The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, later known as the Office for Inter-American Affairs, was a United States agency promoting inter-American cooperation (Pan-Americanism) 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.
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 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 OCIAA grew to be a large Federal agency with a budget of $38 million by 1942 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.
|You may listen to the Alfredo Antonini CBS Tipica Orchestra performing with Juan Arvizu and John Serry Sr. in 1942 here|
The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs was established in August 1940 by order of the U.S. Council of National Defense, and operated with funds from both the government and the private sector.:10–11 By executive order July 30, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the OCIAA within the Office for Emergency Management of the Executive Office of the President, "to provide for the development of commercial and cultural relations between the American Republics and thereby increasing the solidarity of this hemisphere and furthering the spirit of cooperation between the Americas in the interest of hemisphere defense."
The mission of the OCIAA was cultural diplomacy, promoting hemispheric solidarity and countering the growing influence of the Axis powers in Latin America. The OCIAA's Motion Picture Division played an important role in documenting history and shaping opinion toward the Allied nations, particularly after the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941. To support the war effort — and for their own audience development throughout Latin America — Hollywood studios partnered with the U.S. government on a nonprofit basis, making films and incorporating Latin American stars and content into their commercial releases.:10–11
During the 1940s the CBS radio broadcasting network also contributed to the OCIAA's cultural initiatives by establishing the CBS Pan American Orchestra to showcase prominent musical artists from both North and South America on its Viva América program. Broadcasts to Latin America were coordinated by the OCIAA with CBS' "La Cadena de Las Américas" (Network of the Americas) shortwave radio and radiotelephone systems as envisioned by William S. Paley. Included among the international contributors were: Alfredo Antonini (Italian-American conductor), Terig Tucci (Argentine composer), John Serry Sr. (Italian-American accordionist), Elsa Miranda (Puerto Rican vocalist), Eva Garza (Mexican-American vocalist), Nestor Mesa Chaires (Mexican tenor), Juan Arvizu (Mexican tenor) and Edmund A. Chester (American journalist).  The OCIAA also supported cultural programming on the CBS radio network which included performances by such Hollywood luminaries as Edward G. Robinson and Rita Hayworth.
Artists working in a variety of disciplines were appointed goodwill ambassadors to Latin America by the OCIAA, which also sponsored a variety of cultural tours. A select listing includes Misha Reznikoff and photojournalist Genevieve Naylor (October 1940–May 1943); Bing Crosby (August–October 1941); Walt Disney (August–October 1941); Aaron Copland (August–December 1941); George Balanchine and the American Ballet (1941); Orson Welles (1942); Rita Hayworth (1942); Grace Moore (1943); and John Ford and Gregg Toland (1943).:245
In its early days, a particular concern of the OCIAA 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.
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.
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. 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 to make an educational film about the Amazon Basin and it resulted in the 1944 animated short, The Amazon Awakens.
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.
The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs was penetrated by Soviet intelligence during World War II. The agency's code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Cabaret".:200 These American citizens were employees of the OCIAA and engaged in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union:
Aided by United States tax laws that provided for expenditures made by the radio industry
Immediately after the fall of France there was unanimity of feeling within the Roosevelt administration that something had to be done about Latin America...
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Films at the Internet Archive