|The American Presidency Project|
|• John F. Kennedy|
|Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Hillsborough County Courthouse, Tampa, FL - (Advance Release Text)|
|October 18, 1960|
Twenty years ago this month President Franklin Roosevelt in a radio broadcast to the Western Hemisphere called upon the people of Latin America to join hands with the United States in a common struggle to keep the forces of tyranny from the shores of the Americas. "So bound together," he said, "we are able to withstand any attack from the East or the West. Together we are able to ward off any infiltration of alien political and economic ideas that would destroy our freedom and our democracy."
The nations of South America responded to Franklin Roosevelt's call. Foreign efforts to capture control of the governments of Latin America were halted. American independence was maintained. And the nations of the Western Hemisphere combined in a common effort which ultimately brought about the collapse of Nazi despotism throughout the world.
Today, once again, the independence of the Western Hemisphere is menaced from abroad. Today, once again, the combined efforts of all the American states are vital to the preservation of that independence. Today, once again, only the leadership of the United States can summon all the resources of the hemisphere to the defense of freedom. But today, unlike 1940, we have failed to exercise that leadership. Today, unlike 1940, the nations of Latin America are distrustful of our guidance, suspicious of our intentions disillusioned by our actions. And today, unlike 1940, the forces of alien tyranny have already found their way into the Western Hemisphere - to within 90 miles of your coast - to the island of Cuba.
And this change has come about in the past 8 years.
In 1953 the Republicans inherited an inter-American system in good working order. They inherited a good neighbor policy which was more than an empty slogan. They inherited a Latin America composed of nations friendly to the United States.
But in 8 short years that bright heritage, the heritage of 20 Democratic years, has been largely dissipated and destroyed, and much of the good will, which it took two decades to build, has been lost.
In Cuba the Communists have gained a satellite and established a base for the attempted infiltration and subversion of all Latin America. In Venezuela angry mobs have assaulted the Vice President of the United States. In Mexico City rioting crowds have protested American policy and castigated America itself. In Panama anti-American demonstrations have imperiled the security of the Panama Canal. In Brazil, the newly elected President felt it necessary to appeal to rising anti-American sentiment in order to win the election. And every report, every broadcast, every newspaper dispatch from the south brings fresh news of unrest, of tension, of misunderstanding.
Today, time is running out for the United States in Latin America. Our once good neighbors are drifting away. Vigorous and vocal groups of Communists are exploiting domestic distress and unrest, encouraging growing dislike of the United States, working to impose Communist rule. And our historic ties are straining to the breaking point under American failure to understand the rapidly changing economies of Latin America, and the rapidly changing hopes and ambitions of the people to the south.
These disastrous and tragic defeats have been the defeats of a Republican leadership which has lacked the imagination and compassion to understand the needs and aspirations of the people of South America, which has lacked the leadership and the vigor to act to meet those needs, and which has lacked the foresight and the vision to realize the inevitable results of its own failures.
It is time now to renew our understanding and begin to act. For although the cold war will not be won in Latin America it may very well be lost there.
Our first failure in Latin America has been the failure to identify ourselves with the rising tide of freedom.
Victor Hugo once wrote that "No army can withstand the force of an idea whose time has come." For most of Latin America the time of freedom has come. In 1954 there were 13 military strongmen in Latin America; today there are only five. And, if we live up to our responsibilities, in the coming months and years we may expect the elimination of all despotism in Latin America - until the American hemisphere is a free hemisphere - not partly free, not almost free, but completely free from Cape Horn to the Arctic Circle. But the United States, the home of freedom, has been viewed far too often not as the friend of this rising tide of freedom, but as the supporter of toppling and brutal dictatorships.
In 1953 the dictator of Peru was given a medal by the United States. In 1954 the dictator of Venezuela was awarded the Legion of Merit by our Ambassador.
In 1956 the dictator of Paraguay received his medal from America. In 1955 our Secretary of the Navy went to Argentina and made an eloquent address comparing dictator Peron to Lincoln - to Peron's advantage.
We have warmly embraced Trujillo, the brutal despot of the Dominican Republic, and recently one of our ambassadors was photographed embracing Trujillo's envoy as he was being thrown out of Nicaragua because the OAS had virtually outlawed his government.
We have dumped more than $500 million worth of arms and ammunition into Latin America over the past 8 years, much of which has been used to strengthen the hand of dictatorships. And even now, despite the hard lessons of the past, our Air Force is planning to invite the codictator of Nicaragua to Washington as a guest of honor.
