Courtesy Reuters

Central America: Real Economic Help is Workable Now

The political problems of Central America and their implications for the United States naturally have been foremost in the minds of those few Americans who have thought about the area at all. U.S. involvement historically has been motivated mainly by political considerations, and political events dominate the media currently. The economic situation today, however, is the one that requires our most urgent attention. In Central America's current state, political solutions are more likely to flow from economic events than the other way around. The people of Central America want jobs and food more than they want either revolution or elections; they cannot understand why we don't help.

Ask Central Americans in any country or any walk of life today where they want American involvement, and nine out of ten will reply in economic terms. Most realize that there are definite limitations on the possible degree of American political or military involvement-and most are glad.

Not so with economic involvement. It is a matter of eternal puzzlement to our Central American neighbors that, after the vast sums we have spent in the most distant arenas of the world power struggle, we cannot muster the modest amounts that now would make such a telling difference in their small economies. That perception and the resulting frustrations and resentment can produce populations widely hostile to the United States-for the first time. Such a possibility, in my view, is the most worrisome Central American threat to U.S. long-term security, and to its moral position in the hemisphere.

In its report of January, the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America-generally known as the Kissinger Commission-recommended a five-year program of economic aid for Central America. At the time of writing, that recommendation is before the Congress and its disposition is uncertain. Many, both in the Congress and in the public at large, are concerned that an economic program cannot begin to take effect for some time, and that the resources required may be too vast to

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