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For the caboclo of the Amazon flood-plain, jabbing the blade of his paddle into the silty waters of the wide main stream, or gliding through a tunnel of trees and vines in some small black-water tributary, there is one Brazilian reality. Quite another exists for the northeastern vaqueiro, riding in leather armor through the thorny bush of his drought-smitten land. Different images of their country are held by a gold-miner in Minas Gerais, a herva-mate gatherer in Mato Grosso, a sheepherder in Rio Grande do Sul, a coffee planter in São Paulo or another of the many regional types of rural Brazil. The factory hand or the construction worker may think back with nostalgia to the countryside from which he came, but now Brazil is to him a throbbing manufacturing center, an urban sprawl, perhaps a hillside shanty town inserted in a beautiful landscape and overlooking luxurious apartment buildings.
There is, indeed, an extraordinary diversity in the land and in the peoples of Brazil. This diversity separates regions of different latitudes, geological structures, land forms, climate and vegetation. It also separates people who live side by side but in different cultural ages-some whose only tool may be a simple hoe, others employing the most advanced technology. And it is precisely in the light of this cultural diversity, interacting with a complex pattern of physical and biotic features, that Brazil's unity appears so surprising.
The personality of the country-so hard to pin down-is being molded by the combination and assimilation of very heterogeneous ethnic and cultural components. Inhabited until the sixteenth century by a Stone-Age people, Brazil has been the physically diversified stage for a unique and impressive mingling of Europeans, Africans and Orientals-among themselves and with the aboriginal stock.
Whereas the Spaniards, at the time of the Conquista, were able to cram their galleons with treasures accumulated by the subjugated natives, the Portuguese had to turn to the more prosaic chores of agriculture. In this they were handicapped by the fact that the total population of the mother country was only of the order of 1,300,000 inhabitants and that their overseas colonies in Africa and the Orient quite often represented a tremendous drain on arms, money-and men. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that the keynote of expansion and settlement came to be miscegenation. Portuguese blood was spread thin, but half-breeds-like the Portuguese-Indian mamelucos, fanning out from São Paulo-established the sovereignty of Portugal over literally millions of square miles.
After four centuries, there are still some isolated tribes of Indians, part living in unexplored regions, part being intruded upon by civilization. Sometimes this contact involves bloody conflicts, such as the massacre of July 1962, when the Apuranã, considered to be "pacified" and more or less integrated, butchered seven whites and left more than one hundred wounded in a rubber-gathering area along the Purus river. Notwithstanding such guerrilla warfare, the Indian is being rapidly assimilated and disappearing as an individualized component of the Brazilian population, of which he represents, according to liberal estimates, considerably less than 0.2 percent.
As the Amerinds soon proved to be uncoöperative and inefficient workers- from the point of view of the Portuguese, that is-settlers resorted to slave labor imported from Africa. According to the last available census data, Negroes represent roughly 10 percent of the present population. But four centuries of intermarriage have resulted in innumerable shadings from white to brown to black, and not too much reliance should be placed on this figure or others pertaining to classification by ethnic groups. They are certainly not of much concern to the vast majority of Brazilians, used to a free and easy association among the races.
Starting in 1808, when foreigners were assured the right of land ownership, immigration from Europe and the Orient has occurred in more or less well defined waves, each characterized by the predominance, but not exclusiveness, of one ethnic group. Thus, there was a German, an Italian, a Japanese phase. Some immigrants came to settle as freeholders, like the Germans and Italians in Rio Grande do Sul. Others, like the Italians in São Paulo, arrived to pick up the rudimentary implements which the plantation Negroes dropped upon abolition of slavery. In some cases, small contingents of immigrants caused a cultural impact out of proportion to their numbers. An extreme case is perhaps that of the French cultural influence, which has put such a lasting stamp on sophisticated circles of Brazilian urban society and which has practically no substratum of French immigration. Throughout all these periods, Portuguese immigrants continued to disembark in what had been their largest colony.
