Alliance for Progress, 1960s

John Fitzgerald Kennedy announces the Alliance for Progress, Marc. 13, 1961, White House

As a citizen of the United States let me be the first to admit that we North Americans have not always grasped the significance of this common mission, just as it is also true that many in your own countries have not fully understood the urgency of the need to lift people from poverty and ignorance and despair. But we must turn from these mistakes—from the failures and the misunderstandings of the past to a future full of peril, but bright with hope.

Throughout Latin America, a continent rich in resources and in the spiritual and cultural achievements of its people, millions of men and women suffer the daily degradations of poverty and hunger. They lack decent shelter or protection from disease. Their children are deprived of the education or the jobs which arc the gateway to a better life. And each day the problems grow more urgent. Population growth is outpacing economic growth --low living standards are further endangered and discontent--the discontent of a people who know that abundance and the tools of progress are at last within their reach--that discontent is growing. In the words of José Figueres, [ex-president of Costa Rica] "once dormant peoples are struggling upward toward the sun, toward a better life."

If we are to meet a problem so staggering in its dimensions, our approach must itself be equally bold--an approach consistent with the majestic concept of Operation Pan America. Therefore I have called on all people of the hemisphere to join in a new Alliance for Progress--Alianza para el Progreso--a vast cooperative effort, unparalleled in magnitude and nobility of purpose, to satisfy the basic needs of the American people for homes, work and land, health and schools—techo, trabajo y tierra, salud y escuela. We propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all men can hope for a suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom.

To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress. Our Alliance for Progress is an alliance of free governments, and it must work to eliminate tyranny from a hemisphere in which it has no rightful place. Therefore let us express our special friendship to the people of Cuba and the Dominican Republic—and the hope they will soon rejoin the society of free men, uniting with us in common effort.

This political freedom must be accompanied by social change. For unless necessary social reforms, including land and tax reform, are freely made—unless we broaden the opportunity for all of our people—unless the great mass of Americans share in increasing prosperity then our alliance, our revolution, our dream, and our freedom will fail. The completion of our task will, of course, require the efforts of all governments of our hemisphere. But the efforts of governments alone will never be enough. In the end, the people must choose and the people must help themselves.

And so I say to the men and women of the Americas&--to the campesino in the fields, to the obrero [worker] in the cities, to the estudiante in the schools--prepare your mind and heart for the task ahead; call forth your strength and let each devote his energies to the betterment of all, so that your children and our children in this hemisphere can find an ever richer and a freer life.

Let us once again transform the American continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts--a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women; an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand. Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggle of people everywhere-- not with an imperialism of force or fear-- but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man.

Alberto Lleras (President of Colombia) Report on the Alliance for Progress (Organization of American States, June 15, 1963)

The reactionary right wing of the American world . . . was and is working against the objectives of Punta del Este [Alliance for Progress]. In the United States it was represented by the systematic enemies of all foreign aid, even more exalted now with the apparent initiation of a new program of expenditures; by those who maintain that loans and donations to governments only serve to encourage socialization in Latin America and weaken private enterprise; by the adversaries of the type of social-welfare investments recommended in the Charter of Punta del Este. In Latin America, by the system of the latifundia [large landed estates], which is always alert to any type of agrarian reform, entrenched in the governments and congresses; by a certain native capitalism, which accepts no restrictions upon its action but which defends itself with the same arguments as United States private enterprise, which is actually subject to strict competition and to anti-monopoly regulations; and, in general, by all the present beneficiaries of the social situation that was boldly denounced in the daring document signed in a moment of inspiration and, why not, of anxiety at the meeting in Uruguay.

In the United States Congress the opposing elements of the Alliance had already found an echo and obtained substantial victories, both in reducing the allocations for aid to Latin America and in introducing conditions for investment that were destined to protect United States capital unnecessarily and excessively, thereby succeeding in giving a displeasing aspect to the generous project. Taking advantage of the terms of the Foreign Trade Act, United States business men were already beginning to threaten the governments of Latin America with a suspension of the aid foreseen in the Alliance, if conditions arose that they considered intolerable and, even worse, the citizens themselves were approaching foreign authorities requesting them to intervene in this respect. The danger of a serious corruption of the spirit of the Alliance, its progressive weakening, and the disappointment of the people with it, in addition to the construal risk that it might become a bureaucratic operation, was obvious towards the end of 1962, when the enormous rehabilitation enterprises of Latin America began to be talked of as a new form of imperialism, as a policy on the part of the United States to soothe Latin American discontent, as a gigantic publicity stunt.

The Alliance cannot achieve its transforming and revolutionary effectiveness as long as the Latin American countries do not take the full responsibility that the document appeared to assign them, but that unfortunately was not clearly defined in the document, and that finally, saving the program from immediate failure by turning it aside from its original meaning and making it appear, involuntarily, as a national policy and program of that country toward its sister nations of the South.