The result of these blunders has been disaster. The people of Latin America have begun to feel that we are more interested in stable regimes than in free governments; more interested in fighting against communism than in fighting for freedom; more interested in the possible loss of our investments than in the actual loss of the lives of the thousands of young Latins who have died fighting dictators and thus when the dictatorships fell, our actions of support were remembered, and we have been distrusted because of them.
Our second major failure in Latin America has been our failure to help the people of Latin America to achieve their economic aspirations.
Latin America is the fastest growing area in the world. By the end of the century it will have 512 million people - more than twice as many as all of North America. And this enormous population explosion is taking place in countries where millions of people are already condemned to a life of poverty and hunger and disease; where the average family income is less than $300 a year; and where population growth is outdistancing economic growth, driving this meager standard of living still lower.
Poverty is not new to Latin America. But what is new is the determination to emerge from poverty, to wipe out hunger and want, to create a modern growing economy in a small fraction of the time it took to build modern United States or Europe.
The people of Latin America want better homes, better schools, and better living standards. They want land reform, and tax reform, and an end to the corruption which drains off a nation's resources. In short, they want a new deal for South America. And that is why in every Latin American capital there is a street or park named after Franklin Roosevelt - but I do not know of one that is named after Hoover or Coolidge or Harding or Richard M. Nixon.
The people of South America have looked to the United States - their good neighbor - the richest land on earth - for help in this great effort to develop their economy. But in the past 8 years we have sent less than 5 percent of our economic aid to all of Latin America. We refused to enter into discussions to stabilize the commodity prices on which the Latin American economy depends, prices whose rapid fluctuation has caused the loss of more foreign exchange than all that has been gained from our total foreign-aid program. We fought the establishment of an Inter-American Bank until events forced it upon us. We ignored the President of Brazil's imaginative proposal for a large-scale "Operation Pan-America" to devdop the economy of Latin America. And we had our Secretary of State leave the Inter-American Conference in 1954, after securing a resolution against Guatemala, but before the Latin American nations had been given a chance to discuss the economic problems which were the purpose of the meeting.
Mr. Nixon has said that if we had a program of economic development for Latin America 5 years ago, then "we might have produced economic progress in Cuba which might have averted the Cuba takeover." And to that I would add that such a program might also have built up our friendships and destroyed Communist influence throughout Latin America.
But Mr. Nixon himself was in Latin America 5 years ago. He saw no need for action then. He merely praised the "competence and stability" of the Batista dictatorship and said that "I am convinced that commurnsm has passed its high water mark in Latin America." Mr. Nixon could not have been more wrong. Batista was not stable, and communism not only had not been halted but it was just beginning to move forward to new conquests. And it was his failure, as the President's personal emissary, to see what must be done in Latin America that has directly contributed to the current crisis in our inter-American relations. This is more of the experience which Mr. Nixon claims as his qualification to be President.
Our third major failure in Latin America has been our failure to demonstrate America's continuing concern with the problems of the people to the south, to establish the contact between nations and people which was the essence of the good neighbor policy.
Although Latin America is desperately in need of educated and trained men to run a modern, developing economy, in the past 8 years we have brought less than 400 students a year from all of South America to study here in the United States.
Although misunderstanding of America has been on the increase, we suspended all regular Voice of America Spanish-language broadcasts to South America between 1953 and 1959, with the exception of the 6 months of the Hungarian crisis. And even today, we only broadcast 1 hour a day. And we have also cut the number and size of all our other information programs in Latin America. Although our relations with the restless volatile nations of Latin America require the most skilled and constant attention, our diplomatic posts there have too often been viewed merely as a reward for contributions to the Republican campaign treasury, with the result that our representatives have committed blunders which have lost us respect - they have embraced doomed dictators; and they have failed to understand the rising tide of popular discontent which the Communists have so tirelessly worked to exploit.
And while we have ignored the needs of Latin America, during these last 8 years of failure and defeat, the Communists have been hard at work in South America. The Soviet Union is offering programs of technical assistance, encouraging young Latins to study behind the Iron Curtain, putting more than $100 miTlion a year into the support of local Communist parties, and offering tempting trade agreements.
When the United States refused to give Argentina credits for petroleum development, the Russians offered $100 million worth of such credits. Brazil and the Soviet Union have signed a $208 million trade agreement, and Russia has become a major importer of Uruguayan wool. Already the Soviet Union has captured one country in Latin America and is using that country as a base from which to export propaganda and revolution throughout the continent.