Regardless of the complexity of Brazil's ethnic and cultural composition, one feels there is a unique Brazilian theme ringing through the country-for all the fascinating variations which are played upon it. It is interesting to notice that the fisherman of the Northeast put out to sea in jangadas, a version of the aboriginal raft, or that in many parts of Brazil popular music reflects rhythms harking back to Africa. But such cultural characteristics cut across the different ethnic groups, just as, for instance, certain African religious rites have been adopted by members of the white-skinned population-even by some upper-class whites.
The importance of some immigrant groups derives first and foremost from the fact that they are bearers of culture, capable, even in relatively small numbers, of enriching the Brazilian heritage. It does not derive from their limited contribution to the very rapid growth of the Brazilian population. In fact, it is doubtful if non-Portuguese immigrants and their Brazilian- born offspring represent more than 10 percent of the present population, whose upsurge is mainly due to natural increment. The main factor here is a very high birth rate, which more than offsets a high but rapidly declining death rate.
In 1850, the citizens of Brazil numbered a mere 7,200,000, well below the population of France, Italy or Spain. In 1960, Brazil, mustering 71,000,000 people, had far outstripped these countries and had become, in number of inhabitants, the foremost country of Latin language and-with various enrichments-Latin culture. Should the rate of decennial increase continue around the 37 percent observed in the period 1950-60, Brazil will be pushing the 100,000,000 mark by 1970.
The age structure of the Brazilian population shows a very high proportion of young people in relation to those in the productive ages, who thus have to bear a heavy burden of dependency. This situation is, of course, unfavorable to the accumulation of capital and the economic development of the country. Furthermore, with so many mouths to feed, children and adolescents are called on very early to work as helpers, especially in the rural areas, and are unable to finish-or often even to start-schooling. A high rate of illiteracy is, therefore, an added obstacle to the raising of living standards.
To say that the average density of population in Brazil is around 25 inhabitants per square mile (1960 census) is hardly very illuminating, since the people are most unequally arranged over the vast land, with a remarkable concentration along the coast. An outstanding feature of the geographical distribution of Brazil's people is the existence of an immense area which has less than two and a half persons per square mile and which comprises practically all the Amazon region, a large part of Mato Grosso state (along the border with Bolivia and Paraguay) and a section of northern Goiás state in central Brazil. Within this area, one may find single municípios, like Caracaraí (in the far north) or Diamantino (Mato Grosso state), each with an area about equal to that of Arkansas, supporting a population of 3,321 and 4,148, respectively; this means a density of merely 0.05 and 0.08 inhabitants per square mile.
Most Brazilians, in fact, live in a belt some 300-400 miles wide, skirting the coast from the eastern bulge of Brazil to Rio Grande do Sul in the far south (where it occupies the entire width of the country) and presenting a major protrusion into southern Goiás. Densities within the belt vary considerably and the involved distributional patterns which result are explained by a web of physical and historical factors. Although some rural patches in this belt may boast densities in excess of 200 people per square mile, they are exceptional, and one still finds considerable areas-some almost literally within earshot of the Atlantic surf-which support scarcely more than a dozen people per square mile.
The pattern of population distribution is not only intricate but rapidly changing, as areas with exhausted soils become relatively depopulated and new pioneer fronts are opened up (as in the state of Paraná, south of São Paulo, whose population increased by over 100 percent in the 1950s). While some "islands" of denser population are relicts of former economic cycles, others are at the receiving end of an unceasing stream of migrants.
One important change, which is occurring all over Brazil-but is obviously not peculiar to the country-is the intense shift of the population toward the city. According to data from the last two censuses (1950 and 1960), it far overshadows, in sheer numbers involved, the push into previously unoccupied or sparsely settled areas. In effect, Brazil's urban population increased during that decade at more than three times the rate of the rural population. The most striking illustrations of this fantastic urban growth are offered by Brazil's two largest metropolitan areas, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, each of which now has more than 5,000,000 people. The phenomenon is observable all the way down the line and does not stop at the level of the state capitals. And, of course, each city has its sibling shanty town, perching impudently on steep slopes, like the favelas of Rio; advancing on stilts into tidal ooze, like the mocambos of Recife; or swaying gently on the surface of the waters, like the cidade flutuante (floating city), which has recently sprouted on more than a thousand rafts, log-jammed in front of Manaus on the upper Amazon.
