José Figueres Ferrer

1958 testimony before U.S. Congress

In 1958, during a visit to Caracas, Venezuela, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon was spat at by anti-American protesters who also disrupted and assaulted Nixon’s motorcade, pelting his limousine with rocks, shattering windows, and injuring Venezuela’s foreign minister.[2] The event prompted the US Congress to create a special committee to investigate the reasons behind it. Many people were invited to speak before it, including Figueres, who testified as follows (in part) on 9 June 1958:

Imagini pentru José Figueres Ferrer

„As a citizen of the hemisphere, as a man who has dedicated his public life to promote inter-American comprehension, as an educated man who knows and appreciates the United States and who has never tried to hide that appreciation to anyone, no matter how hostile he was, I deplore that the people of the Latin America, represented by a fistful of overexcited Venezuelans, have spit upon a worthy public officer who represents the greatest nation of our time. But I must speak frankly and even rudely, because I am convinced that the situation demands it: the people cannot spit at a foreign policy, which was what they tried to do. But when they have exhausted all other means of trying to make themselves understood, the only thing left to do is spitting.”With all due respect to Vice-President Nixon, and with all my admiration towards his conduct, which was, during the events, heroic and later noble, I have no choice but to say that the act of spitting, however vulgar it is, lacks a substitute in our language to express certain emotions…. If you’re going to speak of human dignity in Russia, why is it so hard to speak of human dignity in the Dominican Republic? Where is intervention and where is non-intervention? Is it that a simple threat, a potential one, to your liberties, is, essentially, more serious than the kidnapping of our liberties?”Of course you have made certain investments in the (Latin) American dictatorships. The aluminum companies extract bauxite almost for free. Your generals, your admirals, your public officers and your businessmen are treated there like royalty.”Like your Senate verified yesterday, there are people who bribe the reigning dynasties with millions, to enjoy the privilege of hunting in their lands. They deduct the money from the taxes they pay in the US, but it returns to the country and, when it arrives in Hollywood, becomes extravagant furs and cars that bring down the fragile virtue of female stars. And, meanwhile, our women are kidnapped by gangsters, our men are castrated in the torture chambers and our illustrious professors disappear, lugubriously, from the halls of the University of Columbia, in New York. When one of your lawmakers calls this a „collaboration to fight communism”, 180 million Latin Americans feel the need to spit.”Spitting is a despicable custom, if done physically. But what about moral spitting? When your government invited Pedro Estrada [es], the Himmler of the Western Hemisphere, to be honored in Washington, didn’t you spit upon the face of all democrats in (Latin) America? … I can assure you that, when it comes to international economic policy, the United States seems to be willing to repeat certain errors of domestic policy that inflicted much damage in the past, including, of course, the ones that led to the great crisis of 1929.”We, the Latin Americans, are tired of pointing at these mistakes; especially, the lack of interest in the prices of our products. Every time we suggest a plan to stabilize prices at a fair level you answer with economy slogans, like „the law of supply and demand” or „the free market system”, or with insults like „Aren’t we paying you enough money now?” We don’t beg, except in emergencies. We’re not people who will spit about merely money. We’ve inherited all the flaws of the Spanish character, but also some of its virtues.”Our poverty does not diminish our pride. We have our dignity. What we want is to be paid a fair price for the sweat of our people, for the impoverishment of our land when we provide a product needed by another country. That would be enough to live, to raise our own capital and to carry on with our own development.”