The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—I have said before that letters coming to me from South America indicate that part of our current unpopularity there comes from the feeling that we have sided with dictators in many cases when the people were trying to establish a more democratic form of government.

I realize well the difficulty any Administration in Washington faces in taking sides in a fight that might be going on within a country. In establishing the good neighbor policy, the United States said that though it upheld the Monroe Doctrine and would not allow a foreign country to take over control in South or Central America, it would not interfere in the internal affairs of countries there.

But even this policy presents difficulties. For if there is a dictatorship in a country where its people evidently are not yet prepared to set up and continue a democratic form of government, the Administration is often faced with the question of choosing between the dictatorship in power or another one that might come to power.

If the existing government seems to be advancing the standard of living and preparing its people for a better government, it may be difficult to keep hands off on the chance that another more democratic government will result, even though it eventually may turn into another dictatorship.

These evaluations are difficult, as has often been the case in the Carribean and South and Central America. And to complicate matters, the Soviets have been adept in infiltrating and needling certain dissatisfied groups, keeping them in a state of ferment.

My latest letter on this subject comes from a gentleman who once was in a responsible position in Cuba. He sends me a copy of a letter addressed to our President and some information on horrible things done by the Army of the present Cuban government to civilians. He also encloses a newspaper column on the situation there. Here is a quote from his letter:

"As the column points out, there is great resentment in Latin America toward the American policy of working with and aiding dictators. Such assistance gives those tyrants respectability and makes it more difficult for the people to obtain their freedom.

"Should the armed forces that perform such unspeakable acts be trained by three large American military missions, as they are being trained? Should this government receive millions of dollars in U.S. war equipment, as it received for six long, painful years? Should such a government be part of the free world?

“I enclose a photo of Dulles and Perez Jimenez which explains, in part, why Nixon was savagely attacked in Venezuela. And I enclose a letter which hundreds of Cuban women are sending to the President. If you could publish this letter in your column and interest American women in the Cuban problem, you would be doing a great service for your Latin American sisters.”

I am not using the letter here because, as it is addressed to the President, I feel he should make the decision on releasing it for publication. But I am pointing out some of the difficulties an Administration has to face in deciding whether or not to keep hands off.

Perhaps in the future we should give Latin American countries no military aid whatsoever and turn our attention solely to economic and cultural exchanges. I think this would help solve what is a difficult situation for the Administration.


(Copyright, 1958, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, July 11, 1958

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.