This mass movement of people from the rural areas to the cities obviously has profound social, economic and political implications. For, as pointed out recently by Professor T. Lynn Smith, the millions of humble folk transplanted from the countryside represent precisely that part of the Brazilian population which is least prepared educationally, economically, culturally and politically to cope with the problems of life in the nation's great metropolitan centers.
Varied are the motives for the farm to city migration. Some are factors of attraction: as Professor Charles Wagley has said, Brazilians are profoundly urban in their hopes, being seduced by the glitter and vivacity of the city. But the value attached to the urban way of life is further enhanced by the dismal prospects facing the majority of rural dwellers. And the majority of Brazilians-notwithstanding the existence of 31 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants-are still rural, 55 percent of the population being thus classified as late as 1960.
The way in which a substantial part of the farmlands of Brazil were occupied has resulted in the erosion, not only of the soil, but of man's legitimate aspirations of finding, in a parcel of good earth, a reasonable living for himself and his family. In effect, when the threshold of the New World was crossed, habits of thrift, learned from thousands of years of agriculture in the limited confines of Europe, were cast aside. Such habits involved a type of agriculture where diversified farming was coupled with the keeping of livestock, and both integrated an unbroken biological cycle. But on the new shores, land was, or appeared to be, unlimited. And fertility of the soils was, or appeared to be, assured by the age-old accumulation of forest detritus. Instead of crop rotation, shifting agriculture was adopted and has remained dominant to this day. Under this system, land is cleared, cropped, exhausted and abandoned, and new forests are destroyed and their soil plundered. As the pioneers slash and burn their way through virgin territory, the belt of agricultural production is pushed farther and farther from the markets. The depleted lands are usually given over to extensive grazing, while the settlement of new areas obviously exacts fresh investments and compounds the problem of inadequate and costly transportation.
It is true that certain favorable trends may now be discerned, not the least important of which is the shift from an essentially one-crop economy to relatively diversified farming. The job of applying science and technology to farming has begun; here and there, agricultural "know-how" is changing the traditional landscape of rural Brazil. In the interior of Pernambuco in the Northeast, for instance, contour cropping has been used in one commercial enterprise to conserve soil and precious water; in São Paulo there is increasing acceptance of conservation practices and irrigation of coffee orchards is also receiving recognition, while mechanized wheat farming is producing a sophisticated pattern of agriculture in Rio Grande do Sul.
However, inhibiting customs and attitudes and an unsound institutional framework still prevent the full application of available agricultural technology to the major part of Brazilian farmlands. Thus, for instance, although owners of many big estates are personally wealthy, their agricultural undertakings are for the most part undercapitalized, as shown by inadequacy or absence of farm machinery and insufficient or non-existent storage facilities. Such operators may stretch their financial resources in order to own more land or to take a plunge in non-agricultural enterprises, but rarely consider plowing back a significant portion of their returns into the land they already own, with a view to improving it.
When such questions as low productivity in agriculture, prevalent rural poverty and widespread destruction of natural resources are reviewed, the very root of the problem is sometimes overlooked-that is, the institutional framework of agricultural production. The dominant features of Brazil's agrarian structure are large estates and extensive agriculture. Properties of over 2,500 acres hardly add up to more than 2 percent of the total number of establishments; yet, some of them are so immense that together they comprise more than 50 percent of the country's farmland.
Areas dominated by the large fazendas, or latifúndios, where land is used much less intensively than on the small farms, represent effective barriers to cultural, social and technological change. Coöperatives do not thrive there. Illiteracy and mortality rates are high. Vertical mobility is difficult and horizontal mobility the rule.
