As the 1980s begin, U.S. interests in Latin America are greater than ever while traditional instruments of American government power in the area are far less effective than they have been in preceding decades. Moreover, the domestic component of U.S. policy toward Latin America is getting very explosive, while at the same time new foreign policy power centers in Latin America are emerging. With the end of the bipolar simplicity of a generation ago, and the diminishing international financial, technological and military power of the United States, the relationship between the United States and Latin America has changed profoundly. The great diversification of global power relations is not only reflected in the emergence of the European Community, OPEC, the Nonaligned Nations Movement, and the conflict and competition among communist countries, but also by the growing participation in world trade of the newly industrialized nations such as South Korea, India, Mexico and Brazil. In this less orderly world of assertive nation-states and the transnational forces and organizations they contend with, there are special problems for U.S.-Latin American relations.

World economic and political changes have increased U.S. stakes in Latin America in a number of ways. Continued U.S. dependence on oil imports from the politically volatile Middle East has obviously increased the strategic and economic importance of Mexican oil to the United States. As a major importer of oil, as well as for other reasons, the United States will continue to be forced out of its relatively self-contained economy to compete in world trade. To the extent that the United States has a comparative advantage in Latin America, much of this trade could take place within the Hemisphere-already 80 percent of North American exports to developing countries go to Latin America. By the mid-1980s, Mexico could well be the largest trading partner of the United States. Meanwhile, U.S. banks are dramatically increasing their exposure in Latin America-20 percent of Citibank's profits recently came from Brazil alone. Indeed, Latin America's growing role in international capital markets is indicated by the fact that in the first eight months of 1979 the world's top three borrowers in Eurocurrency bank credits were Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil.1

Our security interests in Latin America are also growing. The proliferation of world political powers-and the greater assertion of small countries-has meant the end of de facto U.S. hegemony in the Caribbean. Thus, the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, with its possible implications for El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the explosive situation in the newly independent East Caribbean ministates such as Grenada, the uneasy relations between the United States and Jamaica and Guyana, have all increased U.S. security concerns in what used to be considered "mare nostrum."

But as U.S. interests in Latin America grow, many of our traditional instruments of foreign policy in the Hemisphere are disappearing or becoming obsolete. In the mid-1950s, for instance, virtually every country in Latin America had a U.S. military assistance program, and modern arms came largely from the United States. By 1979, on the contrary, so few countries had significant military assistance programs that the number of U.S. military personnel in all of Latin America had fallen from 800 in 1968 to 100. Far from the United States having a near monopoly on the supply of arms in Latin America and the Caribbean, a State Department official recently testified that "as to source, U.S. arms have for the last ten years now accounted for only about 15 percent of the market: Europe and Israel suppliers sold five times as much in the same period."2 Furthermore, nine Latin American countries can now produce army combat matériel. Argentina and Brazil, the latter with nearly half a billion dollars in sales to over 20 countries in 1979, have begun to develop export arms industries of their own, the former in anti-tank recoilless cannons and a new, medium-sized tank, and the latter largely in light armored vehicles.

Bilateral economic assistance was another traditional tool of U.S. foreign policy. As late as the mid-1960s, USAID programs played an important role in Latin American trade capacity. In 1967, when Brazil's total imports amounted to only $1,496 million, USAID's $329 million equaled 22 percent of Brazil's foreign exchange import requirements. By 1979 the situation had changed dramatically. Brazil imported over $17 billion worth of goods, while, along with other newly designated "middle income" countries such as Mexico and Venezuela, it received no USAID funds.

Traditionally, military intervention has been the ultimate state-to-state policy instrument within Washington's Central American and Caribbean "sphere of influence." Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Cuba have all been invaded by U.S. armed forces in this century. In 1979, both the convincing refusal of the Organization of American States (OAS) to consider a U.S. suggestion to form a "peacekeeping" force in Nicaragua, and the Carter Administration's decision not to use force there and hence destroy the measure of credibility it has won concerning our commitment to human rights and democratization, may indicate that military intervention may finally be obsolete as a weapon in the U.S. hemispheric policy arsenal.

