JUNE 2, 1961
NEW YORK—The first thing I want to do today is thank the wives, mothers, children and sisters of the soldier-prisoners whom the Committee on Tractors for Freedom is trying to free. Most of these families are living in Miami and they have sent a number of messages expressing their gratitude to the committee. Unfortunately, I cannot thank them individually, but I can assure them that we are anxious to save all those who took part in the recent expedition against Castro.
Some of these men, of course, also took part in the Castro revolution against General Batista. And we in this country have to realize that that revolution came about because of conditions that had been allowed to continue over the years in which a large number of people of Cuba had been exploited, ignored and beaten down.
Schools that had been paid for never materialized, and those that were in existence provided only the poorest education in many cases. Health for the masses was not even thought of; housing, particularly in rural areas, was at a very low standard. People were not paid adequate wages, and discontent, misery and disease were rampant.
All these things are what bring about revolution and chaos, and these are the conditions under which the Soviets can be most effective.
A free Cuba, working for the well-being of the people, was the aim of many of the men who supported Castro, but when it became evident that one tyranny was being supplanted by another some of them began to feel again the urge for the real freedom they had hoped for and fought for. Whereupon, they deserted. And among them there well may have been people who enjoyed the benefits of the Batista regime.
It is hard to be sure that you have rooted out all that is evil, but the majority of these men were Freedom Fighters and it is right for us in the United States to feel a sense of responsibility for them.
I am very grateful for the outpouring of generosity toward the Committee on Tractors for Freedom from the people of our country. And I am also gratified by the response expressed throughout South America. It is a sign that the people of South America are being drawn closer to us here in the U.S.
In a country like ours there are bound to be differences of opinion. One cannot expect unanimity. But the vast majority of our people, I believe, not only want to help free the prisoners but are genuinely interested in making it possible for the farmers of Cuba to raise more food for the people of the island so as to improve their standard of living. We are slowly becoming aware in our country of our failures in helping to raise standards of living not only in Cuba and other Latin American countries but all over the world.
So, I want to remind you again of the address to which you might send contributions. It is: Tractors for Freedom, Freedom Box, Detroit, Michigan.
President Kennedy, in his messages to Congress on foreign aid, has been trying to tell us what conditions really are in the world and trying to change the emphasis from military assistance, which often is futile, to the real long-range planning that is the only way we can hope to help the underdeveloped countries to permanent improvement in their living standards.
One of our New York City newspapers on Thursday suggested something which I hope is being brought home to many of our citizens. This is the need to change the function of the Central Intelligence Agency back to what it used to be.
My husband always said the President of the United States had the best information in the world on which to base the government's decisions as to policy in foreign relations. Part of this was because of the efficiency of the intelligence reports he received. Over the past few years, however, the CIA has become an agency not for gathering information and reporting it to those who make policy and take action, but it has itself made policy and taken action. And by so doing it has involved the government in situations from which no administration could quickly extricate itself.
I hope, therefore, that the report soon to be submitted by Gen. Maxwell Taylor's committee looking into the CIA will bring about some drastic changes in what has become a situation that never should have been permitted in our CIA.
(Copyright, 1961, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 2, 1961
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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