In a country where 80 to 90 percent of the population active in agriculture do not possess the land they work on, and receive a pittance for their labors, it is not surprising that social unrest should flare up in widely scattered incidents. Tremendous social injustices in the rural areas have offered an ideal medium for the development of great tensions and have favored a climate of subversion, skillfully exploited by agitators and opportunists.
There is crying need for measures which will lead to a more equitable distribution of land and the establishment of a rural middle class in Brazil. Few topics have consumed more ink or spittle during recent years than that of agrarian or land reform. It has been a favorite plank for politicians, and the philosophical-political approaches to the theme range through the entire spectrum, from promoting middle-class family farms to advocating state take-over. What Brazil needs is certainly not a mere redistribution of land, nor letters of marque for indiscriminate invasion of property. A land reform which will permit the greatest possible number of people to own, manage and work their piece of ground must assure the farmer clear title to the land and water rights, credit, technical assistance, coöperative organization and the possibility of developing rural industries-among other things. Meticulous attention to such "prosaic" details-a hallmark of the professional, as opposed to the soapbox approach- will make the difference between accomplishment and utter, demoralizing failure.
Take, for instance, the matter of clear-cut titles of ownership. A profitable lesson can be learned from what is perhaps the most successful of all large-scale pioneering settlement ventures in Brazil-that carried out by a railroad and colonization company in northwestern Paraná state. In order to guarantee future purchasers clear title to the land, the enterprise bought up all titles presented-even if it meant acquiring the same tract five or six times. This procedure has paid off handsomely and the development stands out in sharp contrast to most pioneer areas, where land grabbing and unending disputes represent an impediment to rural stability.
In considering a reform designed to oppose at one time the idle, unproductive latifundium and the ineffectual minijundium, one might ask if it is possible to find in Brazil any real-life situation capable of proving that the proposed targets are actually feasible and not a mere pipedream.
The answer is in the affirmative. There are, indeed, in existence, quite a few undertakings capable of furnishing useful guideposts for such a program. This is the case, for example, with several agricultural enterprises in southern Brazil, like Holambra, a successful Dutch community of more than a hundred families, enjoying a high standard of living in São Paulo, some 75 miles from the state capital. This venture has shown that reclamation of exhausted lands can be turned to good account. Founded on diversified crop and livestock farming and handled on a coöperative basis, the enterprise has recovered a derelict estate and is now establishing a second development. Holambra is recognized as a remarkable success. To find the reasons for this success is the first step in assessing the possibility of its being repeated on a large scale.
One important factor was the attitude of the farmers in regard to the land. Although inexperienced with the problems of subtropical agriculture, they preferred to come to grips with the many difficulties encountered and bend every effort in mastering them, rather than breaking camp and moving on to some other site over the hill. Being literate and accustomed to using the results of scientific agronomic research, they made good use of the information available in the renowned Agronomic Institute, located 25 miles away, in Campinas (1960 pop. 180,000).
Equally important was their ability and willingness to invest capital in their venture. Of course, the choice of a propitious site, with a topography suited to mechanization, and good roads connecting the enterprise with a rapidly expanding urban market (also a source of fertilizer, in the form of garbage) were not irrelevant to the success achieved. Finally, cultural unity has permitted the group to maintain, develop and make good use of their common heritage, and an effective coöperative organization has enabled them to combine the benefits of a system of privately owned, family-sized farms (averaging 90 acres) with those of a large and aggressive concern.
One result of the low productivity levels still prevalent in most Brazilian agricultural ventures has been the negligible purchasing power of the rural population. This prevents the country's industry from cashing in on what could otherwise be a significant domestic market. And industry is hungry for expanded markets, for it has grown at a tremendous pace in recent years; in the 1950s industrial income overtook that produced by agriculture.
