South Of The U.S. Border

Less than three weeks before President Kennedy took office, the United States had broken diplomatic relations with Cuba. This action was taken in response to the Castro government's continued vilification of the United States, its harassment of U.S. embassy personnel, and its use of Cuba as a base to encourage guerrilla activities in Latin America.

In April of 1961, a group of Cuban refugees invaded their country in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Castro. Although no U.S. soldier participated in the invasion, the American government provided the refugees with training and assistance. Despite the fact that the invasion had been planned during the latter stages of the Eisenhower Administration, President Kennedy assumed full responsibility for the incident because he had permitted the operation to proceed.

In October 1962, the world was shocked to learn that the Castro government had allowed the Soviet Union to secretly place offensive missile bases on Cuban soil. These bases, manned by Soviet technicians, were capable of launching nuclear missiles against most of the major cities of North and South America. The United States demanded prompt removal of the missile bases and declared a strict quarantine of all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba. By a vote of 20 to 0, the Organization of American States recommended that member nations take all necessary measures to block the flow of offensive weapons to Cuba. After two weeks of tense stalemate, the Soviet government agreed to dismantle its bases and ship the missiles back to the Soviet Union.

In March 1961 President Kennedy formally proposed an Alliance for Progress, under which the United States, along with other countries, various international agencies, and private sources would provide $20,000 million in grants and loans over a 10-year period to promote economic growth and raise living standards in the Latin America republics.

In August, 19 Latin American nations approved the Alliance charter and pledged land and tax reforms to benefit their people. Alliance funds went into the building of roads, homes, and schools, the improvement of sanitation and water-supply systems, the advance of credits to small farmers, and the training of teachers. At the end of 1961, President Kennedy saw the program in operation when he visited Venezuela and Colombia, two of the countries that had started redistributing land among small farmers.