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A Diplomat Calls for Aid to Latin America

Milton Eisenhower, the younger brother of President Dwight E. Eisenhower, served as a special ambassador to Latin America during the Eisenhower administration. He came to see poverty as the major obstacle to economic development and political stability in the region, a view he expressed in his influential study of Latin America, The Wine is Bitter, which is excerpted here. The Wine is Bitter helped gain support for John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress aid program.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that revolution is inevitable in Latin America. The people are angry. They are shackled to the past with bonds of ignorance injustice, and poverty. And they no longer accept as universal or inevitable the oppressive prevailing order which has filled their lives with toil, want, and pain. The terrible realization has dawned upon them that the futility of their lives and of their parents’ lives need not have been, that it is the bitter fruit of an evil system of injustice. And so they are filled with a fury and a determination to change the future.

How will they change it? The enlightened among them—the good leaders, most intellectuals—call for a peaceful revolution, a series of sweeping reforms to topple the oligarchists, the corrupt, the dictators. But there are loud and insistent voices demanding violent revolution. The Communists and their fellow travelers feed the fury of the underprivileged with half-truths and false promises. They nourish a lust for revenge and a cynical conviction that only blood will wash away injustice.

The choice between these two courses is awesome. Cuba has succumbed to the lust for blood and violence. The remainder of the hemisphere teeters precariously on the verge of revolution—peaceful or violent. . . .

The United States has a crucial role in this drama. Our aid can be decisive in helping Latin Americans build better institutions, increase income, and purge injustice from their society. We must be swift and we must be generous.

No one could spend a great deal of time with Latin Americans—political leaders, intellectuals, laborers, farmers, Indians, mestizos, whites, rich, poor, and dispossessed—as I have done without developing a genuine and abiding affection for them. They are the most engaging persons I have met in a lifetime of travel to most parts of the world. They are not, as too many believe, concerned mainly with the siesta and the serenade. They are a hard-working people who cherish individualism and human dignity. . . .

Source | Milton Eisenhower, The Wine is Bitter (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1963), xi-xiii; from Robert H. Holden and Eric Zolov, Latin America and the United States: A Documentary History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 242-43.
Creator | Milton Eisenhower
Item Type | Book (excerpt)
Cite This document | Milton Eisenhower, “A Diplomat Calls for Aid to Latin America,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed May 26, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/583.

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