As manufacturing develops and diversifies, it tends to become more and more concentrated in the southeastern region, long the political heartland of Brazil. Three-fourths of the national labor force is employed in this developing industrial belt, which reaches across parts of the states of São Paulo, Guanabara (the former federal district), Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. In fact, the growth of the southeastern manufacturing heartland has to some extent been at the expense of the inhabitants of other regions.
Regional contrasts in growth rates between the underdeveloped northern and the vigorous southern halves of the country have long been denounced, and there is even reference to a paralelo fatídico, an "ill-omened parallel,"' which is supposed to partition Brazil into "have" and "have-not" areas. Lest lack of advance be equated with low latitude, in a facile rationale of climatic determinism, it may be added that Rio Grande do Sul, the state of Brazil farthest from the equator, recently showed acute signs of economic imbalance. According to a study carried out by the National Council of Economy, this proved to be the effect of price controls adopted by the federal government which affected farm products and agriculturally oriented industries, the foundation of Rio Grande do Sul's economy.
Deliberate efforts to spread the benefits of industry and counteract its increasing concentration in the Southeast have been embodied in legislation enacted for the Northeast and subsequently extended to the Amazon region. It permits a reduction of income taxes proportionate to amounts invested in industries considered useful in promoting regional development. On the other hand, what promises to be one of the most effective means of stimulating the healthy development of medium and small manufacturing centers in the backlands is now getting under way in the Cariri Valley of semi-arid Ceará state, in the Northeast. Here more than 150 springs, issuing from a vast sandstone tableland, permit the concentration of about half a million people in the oasis-like area, where a number of small cottage industries have gradually developed, producing cutlery, fishhooks, leather goods, clocks, muzzle-loading firearms, lace, hammocks and similar handcrafts.
In 1961, Morris Asimow, a professor of industrial engineering at U.C.L.A., became interested in the potentialities of the area, which is now receiving energy from the important Paulo Afonso hydroelectric plant on the Rio São Francisco. With the help of Brazilian and North American students, he made feasibility studies and designed specific small-industry projects for the area. Included were such diversified establishments as a corn-processing plant, a powdered-milk factory and small-scale engineering manufactures with facilities for building sewing machines, electric motors, radios and similar equipment. The ways and means by which these projects were set up and are being implemented are instructive in more ways than one. Plans were not based merely upon the natural resources of the area, but also upon assets which are only too often neglected: human resources-with consideration for the previous training in, and attitude toward, handcrafts already developed by workers and artisans in the Cariri.
The Asimow approach is essentially a grass-roots one and makes for the widest possible participation of the parties most directly interested in the development of the area. The people of the Cariri were not handed something on a platter by a remote authority, paternalistic and, at heart, skeptical about their capacity to go it on their own. The study team, playing a purely catalytic role, pointed out opportunities and the people of the Cariri were quick to take them.
And in so doing they appear to have unwittingly shaken a widely prevalent planning philosophy, by which the initiative of government in the capital- forming process is prerequisite to closing the gap between the two economic halves of Brazil. For people in the Cariri-merchants, farmers and professional groups-proved to have savings which they were willing to invest after being convinced of the viability of the new ventures. Although conditioned to the idea of individual or family-owned enterprises, they were willing to try corporative ownership. Forming corporations with from 20 to 300 stockholders, they raised the amazing total of almost one million dollars, about half the necessary capital to get started (the other being underwritten by the federal Bank of the Nordeste).
It is true that implementation of the plan has encountered more difficulties than appear to have been anticipated by its promoters: some individual projects had to be shelved and others are lagging behind schedule. Quite typically, sharply accelerated inflation-freely condoned by a "developmentist" government-has been one of the major obstacles encountered in this attempt to develop a backward part of Brazil. While the working capital was being collected from the individual stockholders, and emissaries shuttled back and forth with never ending paper work, trying to obtain the government bank's approval-and matching loans-prices of required machinery and equipment spiraled out of reach of the nascent industries. When the writer visited the area last summer, additional capital was being underwritten and other adjustments were being made in the light of experience gained since the feasibility studies were completed. Not only were some projects getting into the production stage, but several new industries, totally independent of Professor Asimow's program, had been spawned or had found nurture in the climate of optimism generated by his plan.
