GENERALS ROYAL B. LORD AND JUAN PERÓN
Redeployment of U.S. troops in Europe was a movement to shift the bulk of General Eisenhower's men to the Pacific and the command of General MacArthur. It required the full-time attention of a major general.
The man assigned to superintend the greatest moving day in history was dapper, schoolmasterish Major General Royal B. Lord of the Corps of Engineers.(1)
(Time Magazine, Monday, 30 April, 1945.)
A new note of cordiality crept into U.S.-Argentine relations last week.
Out of their special Argentine plane stepped ten leaders of the American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.). They had come to Buenos Aires at the invitation of Juan Perón and his General Confederation of Workers (C.G.T.) They also intended to "survey" Argentine labor and to find out whether C.G.T.'s 800,000 card holders (about 60% of all Argentine workers) would make suitable members for a projected Inter-American Federation of Labor. At week's end, though one delegate complained of being taken on "Russian tours," all were still hopeful that the Inter-American Federation could be formed, as a rival to the left-wing Latin-American Federation of Labor, which is affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.)
Plans & Turbines. An even more curious delegation (composed of U.S. military men, engineers and New Dealers) was also in Buenos Aires last week. Led by earnest, social-conscious Major General Royal B. Lord, U.S.A., retired, and onetime deputy chief of staff to General Eisenhower, the first 13 experts of the newly formed Inter-American Construction Corp. (I.A.C.C.) were already consulting with Perón's five-year planners. Their purpose: 1) to sell Argentina U.S. technical know-how for the plan's 69 hydroelectric projects, port, canal and irrigation works; 2) to sell for U.S. manufacturers $2 billion worth of turbines, trucks, tools and necessary materials. Among the I.A.C.C. experts are Engineers L. F. Harza [Harza Engineering Company] and Theodore Knappen, who once worked for Standard Oil, and New Deal Economists Lauchlin Currie [Harvard, died in Colombian exile] and Robert R. Nathan [later of Robert R. Nathan Associates]. The first fruits of the mission's counsel were announced last week: the purchase by the Argentine state railways of 90 diesel-electric locomotives for $20 million.(2) Said Perón of the new technical collaboration: "This is a great historical event." It was the first time that such a gigantic project had been entrusted by Argentina to the U.S.
Welcome Addition. Next day Perón announced even more impressive news. With an eye cocked on Washington, where important U.S.-Latin American policy decisions are brewing, he announced that his
Government would buy (not seize) the $100,000,000 assets of 60 Axis firms in Argentina. Said the State Department with new cordiality: "An important step ... a welcome addition to the measures already taken in
respect to Nazi educational and other institutions."
(Time Magazine, Monday, 3 February, 1947.)
As soon as President Juan Domingo Perón gave the signal last fall, Argentina's Government press went lyrical over his Five-Year Plan. The Plan Quinquenal, chorused the press, would bring hydroelectric plants, irrigation, new ports, housing, highways, airports and all the benefits of modern industrialization to Argentina. The cost: $1,650,000,000. But for several months now Perón's papers have been silent. Last week the reason for the silence became as obvious as the unbuilt dams. Argentina is short of money for the plan.
The plight of the plan, and of Argentina, was summed up in a blunt letter written to Perón by slim, brisk Major General Royal B. Lord, U.S.A., retired. As president of the Inter-American Construction Corp., Lord was hired by Perón last winter (TIME, Feb. 3) to draw blueprints for the plan's engineering projects. From his cluttered headquarters on Buenos Aires' Calle Uruguay, General Lord wrote:
"It becomes increasingly evident that the Five-Year Plan must either be seriously curtailed in order to prevent more unfavorable trade balances or that other means must be resorted to in order to continue the plan without adversely affecting the economy of the country. . . ."Spendthrift. On the day Lord wrote, Argentina's total gold and foreign exchange dropped below the amount of money in circulation, for the first time in eight years, Argentina, which had been fat with the profits of selling foodstuffs to a hungry world, had splurged like the most reckless Argentine playboy. A U.S. machinery salesman who had hoped to sell the Argentine Government 20 units was amazed when he easily sold 400, is still trying to figure out how the Government can use them.