Perhaps the best indication of what has happened to American prestige in Latin America in the past 8 years is in the contrast between the good will visits of Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
In his speech of 20 years ago, President Roosevelt said:
I well recall during my recent visit to three great capital cities in South America, the vast throng which came to express by their cheers their friendship for the United States. I remember that above all the cheers I heard one constant cry again and again, above all others, "Viva la democracia" - long live democracy.When Mr. Nixon went to Latin America he too had vast throngs; but they came to express hostility, not friendship; they threw stones instead of cheers; they shouted "Down with the United States" instead of "Viva la democracia." For Mr. Nixon and his party had begun to lose what Franklin Roosevelt had labored so tirelessly to win - the friendship and respect of the people of Latin America.
There is much to encourage hope in Latin America; the forces of liberal democracy are still strong and are working to create the framework of economic advance, the steady elimination of poverty and want, on which the preservation of freedom will ultimately depend. But our help and our understanding are needed, and needed now, for the time of decision in Latin America has come. And the survival of freedom in the Western Hemisphere will depend on the boldness of our programs in the years to come.
First, we need a new attitude and new approach to the nations of Latin America. Franklin Roosevelt's good neighbor policy was a success because it demonstrated a continuing concern with hemispheric problems. But in the past 8 years we have not demonstrated such concern. We have reacted to a crisis in Guatemala or a crisis in Panama or a crisis in Cuba, and then, when the crisis was over, we continued to ignore the long-range problems and needs which were at the root of all the trouble. The good neighbor policy is no longer enough. The good partner policy has been discredited. Our new policy can best be summed up in the Spanish words "alianza para progreso," an alliance in progress - an alliance of nations with a common interest in freedom and economic advance in a great common effort to develop the resources of the entire hemisphere, strengthen the forces of democracy, and widen the vocational and educational opportunities of every person in all the Americas. This policy also means constant consultation with Latin American nations on hemispheric problems, as well as on issues of worldwide significance. And it is an alliance, not merely directed against communism, but aimed at helping our sister republics for their own sake.
Secondly, we must give constant and unequivocal support to democracy in Latin America. We must end our open and warm backing of dictators. Our honors must be reserved for democratic leaders, not despots. Our ambassadors must be spokesmen for democracy, not supporters of tyrants. And we must constantly press for free elections in any country where such elections are not held. We must also strongly support the Commission on Human Rights of the OAS - a commission which can serve as a forum before which the crimes and repressions of dictators like Castro and Trujillo can be brought to the attention of all the people of Latin America.
Third, we must help provide the funds, the long-term development loans, essential to a growing economy, an economy which can raise standards of living and keep up with the population explosion, and which will also provide an increasingly important market for American goods.
Until the recent authorization of $500 million for development, nearly all our economic aid had been in the form of loans to buy American exports. As a result basic ends were ignored and a crushing burden of interest payments was imposed on Latin America. For example, Latin America will pay more in interest this year to the Export-Import Bank than the entire $500 million recently authorized by the Congress.
Future programs must emphasize the development of the basic resources on which a modern economy depends, resources like roads and power and schools, resources which private investment cannot provide; but resources which are the fundamental precondition of rising living standards. We must plan our aid in full cooperation with the Latin American States, carefully mapping the often widely varying needs of each nation, and financing a development program both through the revenues of the affected nation as well as long-term loans from the United States.
In this effort we should seek the help of those of our Western allies who have historic ties with Latin America, as well as the help of the Latin American nations themselves. For there is a great deal of difference between the economic problems of Argentina, with a GNP of $500 per person, and Bolivia, with a GNP of $100 per person. And perhaps the wealthier nations of South America will be able to offer help, at least in the form of technical assistance, to the poorer countries.
Fourth, we must act to stabilize the prices of the principal commodity exports of Latin America. Almost every country in Latin America depends on one or two basic commodities for nearly all its exports, and basic commodities account for 90 percent of all South American exports. The prices of these commodities are subject to violent change. And a sudden fall can cause a decline in income which will sharply reduce the national income, upset the budget, and wreck the foreign exchange position. It is plain that no program of economic development can be effected unless something is done to stabilize commodity prices.
