Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Report to the American People on the South American Trip.

March 08, 1960

[Delivered from the President's Office at 7 p.m.]

Good evening, friends:

My first words upon my return from the four American republics I have just visited must be a heartfelt expression of gratitude for the friendly receptions my associates and I experienced, wherever we went.

Millions endured for long hours along the streets the hot summer sun--and occasionally rain--to let us know of the enthusiastic good will they have for the government and people of the United States. In the nations of Latin America--indeed as I have found in all of the eighteen countries I have visited in my trips of recent months--there is a vast reservoir of respect, admiration and affection for the United States of America. The expressions of this attitude by Latin American peoples and their leaders were so enthusiastic and so often repeated as to admit no possibility of mistake. Two or three insignificant exceptions to this may have made a headline, but they were only minor incidents, lost in the massed welcome.

This was a good will trip--but it was also much more. Members of my party and I held serious conversations and exchanged information on bilateral, hemispheric, and global problems with the four Heads of State, with Cabinet members, with leaders of labor, education, finance, and business.

Two impressions are highlighted in my mind.

First--Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay treasure as much as we do freedom, human dignity, equality, and peace with justice. In freedom, they are determined to progress--to improve and diversify their economies--to provide better housing and education--to work ceaselessly for rising levels of human well being.

Second, while certain problems are continental in scope, nonetheless each of the countries I visited--indeed, each of the twenty republics of Latin America--is highly individual. Each has its own unique problems and ideas regarding future development.

Hence, our cooperation with each republic must be tailored to its particular situation.

I was gratified to learn that, as the indispensable basis for their self-improvement, comprehensive surveys of resources, capacities, objectives, and costs have progressed rapidly in recent years. But each nation feels it must do more in this regard, and seeks help for this purpose. The United Nations has funds for such pre-development studies. The new Inter-American Bank also should be able to lend technical help. The studies of each country called for under "Operation Pan America" will likewise contribute to this end.

Once sound planning has made significant progress, a nation can formulate specific projects for action, with priorities established, and with confidence that each development will open still further opportunity to speed the spiral of growth.

The execution of any development program will of course depend primarily upon the dedicated efforts of the peoples themselves.

I was impressed, for example, by what I saw in Chile. I visited a low-cost housing project. The government had provided land and utilities. The home owners were helping one another build the new houses. They will pay for them monthly, over a period of years. Personal accomplishments brought pride to their eyes; self-reliance to their bearing! Their new homes are modest in size and character--but I cannot possibly describe the intense satisfaction they take in the knowledge that they themselves have brought about this great forward step in their living conditions.

In Argentina and Uruguay I witnessed encouraging sights--men building schools, homes, and roads--and, in Brazil, erecting a wholly new capital city.

The people of Latin America know that poverty, ignorance, and ill health are not inevitable. They are determined to have their resources and labors yield a better life for themselves and for their children.

I assured them that most earnestly we of the United States want them to succeed. We realize that to speed improvement they need foreign capital. They want sound loans, public and private. Their repayment record on loans previously made is noteworthy.

International and United States lending agencies have recently had their funds greatly increased. The new Inter-American Development Bank will soon be functioning. I believe that each nation which has produced a well-conceived development program will find that these lending institutions will respond to their needs. Should this not be so in a particular situation, we of the United States would want to know the circumstances and do what we could to help to rectify the difficulty.

In our discussions I stressed that all nations--large or small, powerful or weak--should assume some responsibility for the advancement of humankind, in freedom. Though we of the United States will, within the framework of our world situation and economic capacity, assist all we can, we look for the time when all the free nations will feel a common responsibility for our common destiny. Cooperation among free nations is the key to common progress. Aid from one to another, if on a one way street basis only, and indefinitely continued, is not of itself truly productive.

The peoples of Latin America appreciate that our assistance in recent years has reached new heights, and that this has required sacrifice on our part.

I must repeat, however, what I said several times during my trip: serious misunderstandings of the United States do exist in Latin America. And, indeed, we are not as well informed of them as we should be.

