Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs was a United States agency promoting inter-American cooperation during the 1940s, especially in commercial and economic areas. It was started in August 1940 as OCCCRBAR (Office for Coordination of Commercial and Cultural Relations between the American Republics) with Nelson Rockefeller as its head, appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[1]

The Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in the Executive Office of the President was formally established and enacted by US Executive Order 8840 on July 30, 1941 by President Roosevelt [2][3] who named Nelson Rockefeller as the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA).

The agency's function was to distribute news, films and advertising, and to broadcast radio, in and to Latin America in order to counter Italian and German propaganda there. The CIAA grew to be a large Federal agency with a budget of $38 million by 1942[4] and 1,500 employees by 1943.

It was later renamed the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) with slightly changed powers by Executive order 9532 on March 23, 1945.[5]


In its early days, a particular concern of the CIAA was the elimination of German influence in South America, and that of other Axis powers. Trade routes to Europe were disrupted following the fall of France in June 1940, presenting opportunities to both Germany and the U.S. At the same time, many agents or affiliates of U.S. firms operating in Latin America were sympathetic to European Axis powers. The office encouraged a voluntary program of non-cooperation with companies and individuals perceived to be anti-American. To this end it cooperated secretly with British Security Coordination in New York. Though isolated in Europe, Britain maintained an extensive intelligence network in Latin America, and was happy to undermine Germany's trade efforts overseas by identifying sympathisers and agents. Through these efforts, U.S. exporters were encouraged to drop over a thousand accounts in South America during the first half of 1941.[6]

The office was also concerned with public opinion in Latin America. It translated and disseminated relevant speeches by President Roosevelt, and distributed pro-U.S materials to features syndicates in the region. It carried out audience research surveys and encouraged radio broadcasters targeting these regions to improve the quality of their programming. In order to discourage opposing views it created a 'Proclaimed List', a black-list of newspapers and radio stations owned or influenced by Axis powers. Latin American firms wishing to do business with America were discouraged from dealing with these stations. Tax incentives were also used: spending by American firms on unprofitable longwave transmission to Latin America could be deducted from income tax payments. Likewise, spending on approved advertising in Latin America became deductible from corporate income taxes.[4]

Walt Disney and a group of animators had been sent to South America in 1941 by the U.S. State Department as part of its Good Neighbor policy, and guaranteed financing for the resulting movie, Saludos Amigos.[7]

In 1944, William Benton, publisher of the Encyclopædia Britannica, had entered into unsuccessful negotiations with Disney to make six to twelve educational films annually. Disney was asked by the US Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA), to make an educational film about the Amazon Basin and it resulted in the 1944 animated short, The Amazon Awakens.[8][9][10][11][12]


By an Executive order of August 31, 1945, the informational activities of the Office of Inter-American Affairs were transferred to the Department of State. It became known as the Office for Inter-American Affairs. By an Executive order of April 10, 1946, the Office was abolished and its remaining functions and responsibilities were transferred to the State Department.

Soviet penetration

The Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs was penetrated by Soviet intelligence during World War II. Below is a list of American citizens who as federal employees in the CIAA engaged in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union. The CIAA's code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Cabaret".


  • Coordinator of OCCCRBAR (Office for Coordination of Commercial and Cultural Relations between the American Republics) and OCIAA (1940–1944): Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller
  • Director of the Office for Inter-American Affairs (1945–1946): Wallace K. Harrison


  1. Thomson, Charles Alexander Holmes, Overseas information service of the United States Government, The Brookings Institution, 1948. Cf. p.4.
  2. "84 - Executive Order 8840 Establishing the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, July 30, 1941", The American Presidency Project
  3. "1941: Executive Order 8840", Federal Register, 1941.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gerald K. Haines (1977). "Under the Eagle's Wing: The Franklin Roosevelt Administration Forges An American Hemisphere". Diplomatic History 1 (4): 373–388. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.1977.tb00248.x. “Aided by United States tax laws that provided for expenditures made by the radio industry” 
  5. "1945: Executive Order 9532", Federal Register, 1945.
  6. Paul Kramer (January 19791). "Nelson Rockefeller and British Security Coordination". Journal of Contemporary History, 16 (1): 73–88. doi:10.1177/002200948101600105. “Immediately after the fall of France there was unanimity of feeling within the Roosevelt administration that something had to be done about Latin America...” 
  7. Walt & El Grupo (documentary film, 2008).
  8. Gabler, 2006, p.444
  9. Cramer, Gisela; Prutsch, Ursula, "Nelson A. Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs (1940-1946) and Record Group 229", Hispanic American Historical Review 2006 86(4):785-806; DOI:10.1215/00182168-2006-050. Cf. p.795 and note 28.
  10. Bender, Pennee. "Hollywood Meets South American and Stages a Show" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association. 2009-05-24 <>
  11. Niblo, Stephen R., "Mexico in the 1940s: Modernity, Politics, and Corruption", Wilimington, Del. : Scholarly Resources, 1999. ISBN 0842027947. Cf. "Nelson Rockefeller and the Office of Inter-American Affairs", p.333
  12. Leonard, Thomas M.; Bratzel, John F., Latin America during World War II, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-0742537415. Cf. p.47.
  • Elizabeth Bentley deposition 30 November 1945, FBI file 65-14603.
  • Elizabeth Bentley, Out of Bondage: The Story of Elizabeth Bentley, Devin-Adair Company, 1951.
  • “Underground Soviet Espionage Organization (NKVD) in Agencies of the United States Government,’’ 21 February 1946, FBI Silvermaster file (FBI file 65-56402), serial 573.
  • Hottel to Director, 28 February 1947, FBI Silvermaster file, serial 2437
  • Memo on Fahy, 17 April 1946, FBI Silvermaster file, serial 1364
  • FBI Silvermaster file
  • Venona decrypt 1714 KGB New York to Moscow, 5 December 1944.
  • Venona decrypt 55 KGB New York to Moscow, 15 January 1945.
  • Venona decrypt 326 KGB Moscow to New York, 5 April 1945;
  • Venona decrypt 3614–3615 KGB Washington to Moscow, 22 June 1945.
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press (1999), pgs. 42-43, 111, 114, 187, 199-201, 204, 220, 331, 402.
  • United States National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (OIAA) (Record Group 229), 1937-51
  • Overview for Records of the Office of Inter-American Affairs (RG 229). National Archives. Retrieved on March 22, 2006.
  • Gisela Cramer and Ursula Prutsch, "Nelson A. Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs (1940-1946) and Record Group 229" in: Hispanic-American Historical Review, 86:4 (November 2006), pp. 785–806

Further reading

  • Maxwell, Allen Brewster, Evoking Latin American collaboration in the Second World War: A study of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (1940–1946), PhD dissertation, Tufts University, Medford, MA., 1971.
  • Rockefeller Family Archives, Record Group #04, Record Group Name: Nelson A. Rockefeller, Personal, Washington, D.C. Files - Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, Dates: August 1940-December 1944
  • Rowland, Donald W., History of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, US Government Printing Office, 1947. (United States Office of Inter-American Affairs)