Rockefeller, a member of a powerful and wealthy family dynasty and a longtime political activist, had a lifelong interest in the economic development of Latin America. Guided by a strong conviction that neglect of Latin America would encourage communism, he founded the nonprofit American International Association for Economic and Social Development in 1946 to channel private U.S. capital to improve social conditions, food production, and public health in underdeveloped nations.
Rockefeller's reputation as a staunch anti-communist and expert in Latin American affairs led Nixon to ask him in January 1969 to go to Latin America, consult with its leaders, and offer policy recommendations for the new administration. Accompanied by some twenty special advisors on each of four separate visits to Latin America over a six-month period, Rockefeller was frequently greeted by rioting students and widespread anti-American sentiment. The governments of Peru, Chile, and Venezuela asked him not to come. Rockefeller used these incidents to highlight the deteriorating relationship between the United States and its neighbors and the need for a new policy that paid greater attention to Latin American aspirations for higher living standards. On 30 August 1969, he submitted his report to Nixon with eighty-three specific recommendations for action.
The report asserted that no one country could effectively protect its own internal security by itself. Communism fed on hunger and misery, and only by attacking these elemental problems through an international partnership could the threat of communism be mitigated. Rockefeller recommended that the United States mount an economic offensive through a federal agency that would centralize and coordinate public and private resources. America would adopt a system of trade preferences for imports from developing countries, and in return, these countries would agree to a gradual reduction in their barriers to imports from industrial nations. Rockefeller also stressed the need for refinancing the huge Latin American foreign debt that in some cases exceeded aid inflow. He advised greater tolerance by the United States for authoritarian regimes in Latin America, arguing that dislike of a regime should not punish people in need. Nixon endorsed the report, but it never acquired enough widespread political support to be implemented.
Caryn E. Neumann
Rockefeller, Nelson A. The Rockefeller Report on the Americas: The Official Report of the United States Presidential Mission for the Western Hemisphere. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1969.