The changing "interest-to-instrument" relationship is further complicated by the growing domestic dimension of U.S. policies toward Latin America. Politicians are belatedly recognizing that the 17 to 22 million Hispanic Americans in the United States are rapidly becoming the largest minority in the U.S. polity. Moreover, unlike black Americans, whose priorities have traditionally been domestic, the political agenda of Hispanic Americans gives prominence to a series of national and international policies such as migration, relations with Cuba and the question of the political status of Puerto Rico. Some people even talk of Hispanic Americans forming a "Jewish lobby." The analogy is inexact, since Hispanic Americans are not psychologically involved with the defense of a single "homeland" outside the United States; rather, they are concerned with many issues and countries in Latin America. The United States also contains large communities of people from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, El Salvador, Colombia and even Ecuador. Despite the differences between the various Hispanic communities, Hispanics are more and more attempting to coordinate their activities. The fact that the President of Mexico, on his visit to the United States in September 1979, met a Hispanic American delegation before his talks with President Carter, and the fact that a "Constitutional Convention" of Hispanic American Democrats was held in December 1979 in Denver, are portents of an arriving presence.

Last, new foreign policy power centers are emerging in Latin America that will strongly shape U.S. foreign policy in the region. The special conditions that contributed to the U.S. economic, political and military dominance in Latin America after World War II are gone forever. England, once the preeminent foreign power in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, had been declining as a foreign presence since World War I, while the Depression and the Second World War inhibited the entrance of other European powers. Wartime hostilities enabled Nelson Rockefeller, as FDR's Coordinator of the Office of Inter-American Affairs, to help dismantle the key structures of German and Italian power in Latin America, as well as block Japan's growth. But in the postwar years, Germany, Japan, and to a lesser extent Italy and Spain, have all emerged as competitors of the United States in Latin America, whether in selling cars or tying up long-term contracts for scarce materials. The Soviet Union, which as late as 1963 had embassies in only three countries in Latin America, is also a growing presence, as are the OPEC countries.

But internal structural changes in Latin America are possibly even more important. Brazil is now an emerging middle power in itself, with the tenth largest GNP in the world. Mexico in a few years may be found to have the second largest oil and gas reserves in the world. Even Cuba, for reasons stated later in this article, must in many senses be considered a power center in its own right. Finally, the Andean Pact countries of Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia during the Panama Canal negotiations, the Nicaraguan Revolution and the 1979 Bolivian crisis have shown a capacity to play a concerted, distinctive and constructive role in hemispheric politics.

U.S. policymakers have not been entirely insensitive to the new economic and political realities of Latin America. Indeed, the Carter Administration's recognition that the countries of Latin America were both more internally diverse and more integrated into the world political economy than before, led to the conclusion that rather than developing a special foreign policy toward Latin America as a whole, there was a need to combine bilateral with global policies. Unfortunately, the United States has been relatively slow to throw its political and economic weight behind global policies of special interest to industrializing countries in Latin America, such as world monetary and debt reform that would include major borrowers in decision-making forums, the erection of mechanisms for worldwide transfer of technologies, or tariff changes that would treat value-added processed and manufactured exports from industrializing countries in the same way as raw materials.3 Even so, in the first three years of Carter's presidency, a special effort was made to apply at least some global policies to Latin America. Thus, trade conflicts between the United States and Latin American countries were to be subsumed under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), conflicts about nuclear power subsumed under the Nonproliferation Treaty, and political repression dealt with under the Administration's human rights policy.

A superficial examination of U.S.-Brazilian relations suggests that, taken by itself, this globalist approach to Latin America has been reasonably successful. But two caveats are in order. First, powerful trends within Brazil, such as the demand for political liberalization, criticism of Brazil's nuclear plans, and the use of tariff reductions as a means of fighting inflation and increasing trade, worked in the same direction as U.S. global policies. Second, in all the areas just mentioned, bilateral diplomacy helped tune global policies to the finer notes of U.S.-Brazilian relations. These first two caveats are also relevant when we contrast the relative efficacy of U.S. human rights and democratization policy in Bolivia or the Dominican Republic with the democratization impasse in Chile.

In Bolivia, the successful opposition to Colonel Alberto Natusch's 16-day coup in November 1979, owed much to widespread and powerful resistance within Bolivia as well as to the unanimous condemnation by the foreign ministers of the Council of the Andean Pact. In addition, the U.S. global policy for human rights and democratization was vigorously supported by bilateral diplomacy. The State Department, within a day of the coup, called the coup a "major step backwards" away from the goal of "representative government" and respect for human rights, and froze the entire $27.5 million earmarked for military and economic assistance.4 The prospect that the United States might release stock-piled tin, or urge the International Monetary Fund to advocate floating the peso, contributed to the economic pressure that, combined with political resistance, eventually helped abort the coup.

In Chile, given the absence of comparably effective internal opposition and relatively wide international private-sector support for the junta's policies (including private-sector support from the United States), the picture is much more complicated. There have been some human rights gains in Chile in the last three years, but the junta has resisted all pressures toward democratization and has bitterly refused to extradite three secret police officials indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury for the murder, in Washington, of former President Allende's Foreign Minister, Orlando Letelier.

