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Remarks in New York City: "The Alliance for Progress"

October 14, 1968

Eight years ago—during the last year of the Eisenhower Administration —the Act of Bogota, the forerunner of the present Alliance for Progress, was concluded. The noble concept set forth in this agreement, reached after years of work and consultation, provided the groundwork and the inspiration for a genuine partnership for progress in Latin America.

Now, seven years after President Kennedy called upon the nations of the Western Hemisphere to join in a massive program of economic and social development and democratic progress, the Alliance is foundering.

Economic and social development has not kept pace with demands, and democratic progress has been only halting. The already ominous gulf between North and South America continues to widen at an alarming pace.

Statistics bear out this gloomy picture:

Since World War II, Latin American exports to the United States have been cut in half. In 1967 alone, these exports dropped more than $300 million.

Since 1962, the beginning of the Alliance for Progress, Latin America's share in world trade has dropped from 6.5 to 5.4 percent.

An Inter-American Development Bank report shows that the per capita growth rate is only 1.5 percent per year, far below the 2.5 percent goal established by the Alliance.

Interest payments and other debt servicing has doubled in the seven years of the Alliance and now absorbs almost 75 percent of the money coming into the area.

The sharp drop in exports is causing acute balance of payments problems.

The U.S. food and agriculture organization estimates that food production must increase over the next few years at an annual rate of 7 percent in order to make up for short-falls since 1964. This is considered an impossibility.

Despite the optimistic tone set by the Administration at the April 1967 Punta Del Este meeting of heads of state, the highly touted "action program" has failed to bring action.

Except for cutbacks in military expenditures, none of the goals has been advanced in the first year. Several, in fact, have been hopelessly retarded. For example, a major item on the Punta Del Este agenda was the modernization of agriculture. But, in the months since the meeting, the problem has become even worse. Hunger and malnutrition are more widespread in Latin America today than eight years ago, there are now some 60 million more mouths to feed.

While all of this seems to add up to a doleful prospect, the lack of progress under the Alliance should never lead our nation into a sense of resignation. Such an attitude would jeopardize both the fundamental ideals and the interests of the American people. We cannot and should not ignore the needs and aspirations of our immediate neighbors. The continuing problems present a constant challenge to the imagination and innovative abilities of free people.

What is needed is an action program of realistic dimensions to attack the problems of Latin America's unencumbered ideological dogmas and platitudes. The present Administration has clearly shown its unwillingness and inability to give our neighbors the priority status and effective aid which they deserve. It has utterly failed even in the basic requirement for effective cooperation: an integrated strategy of assistance with clear priorities. Money and energy have been dissipated without a realistic assessment of the most efficient methods for achieving established goals.

Now, before it is too late, and before Latin America is engulfed in disillusionment brought on by grandiose and unrealistic schemes emanating from Washington, we must make sweeping reevaluation of the Alliance. Without jeopardizing the national security of any Latin American nation, we must terminate those over-bureaucratized forms of aid which are of little benefit to the economies of Latin America, and redirect all available resources for an attack on the real problems of hunger and sagging growth rates.

First, we must make more conscious efforts toward "Latinizing" our actions in Latin America. This will not only serve as a positive, self-help motivation for the Latin Americans; but it would also serve to open the way for the United States to play a more constructive role on a partnership basis in the area. On my most recent trip to Latin America in 1967, I noted with great interest the emerging middle class, a crucial factor in this phase of cooperation.

The Latinization moves should be designed as a part in establishing a truly regional approach. While success in regionalism and development in general will depend upon the response of Latin Americans, the initiative in this movement can come from Washington. We should gear our machinery to such an approach, which first of all means the establishment of one rather than several voices and agencies. To date, dispersion of responsibilities and functions has made it virtually impossible for Washington to speak with one voice in the Alliance for Progress.

Second, we must honestly re-evaluate the Agency for International Development Program in terms of its capacity for promoting necessary reforms. In the final analysis, the only means for opening up Latin America will be capital, technical skills and more hard work and intimately connected with these key elements must be a recognition that a significant portion of profits generated by free enterprise will remain in Latin America.

Third, our emphasis should be upon trade instead of aid. Proposals deserving full consideration include; a new inter-American fund to assist in the stabilization of prices of Latin American commodities; special financial assistance to those countries burdened with interest loads on their debts; and a system of tariff preferences for Latin American exports. It is urgent that we help restore forward momentum to the Latin American economies.

Fourth, U.S. policies should always reflect our concern that the Organization of American States become a truly international political body with vigorous political and economic programs.

Fifth, by word and deed, the United States and its hemisphere partners must make clear their support of constructive change in both the private and public sectors. We should reinforce our opposition to mere maintenance of the status quo.

Sixth, the United States would take steps toward a strategic approach in agricultural development, education and technical assistance. All aspects of agricultural development should take priority at this stage, as food production falls hazardously behind population growth. The great irony is that Latin America is not an over-populated continent, but an under-populated one. What the Alliance has not provided are the tools and technology required to till the land. With knowledge, seed, and fertilizer, Latin Americans can feed themselves. Then they can begin the task of exploiting in a serious way the vast untapped resources of the continent.

There are various ways in which we can aid our Latin American neighbors in developing their economies and in meeting the challenge of exploiting the continent's vast pool of untapped resources.

Walter Lippmann has suggested that the key to progress in Latin America is the opening of the Latin American heartland. As I have stated previously, I would favor instituting a crash program to finish the highway net down the center of the continent, with a goal of completion in five years. To accomplish this we must marshal all available resources.

Of course, this will not solve all problems immediately or automatically. It will not do away with the need for other programs. But the opening of the heartland of South America will have an immense effect economically and will open more doors to development for our neighbors.

The opening of the continent would also do more to facilitate the growth of a Latin American common market than any massive government-to- government aid program.

Education must also take a top priority position. While the Alliance proclaimed the goal of eradicating illiteracy in the 1960's, it appears, in fact, that illiteracy will get worse. Expanding the regular educational process is only half the goal. Vocational training is also a requirement, for Latin Americans need to know not only how to manage a government, but how to run a lathe, how to run a tractor and a harvester.

In assisting Latin America to expand its educational systems of all types, it should be clearly understood that the United States has no interest in establishing the curriculum, but seeks only to assist our neighbors to adapt their systems to their own needs. It is neither possible nor desirable to expect that our own educational techniques and curriculum structures can automatically be transferred to fill the needs of others. But once the Latin American countries sense that the United States is genuinely committed to meaningful and measureable progress on their behalf, a genuine alliance based on true partnership can be more effectively forged.

This confidence cannot come about with switching, veering and uncertainty on the part of Washington. Our neighbors to the south have appreciated neither the hard line nor the soft line; they need a straight line and that line adhered to.

Most important, our policies must be as flexible as changing conditions require. In the search for alternatives to caudillos and communists, we would do well to keep in mind that Castro-communism constitutes a threat, not because it is strong, but because its target is weak. To meet this threat, what Latin America really needs is fewer marching feet and more helping hands.

The last third of the Twentieth Century may well be our final chance to solve these problems by means of peaceful change. As we enter this critical period, our friends in the western hemisphere must be equipped—both materially and spiritually—to grapple realistically with the mounting problems. And it is only with new leadership from the United States, a new leadership capable of marshalling all the resources at our command, that this regeneration can begin.

APP NOTE: From section six of the volume "Nixon Speaks Out" titled, "Quest for Peace".

Richard Nixon, Remarks in New York City: "The Alliance for Progress" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/326788

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