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

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NEW YORK—President Charles de Gaulle's victory in the referendum on his Algerian policy means that he will now have to move as quickly as possible to bring peace to this war-torn area, and negotiations will have to go on with the rebel leaders as to how provisional autonomy is to work. You may be quite sure that there will be an early move for a date to be set when the Algerians will vote definitely on their own political future.

The French living in Algeria undoubtedly feel unhappy about this result. It looks as though many of them might decide that, though they have lived there a long while and have considered Algeria a part of France, this may not eventually be the final decision. It may well be that we will see more and more of the French population returning to France as soon as they can.

Overseas possessions on whatever basis—unless they actually are free confederations—do not seem to be the order of the future.

The Belgian situation in the Congo also is different. Undoubtedly, Belgian interest centers in the one province—Katanga—where there are natural resources that have been projected for Belgian investment. But the Belgians may not eventually be able to retain this area in their hands or under their supreme influence.

The nationalist surge in the whole of Africa—and, in fact, in many parts of the world where new nations are coming into being—is so great that it seems that little by little we have to face the fact that any type of connection between old colonial countries and their former possessions is on a voluntary basis, or there will be no assurance of continuing cooperation.

We in the United States are becoming the refuge for large numbers from Cuba who disagree with the present government, and this is something we will not be able to handle easily. There are already murmurs from Miami and other Florida centers that they will need help from other parts of the country.

The revelation in The New York Times Tuesday morning of a partially hidden airfield in Guatemala, where commando-like forces are being drilled in guerrilla warfare, seems to me to point to the absolute necessity that any such action taken in a Central or South American country by the United States must be an agreed action by our government and the Organization of American States.

But here we have the strange situation of a newspaper uncovering the story, and it is claimed that we helped to build the airstrip and that foreign personnel, largely from the U.S., is drilling the Guatemalans. Also, it is said that we are assisting with material and in the construction of ground and air facilities.

We are told that the President of Guatemala, Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, and all the other government authorities insist that this military effort is expected to meet an offensive which they fear at any moment will be made by Cuba. On the other hand, opponents of the Ydigoras Administration insist that the preparations are for an offensive against the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro and that we in the U.S. are planning, directing and in large part paying for the whole undertaking.

Our Embassy in Guatemala is maintaining silence on the subject, the newspaper story says, and it also adds that one Guatemalan authority who negotiated with the U.S. for more assistance said that the request had been turned down because the U.S. felt it went beyond the needs of defensive operations.

This all seems to indicate that this may be the reason why the Castro regime has been insisting that the U.S. was going to invade Cuba at almost any moment. Most of us here in the U.S. have felt that this was a most preposterous idea and that nothing of the kind could possibly happen.

Now this Guatemalan disclosure makes me feel that any Administration or power should see to it that no step is taken in this area of the world without consultation and agreement among the Organization of American States. There must be no question of our trying to do anything that will hurt any nation in this group.

Evidently Castro is confident that through his revolution he will set a pattern by improving the living conditions of his people, which, he probably feels, would be followed by many of the other American nations. And we have a responsibility to see to it that every activity which we undertake in any of the Central and South American countries serves this end.

And whether we like Mr. Castro or don't like him, and whether he succeeds or fails, this principle of helping the South and Central American and Caribbean peoples to raise their standards of living is one to which all our efforts should be bent.


(Copyright, 1961, 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, January 11, 1961

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.