If the Cariri pilot project proves to be successful, the basic approaches adopted, with indispensable attunement to local conditions, may blaze the way for accelerating the economic development not only of the Brazilian Northeast but of other underdeveloped areas of Latin America. By providing non-agricultural jobs in rural areas, decentralized industrialization of this type can prevent the inevitable movement of labor out of agriculture from becoming a catastrophic exodus. The shift from the agricultural to the industrial sector can thus take place without a major geographical displacement, without further crowding of the big cities.
The natural physical and biotic attributes of an area may be considered, for practical purposes, invariable, but not so man's interpretation of that environment: technological advances may play down disadvantages and maximize assets. Conversely, inadequate techniques may allow valuable resources to lie idle or, even worse, promote their accelerated destruction. The relations of people to land, therefore, are conditioned by a number of cultural, man-made factors: scientific, technological and administrative tools, which are theoretically accessible to all mankind, and the specific institutional framework of a given region or country, which favors or hinders the use of such levers for development.
Time and again, the student of Brazilian geography is made to realize that obstacles arising from the natural environment may be less significant in narrowing the economic capability of a nation than are, for instance, sins of omission and commission on the part of its leaders. And yet, when backward areas are considered-and there are many in Brazil-only too often there is a tendency to explain them in terms of milieu or race. Since nine- tenths of Brazil's territory lies within the inter-tropical belt, the country's future has frequently been assessed in the light of all the still current prejudices concerning the humid low latitudes. Now, Brazil's natural endowments are far from niggardly. There are vast tracts of good arable land, and recent studies have shown that a large part of even the poorest soils-such as the Amazon uplands or the west central plateau- although extremely low in fertility, often have good natural structure and by no means should be written off as useless. They constitute potential farmland, which may be brought into production some day, when it becomes economically feasible to make additional investments in the form of fertilizer and good husbandry. On the other hand, the mineral deposits of Brazil-with metallurgical ores in the front rank-and its vast hydroelectrical potential form an ample basis for the continued development of a powerful domestic industry. In fact, in terms of many leading minerals and of power resources, Brazil's reserves easily place it among the four or five best endowed countries in the world.
In so far as human resources are concerned, it seems hardly necessary here to refute such racial prejudices as conceive some direct relation between underdevelopment and negative innate characteristics of the local population. It is true, however, that the human factor will become fully effective only when girded with the proper cultural and economic equipment. In this connection, the writer always thinks of one particular group of farmers in the Northeast who were observed wreaking great havoc on the semi- arid landscape with improper farming methods; their unusual capacity for destruction derived not from some fault, such as laziness, but precisely from a virtue, diligence.
What, then, is missing for the harmonious development of the country's various economic sectors and its varied geographic regions-a development so essential to political stability?
Brazil has undergone the changes from colony to monarchy to republic and has weathered several revolutions in the course of its history. None of these movements effectively demolished the archaic social and economic framework carried over from colonial times. The revolution of 1930 might have ushered in profound structural changes, but Vargas and his successors left virtually untouched the economic and political privileges of the bem nascidos, the "well born," in the apt expression used by José Fernando Carneiro, one of the sharpest and best informed observers of the Brazilian political scene.
Consider the case of agrarian reform, which recently ousted President Goulart appeared to champion, much to the distress of absentee landowners who trembled for their latifundia. A 48-page report, now released by the Brazilian National Security Council, reveals the fact, long suspected in some circles, that Vargas' political heir had been going about a little agrarian reform of his own. In his name or in that of members of his family or business associates, he had collected some 1,750,000 acres of land, an area equivalent to seven times that of Guanabara state! And, since this property was made up of widely scattered establishments, Air Force planes were sometimes employed to link the fazendas and transport everything from cattle to building materials. Here, then, is another instance of the long line of frauds which have been perpetuated upon the Brazilian people by self-styled champions of the unfortunate.