General Lord suggested to Perón that one way of easing the situation might be to invite foreign capital to help the Plan Quinqnenal. His urging was believed to be partly responsible for last week's lifting by the Central Bank of all restrictions against the entry of foreign capital into Argentina. There was even talk of seeking a U.S. loan. For Perón, this remedy would have a bitter taste. He has boasted that by the end of his six-year term "not an inch of soil, not a breath of air" in Argentina would be alien-owned. Now foreign capital was to receive "the same treatment and rights enjoyed by Argentine capital."
The Government's economic difficulties, the worst since Perón came to power, encouraged the opposition in its criticism and attacks, and also brought about counterattacks. Tubby, nearsighted, German-born Rodolfo Katz, whose weekly Mimeographed Economic Survey has long predicted economic troubles, was taken for a ride and beaten up by men masquerading as policemen. The nationalist Tribuna, which has centered its fire on pale-faced, pudgy Miguel Miranda, Perón's financial czar and president of the Central Bank, was closed on "technical grounds."
Bold Front. For President Perón, busy with last week's reception to visiting Chilean President González Videla, it was all very embarrassing. But he put on a bold front. When the two Presidents journeyed to
Tucumán, to celebrate the anniversary of Argentine political independence declared in that garden city in 1816, Perón issued what he called a declaration of "economic independence." Argentina, he said, had freed
herself of "capitalistic, national and foreign" ties. But one result of the González visit was an Argentine agreement not to build synthetic nitrate plants, but to take its nitrates wholly from Chile.
(Time Magazine, Monday, 21 July, 1947.)
When Major General Royal B. Lord, U.S.A. (ret.) arrived in Buenos Aires 18 months ago to drum up some business for his new construction firm, he heard businessmen denouncing President Perón's new five-year plan for industrialization. "Exactly the kind of talk I heard in the first Roosevelt administration," said West Pointer Lord, who had worked for the New Deal (Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project) long before he worked for Eisenhower in the European Theater of Operations service of supply. Perón, told what Lord had said, sent for him. Soon he was head of the President's "North American Technical Mission" and was advising on the whole five-year plan.
Last week, Engineer Lord was back in his Manhattan offices again. Thanks to him, Perón now understood many of the engineering and economic problems facing the five-year plan, was aware that it would take far more than five years to industrialize farm-minded Argentina. Though his contract had ended on 1 March 1948 "by mutual consent," Lord had praise for Perón, and with reason. The year, said he, had been worth "much more than a million" to his Inter-American Construction Corp. And he was surer than ever that he wanted to do business in Argentina.
With his technical staff, he had visited the headwaters of every Argentine river, studied every public-works project, met every provincial governor. He had learned what labor costs, how the bureaucracy works, where industry might expand. Now, in a private capacity, he meant to go back, bid for the big-money jobs and cash in on U.S. know-how.
For many such jobs, Lord admits, Argentina will need U.S. help. By lavish spending, Argentina has pretty well used up its once fat foreign exchange hoard. For $5 wheat it now gets mostly I.O.U.s. Even the millions the U.S. is likely to spend in Argentina for European Reconstruction Program (ERP) foodstuffs will help little, warns Lord, unless Argentina is allowed to buy U.S. machinery with it. "Steel," says he, "is the key to Argentina's program, and they will have to get it in the U.S."
If Engineer Lord could get steel for the Argentines, he could nail a $40 million contract to build in Buenos Aires what he believes would be the world's largest sewage-disposal plant. Lord also has his eye on
hydroelectric plant and housing contracts. How to get the profits out? "A company can now withdraw profits up to 12% a year on its investment," he says. "Where else can you get 12% on your money?"
(Time Magazine, Monday, 22 March, 1948.)
1. Major-General Royal B. Lord (1899-1963) graduated from the US Military Academy in 1923 with a commission in the Corps of Engineers. He held various staff positions in European Theater of Operations, United States Army, including Chief of Staff, Communications Zone; and Deputy Chief of Staff at Headquarters (1942-1946). He retired in 1946.
2. Apparently, each of the General Electric (model 4GE756, A1A-A1A 900 HP) engines would have cost US$222,000 against US$116,000 for the Whitcomb (model 70DE30 C-C 600 HP) engines supplied by SIAM di Tella at about the same time. More powerful British steam locomotives, FCCA Class CS7 of 1948 and FCS Class 15B of 1949 had an average cost of US$83,100 f.o.b., the latter developing over 1340 HP at 77 km.p.h.