Nelson A. Rockefeller

September 25, 2007

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, whose political career began at his birth, and whose inter- est in Latin America was practically predetermined by his family's immense capital in- vestment in that area, has been chosen by President Nixon to make a tour of Latin America for the purpose of making policy recommendations. Nelson Rockefeller is the second son of John David Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Green Aldrich, daughter of the former senate boss Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island. Nelson majored in economics at Dartmouth (he wasn't ac- cepted at Princeton) and graduated in 1930 after writing a thesis in defense of the Stan- dard Oil Company. His first marriage was to Mary Todhunter Clark, daughter of a promin- ent Philadelphia family; his second marriage to Margareta "Happy" Fitler Murphy. His first "job" was as a clerk in the foreign department of the Chase National Bank, where his uncle, Winthrop W. Aldrich, was president. Nelson became a director of Rackefeller Center,Inc. (located in midtown Manhattan), the world's largest real estate development, in 1931 and served as its president and then chairman through 1958.
As a young graduate of Dartmouth, Nelson Rockefeller made his first trip to South America in the early 1930's. He initially became involved in the politics of Latin America when, as a director of Creole Petroleum Corporation, he made extended trips to Venezuela in 1937 and 1939 and was attacked by leftist papers as a symbol of American imperialism. R6mulo Betancourt, leader of the then radical Acci6n Democratica party and editor of Ahora, was one of the Rockefellar attackers, but by 1947 he was urging Rockefeller to come to Vene- zuela to start development projects.-4-
When Mexico nationalized U.S. oil companies in 1939, Rockefeller was sent as a personal
negotiator for Standard Oil (New Jersey). His conversations with President Cardenas con-
vinced him of the necessity for good public relations if U.S. companies were to hold on
to their foreign wealth.
Rockefeller's liberal political thinking was further developed by close association in the
late 1930's with a group of his peers including economist Beardsley Ruml (father of income-
tax withholding), architect Wallace K. Harrison, Jersey Standard treasurer Jay Crane, and
William Benton (of Benton & Bowles ad agency, and later a Senator from Connecticut and pub-
lisher of the Encyclopedia Britannica). In 1940, Rockefeller wrote a memorandum to FDR,
expressing the fear that the United States was in danger of losing its political and econ-
omic position in the hemisphere because not enough was being done to secure Latin America
on the Allied side of the war. Ruml carried the conclusions to Harry Hopkins, President
Roosevelt's alter ego. FDR responded by establishing the Office of the Coordinator of
Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), and appropriating a total of $140 million for its five
years of existence. Nelson was named head of the new agency. The job of the agency, as
defined by FDR in a statement, was to coordinate the activities of the Government with
respect to hemispheric defense. In addition, it also aimed to pressure the Latin American
countries into cutting off their trade with Axis powers, which was considerable, and then
to "take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the closing of European markets to draw
the Latin countries closer into our orbit." 1 The other aim of CIAA was to propagandize
on behalf of the United States, not just for purposes of the war, but with an eye towards
future relations.
CIAA set up the first big government information program operating in foreign countries,
spending millions on the dissemination of U.S. movies and magazines, advertising on local
radio stations, and sending famous U.S. personalities to entertain in Latin American
countries. Newsprint, which was in short supply and heavy demand during the war, was
supplied to Latin America by CIAA. Newspapers not friendly to the U.S. cause were simply
not supplied with newsprint. A research intelligence office was also set up to keep CIAA
confidentially informed on what was going on, politically and economically.
Nelson, along with Adolph A. Berle and others, surveyed U.S. firms operating in Latin
America to determine which companies were represented by Nazis or pro-Nazis. (Many Ger-
mans living in South America were mployees of U.S. firms.) Pressure was exerted on
these U.S. companies to sever their relations with all such agents. Nelson was even in-
strumental in squelching the Italian and German-owned airlines operating in Latin America.
Of course, U.S. airlines later moved in to take their place. (All this at a time when
there were rumors in this country that Standard Oil of New Jersey was continuing to deal
with I.G. Farben, a large German war materiel producer.)
