economic life freely," and Article 4 "reaffirms that the inter-American system is incompatible with any form of totalitarianism." The declaration, hence, should have applied to the dictatorship regimes of Ydigoras in Guatemala, Duvalier in Haiti, the Somoza brothers in Nicaragua, Stroessner in Paraguay, and so on. But we used it to justify our Cuban economic boycott and embargo, Cuba's non-participation in the Alliance and, finally, the United States-sponsored and supported Cuban exile invasion of Cuba. As that invasion shocked, anew, the hemisphere, Latin Americans inevitably saw the San Jose Declaration as just another Caracas 1954 infamy.

Within a month of San Jose\ the Committee of 21 met again, in Bogota, Colombia, and the United States offered to set up a $500 million Development Fund. To be handled by the IDB, the fund would be available for five basic Latin American needs: (1) rural development, (2) housing, (3) education, (4) public health, and (5) mobilization of domestic resources. The "Act of Bogota" also called for a meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (IA-ECOSOC) in 1961 -- what turned out to be the Punta del Este Conference in Uruguay. Thus, before Kennedy had given it its name, even before Kennedy had won the election, the Alliance for Progress was born. What was new about it, in appearance at least, was our willingness to commit ourselves to help Latin America's social development.

The Alliance for Progress has become our main policy in Latin America. It is being proclaimed as the making of a new era. It is being hailed as the guarantee of social justice for all. Within ten years naked children will no longer die from leprosy, illiteracy will be wiped out, disease arrested, superstition routed, poverty ousted -- all because of the Alianza para el Progreso.


1 Italics mine.

2 This provision was in Article 2 of the 1905 Constitution. To get around it, the government canceled it and convened a new Constitutional Congress. The article was reasserted; therefore a second Congress was convened and again the article was reaffirmed. A third Constitutional Congress was called, but once more the article was kept intact. The treaty remain illegal.

3 Among them: Sofonias Salvatierra (a Cabinet minister at the time of Sandino's death). Sandino o La Tragedia de un Pueblo (Imprenta Europa, Madrid, 1934); Anastasio Somoza in El Verdadero Sandino o El Calvario de las Segovias (Tipografia Robelo, Managua, 1936) describes the events leading up to the murder, as well as the murder itself, in such a way that the other witnesses' accounts are verified; testimony of Lieutenant Abelardo Cuadra, one of the soldiers who fired on Sandino, published in pre-Castro Cuba's Bohemia (Year 41, No. 7, Feb. 13, 1949), in Costa Rica (in May, 1954), and in Buenos Aires (in a heavily documented biography of 800 pages in two volumes, Sandino, General de Hombres Libres, by Gregorio Selser, a reporter for La Prensa).

4 Some of the biggest: $45 million for Brazil's steel industry; $40 million for strategic Mexican highways; $30 million for Colombian, $25 million for Cuban, and $20 million for Chilean industrial needs.

5 To Latin Americans, Spruille Braden is a very familiar figure, the symbol of "imperialistic capitalism." Born in 1896 in Elkhorn, Montana, he is the son of William Braden, the founder of the Braden Copper Company (a subsidiary of Kennecott Copper Corporation since 1916) which, with Anaconda's Chile Exploration Co. and Andes Copper Mining Co., controls 90 percent of Chile's vast copper resources. In 1921 Spruille Braden was involved in the purchase of 3,145,000 hectares of Bolivian oilfields for Standard Oil of New Jersey (Rockefeller). This contract was widely criticized because of a 1916 law forbidding all new transfers of oil lands, but thanks to loopholes m the law and vested interests within the government, the transaction stood. Braden next appeared as a "peacemaker" in the Chaco "Petroleum War." After that, Braden became Ambassador to Colombia (where, later, his son served as president of Rockefeller's IBEC), then to Cuba (where he was accused of interfering in financial circles to force the price of sugar to drop). In 1945 Braden spent six months in Argentina as United States Ambassador and was so outspokenly critical of the revolutionary regime that when Peron ran for President in 1946, his campaign slogan was "Braden or Peron?" (Peron won overwhelmingly -- in a free election). Braden next irritated Latin Americans for his anti-Arbenz crusades (he was then United Fruit's public relations). More recently, Braden was a leader of our pro-Katanga Secession committees (and Union Miniere, Katanga's huge mining corporation that has benefited most from secession, is partly owned by Rockefeller).

6 Only two nations abstained: Mexico and Argentina, both governed by mass-supported regimes.

7 Our Latin American diplomats have been particularly bad. Under Truman and Eisenhower they were mostly business or political friends, and were taken by Latin Americans as proof of our disinterest. Arthur Gardner and Earl T. Smith, for example, did much to alienate Cubans before Castro ever came down from the Sierra Maestra. Edward J. Sparks, Kennedy's former envoy to Uruguay, was much too close to Dictator Castillo Armas when Sparks was Ike's ambassador to Guatemala. And in Nicaragua, Ambassador Thomas E. Whelan's chumminess with the Somozas during ten long yeajrs has done irreparable harm.

When Tom Whelan's good friend Tacho Somoza was shot in 1956, the former grain-and-potato warehouse owner from North Dakota became the trusted adviser of Tacho's two sons, President Luis and Guard Commander Tachito. "He has been almost like a father to me," Luis said before Whelan retired in 1961. Whelan, who managed not to learn one hundred Spanish words during ten years in Spanish-speaking Nicaragua, retorted, "Those boys are all right."

The boys used the Guard more than fifty times to keep in power. Tachito is a West Point graduate. Thanks to arrangements made by Whelan, the Guard's officers are mostly United-States-trained, and one-fourth of the enlisted men have been schooled in our Panama Canal Zone schools. When Guardsmen shoot down Nicaraguan discontents, they use United States M-l rifles, Browning automatics, and mortars. When they attack rioters or rebels, they use United States Mustangs, P-51's, and Sherman tanks. The Somozas have been Nicaragua's worst butchers in its history; but, said Whelan, "Nicaragua is our best friend in Latin America." To him, of course, Nicaragua was the Somozas. "They've never once voted against us at the United Nations," said Whelan to prove his point, which also proves mine.

Louisiana's late deLesseps Morrison, Kennedy's Ambassador to the OAS, was also a bad mistake. Deemed a racist who had a great softness toward Trujillo, Morrison was the source of much of Latin American delegates' irritation with our delegation at the first Punta del Este Conference. Perhaps the worst Kennedy appointment was old Adolf Berle, Jr., as head of the Unitei States Task Force on Latin America, mainly because Berle' view of diplomacy is still stuck in the Roosevelt (F.D.R. an T.R.) eras. Extremely unpopular (and very undiplomatic) Kennedy ambassadors have included McClintock (to Argentina), Jame Loeb, Jr. (to Peru), and especially Thomas Mann (to Mexico), now President Johnson's Special Assistant on Latin Amen as well as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.

8 Even Time called our new "aid to Latin America program" the "Castro Plan."

9 The declaration, said Mexico's delegate, is "general in character," and "in no way is it a condemnation or threat against Cuba, whose aspirations for economic improvement and social justice have the deepest sympathy of the Government and the people of Mexico."