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The Nixon Tapes:
Secret Recordings from the Nixon White House
on Luis Echeverría and Much Much More

Sidebar: Nixon Speaks

by Kate Doyle

Posted - August 18, 2003

Sidebar - Playing the Right Games
Sidebar - Nixon Speaks
Sidebar - The Tapes
Link - Proceso Magazine


Richard Nixon never shrank from voicing his opinions - however uninformed they might be - on a wide range of matters. On October 7, 1971, the President spoke by phone with his Ambassador to the United Nations, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, on the ability of Africans to lead nations.

Nixon: I'm not saying that Blacks cannot govern. I am saying they have a hell of a time.
Moynihan: Mm-hmm.
Nixon: Now that must demonstrate something. Now, having said that, let's look at Latin America. Latin America's had 150 years of trying at it and they don't have much going down there either. Mexico is a one party government; Colombia, they trade it off every two years; Venezuela is tiptee-toe, and the rest are dictatorships except for Allende, which is a communist dictatorship - elected, but communist.
Now, let me come back to another point. [. . .] I think you may have heard me tell of my conversation with [Luis] Muñoz Marín [first governor of Puerto Rico], who, incidentally was capable of governing.
Moynihan: Yes.
Nixon: [. . .] In '58, after Lima and Caracas, I stopped there. And he and I talked all night… and he, drinking his scotch and all, and he really lived it up… [laughing] And I, trying to keep up with him - practically dead! But he made a very interesting point, very late - early in the early morning hours. He said, look, he says, I shouldn't say this, he said, "But Mr. Vice-President, my people have many fine qualities, I mean, they're courteous… they're, they're family people…in the arts… and you know, philosophy, et cetera." But he said, "I will have to admit, my people" - speaking of Latins generally - "have never been very good at government."
Moynihan: Yeah.
Nixon: Now let's look at that. The Italians aren't any good at government. The Spanish aren't any good at government.
Moynihan: Yeah.
Nixon: The French have had a hell of a time, and they're half Latin. And all of Latin America's not any good at government. They either go to one extreme or the other. It's either a family - well, three extremes: family oligarchy, or a dictatorship - a dictatorship on the right or one on the left. Very seldom in the center. Now having said all that, however, as you compare the Latin dictatorships, governments, etc. and their forms of government, they are - they at least do it their way. It is an orderly way which works relatively well. They have been able to run the damn place! [. . .]
Now what I am getting [at] is this: [. . .] Asians are capable of governing themselves, one way or another. We and the Caucasians have learned it after slaughtering each other in religious wars and other wars for many, many years, including a couple in the last - this century. The Latins do it in a miserable way, but they do it. But the Africans just can't run things. Now that's a very, very fundamental point in the international scene. See my point?

Whatever Nixon thought of the Mexicans' ability to run a country, he repeatedly professed to like them as people. He said as much on May 13, 1971, when he spoke in the Oval Office to Dr. Merlin K. DuVal ("Monty"), Assistant Secretary of Health.]

DuVal: [. . .] We've become very fond of Mexico, we go there as often as possible.
Nixon: Do you? [Inaudible] across from the Tucson area, Mexicali?
DuVal: No, further east, Nogales.
Nixon: Nogales, Nogales, Nogales of course.
DuVal: We're very much at home in Mexico and we travel back and forth freely and my wife does very well with Spanish and we have a lot of friends down as far as . . .
Nixon: Do you have any property? Did you buy anything?
DuVal: No, but we should.
Nixon: You should. No, really, I think it's an excellent investment. It's a stable country, one of the few in Latin America - it has the stability, and to the extent that they'll let you, you should really have some property down there. Great people too, aren't they?
DuVal: Absolutely marvelous.
Nixon: You've got to get to know the Mexicans. And I - so many people particularly in my state in California - I mean and they sorta look down their noses at the Mexicans. Here in the East, as you know, everybody is obsessed about the Blacks, and the Mexicans are put upon much worse than the Blacks from an economic standpoint. They're in a horrible condition in Los Angeles and other places, but ah . . . they have such quality. They can't manage anything very well, but - generally speaking -
DuVal: Even if they can't -
Nixon: . . . They can't do anything very well! [Laughing] But on the other hand, they work, they're loyal, they have a . . . a warmth, a warmth that is very real. I mean, most of the Latins are poets.
DuVal: And they're very warm.
Nixon: Yeah that's right. It's true! It's true!

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