One other accomplishment of the CIAA was the establishment of the Institute of Inter-
American Affairs as a joint project between the United States and Latin American govern-
ments. It was Nelson's idea, again first suggested through a memo to FDR. In the memo,
Rockefeller suggested that by attacking the problems of illiteracy, disease and under-
production of food, the United States would be strengthening "democracy" in Latin Ameri-
ca, which was essential to the future security of the United States. More immediately,
it would reduce health hazards and insure a cheaper food supply for U.S. armed forces if
they had to be sent there. An agreement, ratified at an inter-American conference in
Rio de Janeiro in 1942, provided for technical and other assistance with the costs split
between the United States and the receiving government. By 1945, the United States had
spent about $40 million; Latin American governments, a total of about $42 million. When
the United States arranged with Brazil to build a series of naval and military bases
along its northern coast, the Institute gave $5 million for a public health service in
the area and the U.S. Air Force lent its equipment. The Institute later merged with the
Inter-American Education Foundation, Inc.
Other policies that Nelsod helped advance were the Pan American Highway (which he saw as
a means of expediting the sale of U.S. goods and the growth of the tourist industry), and
a post-war plan for the economic development of Mexico. The latter plan called for an-5-
investment by private companies of $383 million to speed industrialization and to bring
in more advanced machinery. Realizing this plan would mean unemployment for workers, Rockefeller personally went to the labor union leaders to win them over. In fluent Span-
ish, he explained that although some workers would be out of jobs temporarily, it would
benefit the country as a whole. 2
In 1944, Roosevelt named Rockefeller Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Af-
fairs. Rockefeller then quit the CIAA, turning over its direction to Wallace Harrison.
In 1946, Nelson formed a "development" organization called the American International
Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA) and, one year later, formed the
International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC). (See separate section below on AIA and
As Assistant Secretary, he was involved in a major policy move of drawing Latin American
countries into a more unified political partnership with the United States. He recommend-
ed to FDR that an inter-American conference to settle mutual defense and security issues
be held. The conference was held in Mexico City in 1945. The resulting Treaty of Chapul-
tepec was virtually a reiteration of the Monroe Doctrine, setting up the guidelines for
mutual defense in the hemisphere. A sticky point at the conference was the question of
Argentina. Under Per6n's leadership, the country refused to line up against Germany.
Rockefeller initially urged an inter-American boycott against Argentina, but this was
never successful. During the Mexico City meeting, Rockefeller changed his tactics in the
cause of hemispheric unity. The Argentina government was merely asked to state a change
in its policies and to hold elections; in return, the conference pledged to support the
admission of Argentina to the United Nations.
The UN conference in San Francisco started shortly afterwards. Alger Hiss led the U.S.
delegation which included John Foster Dulles and Rockefeller. There were several basic
ai H
1-4 -1 W
Alotatd Presl The Washington Post, March 2, 1969.-6-
conflicts during the conference in which Rockefeller was involved. One was the question
of regional defense treaties. Even the U.S. State Department was ready to forego this
privilege in order to have unity in the conference. But Rockefeller, with FDR's backing,
pushed for it. It finally passed as Article 51. It was this Article which eventually
gave sanction to the formation of NATO.
Another conflict was over the admission of Argentina. Hiss, Dulles and others in the
U.S. delegation, as well as members of other delegations, opposed admission. Rockefeller
rallied support for Argentina's entry back in Washington, notably among Senators Arthur
Vandenberg and Tom Connally and Secretary of State Stettinius. Argentina's membership
was finally accepted. After the UN conference, Rockefeller had antagonized so many of-
ficials in the State Department that he was forced to resign in August of 1945.
Nelson went on to hold other government positions which, while not directly related to
Latin America, had considerable influence on that area. A brief summary of those posi-
tions will suffice here. In November of 1950, Truman appointed Rockefeller chairman of
the newly created International Development Advisory Board. The board was set up to
study the best methods for implementing Truman's Point IV Program of technical aid to
underdeveloped areas and recommended, in March of 1951, that the United States form a new
agency to use billions of dollars for development of backward countries to combat Soviet
imperialism. Comprised of representatives from labor, business, education and agricul-
ture, it urged an immediate increase in private investment abroad to about $2 billion a
year to stimulate the production of critical materials in backward areas. In December
of 1951, Rockefeller resigned because he felt he could "best serve the program of inter-
national economic development by again concentrating on the role of private initiative
in this field of international cooperation."
