Latin America


NELSON A. ROCKEFELLER was dropped from the State Department plainly because of his Argentine policy. Ambassador Spruille Braden was named as his successor by Secretary Byrnes, with official instructions “to see to it that the policies which he has so courageously sponsored in the Argentine are continued with unremitting vigor.”

These policies are open defiance of the fascist military government of President Edelmiro Farrell and Vice President Juan D. Perón in Argentina, and open championship of its democratic opponents.

At the last moment, to be sure, Mr. Rockefeller made his apologia. The night before his resignation was accepted, in a speech before the Pan-American Society of Massachusetts and Northern New England, he admitted his share of the responsibility for offering the Argentine government readmission into the inter-American organization of republics at the Mexico City Conference last March, and for promoting an invitation to the Farrell-Perón government last April at the San Francisco Conference.

The Argentine government, of course, gleefully accepted both invitations. But in his Boston speech Assistant Secretary Rockefeller complained strenuously that Argentina had failed to live up to its obligations to suppress Axis activities in the republic and to restore constitutional democratic government to the Argentine people. In other words, the burden of Mr. Rockefeller’s swan song was that he had done a lot of favors and, to his chagrin, had been doublecrossed.

At the same time, Mr. Rockefeller made a vigorous last-minute effort to win credit for the Braden policies of “getting tough” with the Argentine fascists. “Upon my recommendation,” he told his Boston audience, “the United States sent forth one of its ablest ambassadors, Spruille Braden, with instructions to make it clear that the United States expected the Argentine government to carry out in good faith . . . the commitments which it had undertaken.”

Indirectly, at least, this claim was disposed of by Secretary of State Byrnes in his statement that it would be Mr. Braden’s duty as Assistant Secretary to carry out the policies which “he [Mr. Braden] has so courageously sponsored.” In consequence, Assistant Secretary Braden enters the State Department policy-making circle — if he was not there before — with definite sailing orders to have no mercy on fascism anywhere in the Americas.

The voice of Argentina

Furthermore, during the week following the announcement of his appointment, Ambassador Braden, by his own voluntary pledges, practically stepped up his assignment. In a speech delivered before the American and Argentine Cultural Institute in Buenos Aires, besides defining fascism with unmistakable allusions to the Argentine government, Mr. Braden gave this promise: “Nobody should think that my transfer to Washington will mean the abandonment of the task I am carrying on. The voice of liberty has always made itself heard in this land [Argentina], and I do not believe that anyone will succeed in drowning it. I shall hear it from Washington with the same clarity with which I hear it in Buenos Aires . . . the voice of the Argentine people — their authentic voice.”

Seldom in the whole history of diplomacy has an ambassador spoken, without rebuke, words so iconoclastically “undiplomatic” about the government to which he was accredited. True, the Farrell-Perón regime tried to spread the impression within Argentina that Mr. Braden’s promotion was a “kick upstairs” and a disavowal of his policies. But the language of the Braden and the Byrnes statements flung the lie back upon this effort of the Farrell-Perón circulation department.

Mr. Rockefeller and Company

Mr. Rockefeller’s services to the nation have been considerable. As Coördinator of Inter-American Affairs, he and his associates in Washington and the other American countries developed more ideas of economic coöperation, social improvement, and closer cultural relations between the American peoples than had been thought of before in the whole history of the American continents.

Many of these ideas were necessarily dreamed up by amateurs — since there were practically no professionals in the field — and flopped because of their tenuous experimental quality. But the tested residue were of high assistance to the war effort — all the more because they persuaded responsible Latin American leaders that the Good Neighbor policy has substance. Real trouble did not touch Mr. Rockefeller until he was elevated into the top political policy-making circles of the government by former Secretary of State Stettinius last December.

Although the fact was evident, it was difficult for Mr. Rockefeller to realize that the Argentine fascists of the Farrell-Perón circle would not respond to friendly treatment and a “square deal.” They let him down on nearly every phase of their commitments.

Assistant Secretary Braden inherits no bed of roses. Mr. Rockefeller’s immediate personal advisers were cleaned out of the department. But the chief persuader of Mr. Rockefeller in the Argentine deal, Mr. Avra Warren, is a veteran foreign service officer, due to hold on to his post as Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs until Mr. Braden personally requests his replacement.

Since Mr. Warren was also responsible for the diplomatic recognition of the Argentine-fascist-spawned government of Bolivia a little more than a year ago, it would seem that his relegation to a place more proportionate to his demonstrated qualities of judgment would be in order.

How about Bolivia and Brazil?

Persistence in a pro-democratic policy toward Argentina is logically bound to open up other basic questions of political dealings with Latin America for the new Assistant Secretary.

Should Bolivian recognition be revoked, for instance, because of the fascist procedures and roots of the present government there? Or should another tough Braden-model ambassador be sent to La Paz? The recent arrest of Walter Alvarado, a leader of the PIR, the leftist revolutionary party of the republic, immediately on his return to Bolivia on a promise of amnesty, suggests that imitation Argentine methods of suppression of free speech and political activity are still going strong with the ruling powers. Will the example we are making of Argentina be sufficient notice to Bolivia?

Again, the closer we come to the Brazilian presidential election set for December 6, the more the signs increase that it may all wind up in an adroitly promoted mass movement for the re-election of Getulio Vargas, Brazil’s dictator for fifteen years. Banners and posters have sprung up “spontaneously” in most of the population centers of Brazil in the last few weeks, demanding Vargas’s re-election.

Formerly hostile newspaper editors have declared that Vargas is the man to lead Brazil “back to constitutionalism.” Even Luis Carlos Prestes, the former Communist leader, is out of jail on a Vargas pardon after ten years of confinement, to plug a technically unsponsored Vargas candidacy with his labor following.

How much could an ambassador in the Braden mold do, then, to build up relations with the genuinely democratic elements in Brazil and to encourage them to reject the results of a shadow-boxing election — if one is being staged?

Argentina takes the hint

In Argentina, Ambassador Braden’s frontal assaults on dictatorial fascism and his open fraternizing with opposition elements have knocked a lot of the props from under the Farrell-Perón combination. Since April the government has been forced to give up its more extreme measures of control and suppression. The state of siege was revoked early in August: censorships have been largely removed both from foreign correspondents and from the domestic press. Even banished political exiles have dared to return, and have got away with it.

The opposition parties have not yet been entirely reunited, but are more nearly so than at any other time since the military clique seized power in June, 1943. Cabinet crises rose to a climax capped by the resignation of the Foreign, Finance, and Interior ministers during August. There have been growing signs of feuds between the rank and file of Army officers and their self-imposed bosses in the top executive offices of the republic.

Vice President Perón’s announced campaign for the presidency has taken a definite turn for the worse from all these developments. The Braden policy of standing up to a fascist government and openly making friends with the opposition has weakened the government perceptibly, while contributing powerfully to the forces looking to its overthrow.