Courtesy Reuters

Punta Del Este Revisited

When Adlai Stevenson toured the ten capitals of South America in June 1961 on a special mission for President Kennedy, one of the questions he raised at each stop was whether the American Presidents should attend in person the closing days of the forthcoming meeting at Punta del Este, Uruguay, which was to draft the basic charter of the Alliance for Progress. Stevenson received conflicting advice. Some Presidents welcomed the idea as a way of giving top-level political impetus and drama to this unprecedented program of inter-American coöperation. Others feared the public relations impact of a possible recriminatory debate, so soon after the Bay of Pigs, between President Kennedy and Cuba's Dorticós-or perhaps even Fidel Castro himself. In his own report, Stevenson reflected these divided opinions, and Kennedy finally decided not to pursue the idea. The delegations at Punta del Este the following August, therefore, were headed by Finance and Economic Ministers-in our own case, by Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon.

Now, almost six years later, the successor Presidents have met at the same spot to discuss the same basic topics-how to strengthen inter-American coöperation to accelerate Latin America's economic and social progress under free institutions. With one exception, those present signed a Declaration of the Presidents of America.[i] Their document, signed April 14, 1967, is neither a routine protocolary joint communiqué nor a declamatory masterpiece. Its tone is quiet but firm, and on its critical points it is more definitive than the Charter of the Alliance for Progress adopted in 1961.

With the captains and kings departed from Punta del Este, what appraisal can be made of this six-year effort to promote a peaceful and democratic economic revolution in the continent? Has it been merely "plowing the sea," in Bolivar's famous phrase, to be swallowed up by new waves of population expansion, of political disintegration and military caudillismo, of peasant and urban slum unrest exploited by extremist demagogues, and of nationalist tensions too strong for the frail strands of

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