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Argentina’s Brigadier General Luis Cesar Perlinger, eagle-beaked, supernationalist Minister of the Interior, swung a haymaker at able U.S. Ambassador Norman Armour. Said Perlinger: “It is not possible to smile at an Ambassador of a country which does not maintain relations with the owner of the house. I am the first to assume an angry face toward such a man, and every Argentine must do the same.”

This was a diplomatic insult to which the U.S. State Department had no ready reply. In all its implications, it was also a chilly lesson in the nature of the hostilities and problems which are now facing the U.S. in much of Latin America.

The cold fact is that a great many Argentines applauded General Perlinger. His slap at the Yankee Ambassador was good politics. It may even have helped General Perlinger in his rivalry with the Argentine Government’s jingo boss, Colonel Juan Domingo Peron, who has recently shown some small signs of willingness to come to terms with the U.S.

The strength of hostility to the U.S. did not excuse the State Department’s successive fumbles, which in themselves have fanned that hostility by making the U.S. alternately absurd and offensive in Argentine eyes. But, in Argentina and elsewhere, this current of national pride did complicate the U.S. problem, make it a tough one for the ablest diplomats to solve.

German Nazis and Spanish Fascists, still alert, watch and welcome a trend which they did not create but know how to use. The U.S. will not halt and reverse the trend simply by damning it as “pro-German,” “anti-Allied,” “Fascist,” or even “anti-democratic.” The U.S. cue is to understand Latin American nationalism for what it is, channel it to Good Neighborly ends by convincing Latin Americans that they can be for themselves without being against the U.S.

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