The greatest crises of 1979 in U.S.-Latin American relations, however, occurred in Central America and the Caribbean, rather than in the southern-cone countries that have so preoccupied policymakers in the recent past. In this region the changes in interests, instruments, domestic constraints and new power centers offer the United States its greatest challenges, opportunities for diplomatic creativity or even simple old-fashioned interventionism. The fact is that, due to the trends we have discussed toward greater world interdependence and power diversity, the large and more industrialized countries of South America are no longer in the U.S. government's sphere of influence. The United States, of course, retains power and influence in the area; however, as the case of Chile shows, it is largely the private sector power of banks and corporations. But in Central America and the Caribbean, U.S. government power is still significant and the current turmoil in the area is related to the decline of U.S. hegemony and the search for a new regional, economic and political relationship. For the United States, political, security and domestic issues loom so large in a region so close to our borders that bilateral diplomacy must necessarily play a great role.

In particular, the dangers and opportunities U.S. diplomacy has faced, or ignored, in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Cuba-four explosive cases-will continue to challenge the ingenuity of policymakers in the next decade. Three of these cases were involved in the major "cover story" conflicts with the United States in 1979-namely the Nicaraguan revolution, the Soviet brigade in Cuba, and the tension-laden exchange of presidential visits between Mexico and the United States. In Puerto Rico, where the statehood debate may ultimately present the United States with its most difficult Latin America-related domestic and international problem in the 1980s, the lines of potential conflict took new shape in 1979. Indeed, Puerto Rico deserves our special attention precisely because it is that part of our Latin American foreign policy most neglected by analysts and policymakers alike.

These four situations also highlight the themes of the changing interests, instruments and domestic dimensions of foreign policy as well as the roles of new power centers in the Hemisphere. In Mexico, oil raises U.S. interests to new heights and indeed makes Mexico a new middle-level power. The massive migration of Mexicans to the United States, and the rise of the Mexican-American population amid the growing charge of Mexican export "dumping" in U.S. markets, heightens the domestic dimension of our foreign policy. Finally, it is in Mexico that the need to devise appropriate bilateral policies that do not violate the broader principles of U.S. global trade and energy policies is most apparent. Mexico underscores the continuing need to recognize that globalism, despite its usefulness in shaping broad guidelines for some overriding world problems, should not be used to rationalize policy immobility or bilateral insensitivity.

The debate over the future status of Puerto Rico could similarly deepen U.S. domestic political linkages, activate the involvement of new Latin American political groups, and increase U.S. internal security and diplomatic interests. Finally, Nicaragua and Cuba suggest a need to assess our interests in and policy instruments toward revolutionary regimes under current domestic and international constraints.


"Mexico has suddenly found itself the center of American attention-attention that is a surprising mixture of interest, disdain and fear, much like the recurring vague fears you yourselves inspire in certain areas of our national subconscious." This was President López Portillo's austere statement on the first day of President Carter's state visit to Mexico in February 1979. The Mexican President went on to say later: "among permanent, not casual, neighbors, surprise moves and sudden deceit or abuse are poisonous fruits that sooner or later have a reverse effect."5 President Carter's awkward "Montezuma's Revenge" remarks, in turn, inspired a mixture of embarrassment and anger on the part of many U.S. citizens watching the scene on television. The presidential exchange unfortunately diverted attention from the search for an integrated U.S. policy toward Mexico.

In the formative stages of the López Portillo Administration, some influential advisers urged that Mexico should attempt to treat trade, migration and oil as a part of an overall package with the United States. The Carter Administration, on the other hand, was reluctant to discuss an overall policy package-partly because it was unprepared to do so, partly because of the desire to treat the goal of getting assured access to Mexico's oil as a separate issue, and partly because of a desire to handle trade with Mexico only within the context of its global GATT policy. For many in U.S. government circles, there was-and is-an implicit bias against linking issues and against granting any "special relationship" to Mexico.

The debate about whether or not to accord a special relationship to Mexico is, of course, largely academic. The two-thousand-mile border between Mexico and the United States-the largest border in the world between a rich and a poor market economy-constitutes the very essence of a special relationship. Furthermore, this border means that trade and even migration are as important as oil for the Mexicans, and explains why they do not want to discuss oil by itself.

