• U.S.

THE CABINET: Caribbean Moon

5 minute read

U. S. diplomacy, blinking before a Rising Sun in the Far East and plagued by strange new stars in the political firmament of Europe, last week set a hopeful course under the moon of the Caribbees. A sleek black peace ship, the Grace Liner Santa Clara, steamed southward toward ancient Lima, Peru, and the eighth Pan American Conference. Aboard were a distinguished U. S. delegation and its distinguished chairman, who at Montevideo in 1933 and at Buenos Aires in 1936 changed the Latin American picture of Uncle Sam from a giant with a club into a kindly Tennessee judge. As the Santa Clara nosed into the locks of the Panama Canal, Cordell Hull debarked to pay tribute to Panama’s President Juan Demostenes Arosemena. Delegate Alf M. Landon got off to pay non-partisan tribute to Cordell Hull: “The good neighbor policy has been made a realistic policy instead of a phrase to catch the imagination.”

Pan-Americanism began on board as soon as the Santa Clara pushed out of Panama. Lanky, ascetic Father John F. O’Hara, President of Notre Dame University and chairman of the delegation’s committee on intellectual cooperation and moral disarmament repeated his Sunday sermon in Spanish. John L. Lewis’ daughter Kathryn made friends with Electrical Worker Dan Tracy of the A. F. of L. Cordell Hull, besides beating all comers in his first try at deck golf, communed long and often at the rail with Delegate Landon. The life of the party, Mr. Landon played bridge seven hours at a stretch with Mexico’s shaggy, shrewd Ambassador Francisco Castillo Najara. Submitting to an Equatorial initiation by Neptune (Eugene P. Thomas of the National Foreign Trade Council), Mr. Landon was pronounced guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors, including Republicanism,” splashed with flour paste and shaved with a three-foot razor. He balked only at being thrown into Neptune’s swimming pool.

Cordell Hull and his chief’s Good Neighbor Policy have notably softened Latin American distrust of the U. S., but the eve of Lima showed that they have by no means removed it. Well organized last week was opposition by the ABC powers (Argentina, Brazil, Chile) and other nations to confirming at Lima the proposals for a Little League of Nations and Little World Court, which Colombia and the Dominican Republic introduced out of friendliness to the U. S. at Buenos Aires two years ago. And toward Franklin Roosevelt’s program for Continental Solidarity against Fascism, Latin American response has been noncommittal and cautious. Cordell Hull will have to be equally cautious about defining the limits of the Good Neighbor Policy: there are bold Latin American spirits who, inspired by the absence of downright Dollar Diplomacy in the current U. S. attitude toward expropriations in Mexico and Bolivia, think the Good Neighbor is perhaps ripe to be plucked of all his property in their lands.

Whether it is performed by pacts or by a ring of Navy steel, what the U. S. hopes to accomplish at Lima is to show itself so Good a Neighbor that 120,000,000 Latin Americans will eschew the ideas and products of neighbors which the Good Neighbor wants to keep out. On the eve of this attempt, currents and undercurrents showed the progress of the neighborly race:

> In Havana, Boss Fulgencio Batista announced the upshot of his last month’s trip to the U. S. : a new U. S.-Cuba trade treaty, with concessions to Cuban sugar, tobacco, potatoes and rum in return for concessions to Louisiana rice and other products.

> In Washington, Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who likes Latin American affairs despite his inability to get Latin Americans to like him, has been working since May as chairman of an interdepartmental committee to think up things the U. S. Government can do for Latin America. Last week Mr. Welles reported to the President that 13 depart ments and agencies had thought up $998,804 worth. Samples : Agriculture can spend $75,000 for a Tropical Forest Experiment Station in Puerto Rico; Treasury, $27,714 to send a Coast Guard patrol boat and one cutter on a demonstration cruise; Library of Congress, $27,200 to show Latin Ameri cans how to use and catalog their libraries, $10,000 to present their 20 Governments with photostats of “fundamental American documents”; Federal Communications Commission, advice on radio problems (free) ; National Emergency Council, two $45,000 propaganda films, one about Latin America for U. S. audiences, the other about the U. S. in Spanish and Portuguese.

> The State Department said it had asked in European capitals about reports that Germany had fortified Spain’s Canary Islands which lie some 60 miles west of Africa on the air route from Europe to Brazil. Journalist Lorenzo Sosa and other Spanish Loyalist refugees from the Islands turned up with eyewitness accounts. Some told of being put to work on an air base at Las Palmas, said German cruisers had surveyed island harbors.

> The War Department prepared to ask Congress for funds to double the six military attaches it now has advising and proselyting at its embassies and legations below the Rio Grande.

> In the seesaw race between the U. S. and Germany for the Brazilian market, Germany was leading last week. Score: Germany, $49,823,075 or 22.16% of Brazil’s 1938 imports; the U. S. $47,993,221 or 21.29%.

> Into Buenos Aires’ Luna Park Stadium jammed 30,000 Argentines to protest the Hitler pogroms.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com