Many persons do not realize the United States is just as committed as are the other republics to the principles of the Rio Treaty of 1947. This Treaty declares that an attack on one American republic will in effect be an attack on all. We stand firmly by this commitment. This mutual security system, proved by time, should now enable some of the American republics to reduce expenditures for armaments, and thus make funds available for constructive purposes.

One editorial alleged that the United States did not accept the principle of nonintervention until 1959. In fact, our country has consistently abided by this hemispheric concept for more than a quarter of a century.

Another persistent misunderstanding which I sought to correct wherever I travelled is that we sometimes support dictators. Of course we abhor all tyrannical forms of government, whether of the left or of the right. This I made clear.

In Brazil, I explained another important item of our policy: we believe in the rights of people to choose their own form of government, to build their own institutions, to abide by their own philosophy. But if a tyrannical form of government were imposed upon any of the Americas from outside or with outside support--by force, threat, or subversion--we would certainly deem this to be a violation of the principle of nonintervention and would expect the Organization of American States, acting under pertinent solemn commitments, to take appropriate collective action.

On occasion I heard it said that economic advance in some American republics only makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer, and that the United States should take the initiative in correcting this evil. This is a view fomented by communists, but often repeated by well-meaning people.

If there should be any truth in this charge whatsoever, it is not the fault of the United States. So far as our purpose is involved, projects financed by our institutions are expected to yield widespread benefits to all, and, at the same time to conform to our policy of nonintervention. I know that the Latin American leaders I met also seek this same result.

Moreover, when internal social reform is required, it is purely an internal matter.

One of the most far-reaching problems of continental scope is this: in their exports, the Latin American republics are largely single commodity countries. The world market prices of what they sell fluctuate widely, whereas the prices of things they buy keep going up.

We have tried to be helpful in the cooperative study of this vexing situation. Many facts about supply, demand, production are widely comprehended for the first time. Thus, for example, with the facts about coffee understood, producing nations are cooperating in orderly marketing for this commodity with beneficial results.

The real solution is in agricultural and industrial diversification. Here, we are encouraged by the progress being made toward the creation of common markets. Large areas, relatively free of trade restrictions, will make for greater efficiency in production and distribution, and will attract new capital to speed development.

Despite such problems as these, our relationships with our sister republics have, with notable--but very few--exceptions, reached an all-time high. Leaders and populations alike attested to this truth. But an even firmer partnership must be our goal.

The republics of this hemisphere have a special relationship to one another. The United States is important to all of Latin America, as its largest buyer, as the main source of foreign investment capital, and as a bastion of freedom. Our southern neighbors are important to us, economically, politically, culturally, militarily. Indeed, no other area of the world is of more vital significance to our own future.

This interdependence must be comprehended by us, and by them. Each should know the policies, attitudes, aspirations, and capacities of the other. For, as I have said time and again, all fruitful, abiding cooperation must be based upon genuine mutual understanding of vital facts.

Exchanges of students, teachers, labor leaders, and others are helpful. Newspapers, magazines, all means of communication should accept the responsibility not merely of transmitting spectacular news, but of helping build the knowledge on which cooperative action may flourish.

In one respect our neighbors put us to shame. English is rapidly spreading as the second language in Latin America. Business executives, labor leaders, taxi drivers--most speak English well, learned in school or in bi-national institutes. The study of Spanish is increasing in our schools, but I wish that literally millions of Americans would learn to speak Spanish or Portuguese fluently, and to read the literature, histories, and periodicals of our sister republics.

H. G. Wells once said that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. His thought is applicable to hemispheric relations. With common dedication to the highest ideals of mankind, including shared aspirations for a world at peace, freedom and progress, there is no insurmountable impediment to fruitful cooperation, save only insufficiency in mutual understanding. This is something that you and I--every single citizen, simply by informing himself--can do something about.

I hope each of us will do so.

Again, I express my gratitude to President Kubitschek, President Frondizi, President Alessandri, and President Nardone and all their peoples for providing me with a most instructive and rewarding experience.

And I convey to you their best wishes and warm greetings.

Thank you, and good night.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Report to the American People on the South American Trip. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235391

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