Despite repeated requests it was not until 1958 that the United States even agreed to sit down and talk about price stabilization. And, except for a temporary agreement on coffee, no action has emerged from the lengthy talks and studies. Yet commodity fluctuations and uncertain markets continue to undermine Latin American economies, and tempt South American nations to enter into trade agreements with the Communist bloc.
We must be willing to sit down with the Latin Americans and work out a program for the solution of this complex problem, a program which can rely on arrangements such as stockpiling, buffer stocks, and others. The nature of the solution depends on the commodity involved. But it is important that we make an immediate effort to find some solution.
At the same time we should help the countries of South America diversify their economies in order to reduce their dependence on a few basic commodities.
Fifth, we must encourage and aid programs of land reform. In some South American nations archaic systems of absentee ownership still keep land in the grip of a few wealthy landowners, while the mass of the people struggle for a subsistence living as tenants. This concentration of land ownership was one of the principal grievances which underlay the Cuban Revolution, and which is behind most of the revolutions in modern South America.
Of course, any decision to reform the system of land ownership can only be made by the country involved. But we should always stand ready to assist them in carrying out this decision by providing technical assistance and loans, as well as helping the new landowners to set up their farms on a productive basis.
Sixth, we must act to stimulate private investment in Latin America, through improved consular services, through the basic development programs which will provide the resources which private industry needs, and by working out international agreements designed to safeguard our investments abroad.
At the same time we must encourage our private business to immerse themselves in the life of the country in which they are located, through mixing capital with local capital, training local inhabitants for skilled jobs, and making maximum use of local labor. In this way our private industry will become an accepted and valued member of the community in which it is situated.
Seventh, we must expand our programs of technical assistance. We need to send an increased flow of engineers, technicians, factory managers, and others to train the Latin Americans in the techniques of modern industry and modern agriculture.
At the same time we must train more South Americans in these same skills. Perhaps we could set up a technical training center in the Panama Canal Zone, to be financed by tolls from the canal, to educate Latins in the techniques of modern technology.
Eighth, we must step up our own student exchange program, to provide education for future Latin leaders, perhaps establishing an inter-American university in Puerto Rico to which young men and women from all over the hemisphere could attend.
At the same time we must increase our sadly lagging Voice of America broadcasts both in Spanish and in Portuguese, and all our other information programs, in order to carry the message of America to the people of Latin America.
Ninth, we must send skilled and trained men to man our diplomatic posts in Latin America, men who will be appointed not for the size of their campaign contributions, but for their interest in and knowledge of the problems of the country in which they represent the United States.
Tenth, we must make every effort to bring about some type of arms control agreement in South America, an agreement which is fully compatible with the national security needs of every nation in the hemisphere. Such an agreement would end the wasteful arms race, which now absorbs 60 percent of the budget of some Latin American nations, dissipates resources which might be used for economic development, and increase tension throughout the hemisphere.
Eleventh, we must work constantly to strengthen the OAS and its subordinate agencies by stimulating common American action through that organization, and encouraging personnel policies which will equip it for new responsibilities.
Twelfth, we must reorganize our own handling of Latin American policies, making sure that all policies originate with and flow from the President and Secretary of State, and are carried out by the agencies involved. There are literally dozens of U.S. agencies which are concerned with inter-American affairs. They have been often working at cross-purposes and without effective central guidance. This guidance and direction must be provided by the Secretary of State and ultimately by the President himself.
With this program for Latin America I believe we can help to create a strong and growing and free hemisphere. A hemisphere where freedom can flourish, where long-enduring people hope for a better life for themselves and their children. It is a program like this which is the ultimate answer to Castro and the Communists. For if Latin America is moving forward, if it is progressing under democratic government, then eventually the people of Cuba too will demand freedom for themselves, and Communist rule in Latin America will perish where it began - in the streets of Havana.
I believe in a Western Hemisphere where we in the United States do not speak atronizingly of "our backyard" or our "little brothers," and where the people of South America do not speak with hostility of the "colossus of the north" or shout "Yankee go home." I believe in a hemisphere of independent and free nations, sharing common traditions and goals, living in peace and mutual respect. In short, I believe in a Western Hemisphere where all people - the Americans of the South and the Americans of the North - the United States and the nations of Latin America - are joined together in an alliance for progress - alianza para progreso.
|Citation: John F. Kennedy: "Speech by Senator John F. Kennedy, Hillsborough County Courthouse, Tampa, FL - (Advance Release Text)", October 18, 1960. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=74097.|
© 1999-2011 - Gerhard Peters - The American Presidency Project