Instead of prying loose, from an overprivileged minority, control over the actual and potential riches offered by a generous earth, they have woven a mesh of restrictions which have progressively worsened the relation of men and the land. One example of the way in which administrative incompetence added to political manipulation has adversely affected geographical patterns and relationships is that of shipping. With a shoreline of some 4,000 miles, endowed with several excellent harbors, and a population concentrated near the coast, sea-borne trade would appear to be a natural and vital link in Brazil's economy. However, the assets of geography were practically cancelled out, as ships and cargo-handling equipment became obsolete and harbors were allowed to silt up. Even more important than such physical impediments to shipping are the institutional distortions resulting from the astute selection of longshoremen and merchant seamen as one of the mainstays of demagogical, "populist" governments. The last few years have witnessed the development of a domestic shipbuilding industry and some improvement of port facilities, but at the same time the new caste of "dockside maharajahs," as they have been called, grew in power and ruthlessness. Exerting a complete monopoly of the shipside labor market, they demanded and obtained from an obliging government extravagant privileges, which set them entirely apart from other, politically less strategic members of the working class. For princely pay, as little work as possible. With ships spending less time at sea than standing by for loading and unloading, with cost of dockside operations increasing day by day, and with pilferage rampant, the sea routes were destined to be abandoned by shippers, largely in favor of quicker, safer-and, all things considered, more economical-transportation by truck. A striking example of this state of affairs was reported in Rio's Jornal do Brasil when a certain corporation invited truckers to bid for the job of hauling 20,000 tons of common salt from its salterns on the coast of Rio Grande do Norte to southeastern Brazil. The corporation was: Companhia Comércio e Navegacão, one of the largest coastal shipping companies in the country.
Those students of Brazilian geography who include in their considerations the role of governments in changing the fate of the earth-for better or for worse-will find an overwhelming number of items to set down on the negative side of the ledger, starting with agrarian reform (or rather, lack of same), proceeding to Brasília and going on down the line to a zigzagging, irresponsible economic policy. And yet there are those who believe that the revolution which broke out last March, in the midst of almost complete chaos, actually cut short Brazil's march toward the redemption of the common man. It is certainly a pity that some otherwise judicious observers should be so unwilling to face the facts of life; that they should so naïvely fail to distinguish between the claims of the group recently toppled from power (who basked in the image of a progressive government, devoted to social welfare and jousting with the evil knights of reaction), and the reality of corruption, opportunism and political nest-feathering, which so disgusted reform-minded democrats in Brazil. Partly to blame, perhaps, for such lack of perspective is a sort of tacit "conspiracy of silence" on the part of certain intellectuals, lest in recognizing the true character of Brazil's "populist" leaders of recent years they should appear hostile to the banners which the latter so enthusiastically unfurled. Many of these banners are just and worthy, and since they fell into soiled hands, it is time they were retrieved and carried forward.
Of course, there are those who would like to see such motifs safely out of the way and forgotten. These people regarded the recent revolution as having saved them definitely and permanently from the danger of Communism, thus assuring them of the right to continue peacefully to exploit their fellowmen, while proclaiming the need of safeguarding "Christian civilization." They may have rejoiced too soon. For it does not look as if the present government intends to limit its action to a mere house- cleaning, but is bent on effecting structural changes, from the basement up.
In his first half-year in office, President Castello Branco has sent close to 150 messages to Congress, almost half propounding reforms of a social, fiscal and administrative nature. Five of these reforms will require changes in the 1946 Constitution. With respect to agrarian reform, for instance, the proposed amendment would permit payment of expropriated latifundia in government bonds, thus removing the effective barrier represented by the existing constitutional requirement that such payments be made in cash.
Brazil's new leadership seems to have avoided the unforgivable sin of ignoring the count-down and to have understood that the archaic structure inherited from colonial times must be replaced without delay, so that resources-and technology wherewith to exploit them-may become available to the greatest number of people, in all regions of the half-continent.