In February 1945, the United States attended a hemispheric conference in Mexico to discuss the “fundamental economic aspiration of the peoples of the Americas” and “their natural right to live decently and work and exchange goods productively in peace and with security.” This is known as the Economic Charter of the Americas.
In preparation for this conference, the U.S. Department of State drafted a memo to the American Ambassador in Mexico, George S. Messersmith outlining the 2 most important parts of the Charter:
Washington, February 5, 1945 – 7pm:
Following is résumé of Department’s policy with respect to the economic portions of agenda:
5. Elimination of excessive economic nationalism in all its forms.
8. Adherence to system of private enterprise.
In short, the U.S. wanted to make sure that Latin America continue to fulfill its service function without “excessive economic nationalism” that would encroach on U.S. interests and investments.
This is basically the reason for all the U.S. interventions in Latin America (and everywhere else for that matter). Please note that these ideas were put forth during World War 2. Japan had yet surrendered!
Let’s now read the internal memos and get a sense of how this policy against “economic nationalism” shaped the actions of the U.S. towards Cuba and the Castro government.
Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, September 24, 1959
Subject: Meeting with American Sugar Interests Regarding the Situation of Their Properties in Cuba
Special participant: Sam H. Baggett, V.P., United Fruit Company
Mr. Baggett expressed his pleasure at Mr. Rubottom’s comments. He considers that the agrarian reform in Cuba will have far reaching effects if it should become a pattern for other countries in Latin America. The low valuation of property and payment in I.O.U.’s, if it spreads, will force the United Fruit Company out of business. This Cuban attitude posses a serious problem for all investors in Latin America. He agreed that we should not make a hero of Castro, but observed that he will be one in any case if he gets away with his agrarian reform as it stands.https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d363
Please notice how the Vice President of United Fruit is petitioning the State Department to intervene in Cuba so as to protect their investments across Latin America.
Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy), Washington, October 23, 1959
Subject: Current Basic United States Policy Towards Cuba
Castro’s economic policies, apart from directly affecting adversely the rights of United States investors in Cuba and thus raising additional problems in U.S.-Cuban relations, have a distinctly statist and nationalist orientation which, if also adopted by other Latin American countries, would seriously undermine our economic policies and objectives with respect to the Latin American region. … there is a continuing danger that other regimes responsive to and/or modeled on the Castro regime may arise elsewhere in the region with serious adverse consequences to our security and interests.https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d376
Memorandum of Discussion at the 432d Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, January 14, 1960
…We ought to oppose quietly any Cuban loan applications which might be made.
Instead of applying economic pressure against Cuba, we could encourage private investors to be cautious about investing elsewhere in Latin America. If the Latin American countries see that Castro is frightening investment away from Latin America, they will not be favorably inclined toward Castro. If the Latin American opinion leaders were told that our investors are waiting to see what happens in Cuba, they might build up an anti-Castro opinion in Latin America.
The Vice President [Nixon] believed we should look at Latin America as a single area from an investment point of view, so that anything which hurts investment in one part of Latin American hurts investment throughout the area.
Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State, Washington, March 9, 1960
Subject: NSC Discussion of Cuba
There is no disagreement between the Departments and agencies concerned about our basic approach towards Cuba—that the Castro regime is a threat to our security interests and the achievement of our objectives in Latin America.https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d473
Special National Intelligence Estimate, Washington, March 22, 1960
the US will lose in influence and prestige so long as Castro’s successful defiance of the US (including his acceptance of bloc assistance) continues.https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d491
Special National Intelligence Estimate, Washington, December 8, 1960
The Castro regime enjoys a considerable measure of sympathy among the general public in Latin America because it appears to stand for social progress and for emancipation from US economic dominance.
Castro has provided … a highly exploitable example of revolutionary achievement and successful defiance of the US.https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v06/d620
As the famous economist, Joan Robinson wrote in 1967:
It is obvious enough that the United States crusade against Communism is a campaign against development. By means of it the American people have been lead to acquiesce in the maintenance of a huge war machine and its use by the threat or actual force to try to suppress every popular movement that aims to overthrow ancient or modern tyranny and begin to find a way to overcome poverty and establish national self-respect.https://archive.org/stream/struggleagainsth00houg#page/n0
And that, my friends, is the Cold War in a nutshell. Any questions?
Thanks for reading,
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