Courtesy Reuters

Labor and Democracy in Latin America

ALTHOUGH the problems of organized labor in Latin America must be considered as a whole, there are many important differences in the situation in the various countries. Despite the outsider's general impression of broad uniformity, the fact is that national conditions and characteristics differ more sharply as between one Latin American nation and another than they do, for instance, as between the United States and Argentina or Uruguay.

Latin America has had no uniform social and economic development, nor, for that matter, does it have a uniform ethnological and cultural background. Argentina, Uruguay and Chile share many Hispano-American qualities; but Brazil, with its Lusitano-American cast, has a language, a racial mixture and a political history that set it distinctly apart from its neighbors. In the Indio-American belt, stretching through the Andes plateau and Central America to Mexico, and embracing Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, there are large sections whose populations still preserve almost intact many elements of the society that existed before the Spanish conquest. The Caribbean nations are characterized by the predominant percentage of Negro inhabitants. The basic national economies of Latin America exhibit similar diversities -- agriculture and cattle-raising in the River Plata areas, mineral resources in the mountain states, petroleum in Venezuela, sugar and derivatives in the Caribbean lands and fruit plantations in the Central American countries.

Unfortunately, one thing that is true of all the Latin American nations is the inferior station accorded labor in the scale of social values. In contrast to the United States, where labor enjoys a substantial degree of respect and social equality, labor in Latin America, particularly of the manual type, is looked down upon. This tendency has been considerably reduced in Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay, and is also diminishing in Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Cuba and other countries as a result of revolutionary social developments in recent years. Despite such signs of progress, the prevailing wage in Latin America does not begin to compare with that of labor in the United States. Working

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