In 1952, Eisenhower appointed him chairman of a three-man committee to represent the
President in reviewing studies for streamlining the executive branch - later this was
called the Advisory Committee on Government Organization. (Rockefeller held a similar
post under President Johnson - as member of the President's Advisory Commission on Inter-
governmental Relations.) He also became chairman of the board (from 1953 to 1958) of
the Government Affairs Foundation - a private group conducting research in the field of
local government and metropolitan area problems. Then in 1953, Eisenhower appointed him
Under Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. He served in that position for only
two years, was then appointed Special Assistant to the President for Foreign Affairs.
In this capacity, Rockefeller attended policymaking committees including Cabinet meetings,
the National Security Council and the Council on Foreign Economic Policy - sometimes act-
ing as the President's deputy. He was also in charge of "psychological strategy" in the
Cold War. Rockefeller resigned from this post in December of 1955 in a dispute over the
size and use of foreign aid. In 1956, he was chairman of the Special Studies Project
established by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund which issued a voluminous policy report
urging, among other things, a 50 percent rise in military spending over a seven year
period, and which advocated willingness to wage tactical nuclear warfare and coined such
double-talk phrases as "non-overt aggression." 3 In 1958, he headed a review and study of
the Defense Department at the request of Secretary of Defense McElroy. His last official
act under Eisenhower was to submit a report based on talks and reports at two secret sem-
inars he organized to explore the cold war and foreign aid strategy. Rockefeller was
elected governor of New York in 1958 and reelected in 1962 and 1966.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Nelson Rockefeller's career is the blurring of dis-
tinctions between "official" and "private" positions. In addition to his governmental
roles in the area of Latin American policy, one must bear in mind his considerable influ-
ence in such "unofficial" policymaking groups as the Council on Foreign Relations, the
AIA, IBEC and the Rockefeller Foundation. As early as 1940, Nelson Rockefeller established
economic and cultural programs for Latin America that still serve as models in the formu-
lation of United States foreign policy today.-7-
1 Main sources for this article aside from the usual sources (Who's Who and The New York
Times) were Nelson Rockefeller, A Biography, by Joe Alex Morris, Harper Bros., 1960;
Fortune, January, 1967; Empire of High Finance, Victor Perlo, International Publishers,
1957; Rockefeller's Follies, William Rodgers, Stein & Day, 1966.
2 For interesting reading on Nelson's involvement with labor in Latin America, see
Serafino Romualdi's Presidents and Peons, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1967.
3 Prospect for America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports, Doubleday, New York, 1958.
The following abbreviated chronology of Nelson Rockefeller's previous visits to Latin
America was compiled from a survey of The New York Times Index, covering the period
from the early thirties to 1959, the year he assumed the governorship of New York
State. It is by no means complete due to the secrecy under which some of these trips,
and others not included here, were conducted.
Early 1930's...First visits Latin America as a young Dartmouth graduate who majored
in economics.
May 5, 1943...Arrived in Mexico City as Secretary for Inter-American Affairs to study
wartime United States publicity problems in Latin America.
March 10-18, 1944...Arrived in Central America for official State Department tour.
Covered Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador. Met with
strongmen Ubico of Guatemala and Somoza of Nicaragua.
October 29, 1946...Arrived in Panama with wife and brother Winthrop on way to Miguel
Aleman's inauguration as President of Mexico.
January 6, 1947...Arrived in Caracas to meet with Venezuelan President Betancourt
who asked for economic aid.
June 25, 1947...In Caracas; pact reached with the Venezuelan government for estab-
lishment of three IBEC subsidiaries. Pact was result of January 1947
September 5, 1948...Arrived with brother David and Thomas Gates (who later became
Secretary of Defense) in Brazil for business trip.
November 16, 1948...In Brazil to lay the foundations for vast transportation and ag-
ricultural enterprises.
July 1, 1952...Arrived in Quito, Ecuador from Peru for a three-day visit. Nature of
trip not disclosed.
November 1958...Vacation and business trip to inspect his properties and projects in
Venezuela and Brazil after winning election for governorship of New York.
May 8, 1959...In Caracas. Breakfast with Betancourt. Checked on research at his
three farms. Met with officials and visited pasteurization plant which
had just undertaken task of distributing milk for the Venezuelan govern-
ment's school lunch program.

Tags: Nelson Rockefeller, Standard Oil, Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

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