Per capita income in the United States is more that six times higher than in Mexico and the wage differential for unskilled agricultural labor is approximately 13 to 1. Forty percent of the Mexican work force is unemployed or underemployed. Approximately 800,000 people enter the job market every year, and at present only 500,000 to 600,000 get jobs. This is the structural basis for the migration. At the moment Mexico has no economic incentive to stop the flow of approximately 800,000 people a year who cross the border as temporary workers. Migration is seen as a crucial safety valve. Moreover, the estimated two billion dollars the migrants send home earns Mexico more foreign exchange than tourism does.6 From this perspective the most explosive policy action the United States could take would be to give in to domestic demands that Washington try to seal the border.

Trade volume is an area of acute asymmetry between Mexico and the United States. In 1977 approximately two-thirds of all Mexican foreign trade was with the United States. But Mexico in that year accounted for less than four percent of total U.S. foreign trade. Thus, heightened U.S. protectionism, as Mexico begins to run a large trade surplus with the United States in the mid-1980s, could have a sharply negative impact on Mexico's agricultural and industrial exporters.

Because Mexico is vulnerable in areas of migration and trade, it is understandable that advisers close to President López Portillo, such as the current Foreign Secretary Jorge Castañeda, felt it was in Mexico's interest to discuss oil only in the context of the overall set of issues between the United States and Mexico.7 It also highlights why the United States cannot develop an effective oil policy toward Mexico if it refuses to take migration and trade into consideration.

What then of a package deal? Though such a deal is much discussed on both sides of the border, a closer analysis would indicate that probably in neither country is a mutually binding package viable. In Mexico, the opposition to a package deal comes from those who worry that it would entail a deeper integration with, and dependence upon, the United States. There is a strong desire to use the opportunity oil has presented to diversify Mexico's financial and trading relationships with other countries. There is also a desire in post-Echeverría Mexico to use the country's oil leverage to play a less theatrical but more powerful role in the international debate about a new international economic order. A binding package with the United States is seen as decreasing rather than increasing Mexico's degree of freedom and influence in world politics. Another major reason for the López Portillo government's growing skepticism about a package deal is its increasingly sophisticated political understanding of what any given U.S. administration could or could not do vis-à-vis Mexico.

Experience has shown that there are many places in the American political system, such as Congress, the courts, or the Treasury Department, which have the capacity to unravel any package. For example, the 1979 legal suit by the Florida growers charging Mexico with dumping winter tomatoes went to the Treasury for a technical decision. Despite the implications for U.S.-Mexican relations, migration patterns and U.S. inflation, the U.S. legal and administrative system removes such a decision from White House or State Department control. Fortunately for the 200,000 Mexican workers employed in harvesting Mexican winter vegetables, and for U.S. foreign policy, the Treasury Department made a provisional finding on October 30 that Mexican tomatoes were not being dumped.

Another example shows how a federal court ruling imperils the carefully constructed U.S.-Mexico treaty concerning prisoners. Two years ago, in November 1977, the two countries agreed that Americans arrested and tried in Mexico and Mexicans arrested and tried in the United States could serve out their prison terms in their native countries. In the first two years of the treaty 437 American and 183 Mexicans opted for exchange. In July 1979, however, a federal judge unilaterally freed three recently exchanged prisoners because he questioned the validity of their Mexican sentences. The Mexicans have said that unless the decision is overturned and the treaty considered binding, the entire prison exchange could lapse at the end of its three-year trial period.

Congressional action to protect noncompetitive U.S. industries against Mexico's imports could also obviously endanger the trade component of a package. Strong trade union lobbying, especially in election years or during recessions, will make it inherently difficult to include a migrant labor component in any complex package.

While U.S. preference for global policies and "de-linking" do not satisfy Mexico's needs, and a "package" is impossible for the United States as well as Mexico, a more integrated bargaining framework than presently exists seems both plausible and desirable. By this, I mean a bargaining framework that recognizes the complete range of issues at stake, and one in which the United States, precisely in order to advance its overall interests, would aggressively seek out new formulas for responding to Mexico's special needs, especially in the areas of migration and trade.

What could be done about migration? First, there can be much greater accuracy and statesmanship in U.S. government explanations and projections concerning Mexican migration. The size of the unquestionably large undocumented worker population in the United States has been exaggerated. In 1974, the Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), in a widely quoted address, said there were from 6 to 12 million undocumented workers in the United States.8 By 1978, the INS had reduced its estimated range to 3 to 6 million. Since most scholars estimate that between 60 and 70 percent of the undocumented workers are Mexican, the number of undocumented Mexicans in the United States, even by U.S. government figures, could be as low as 1.8 million or as high as 4.2 million. The Ministry of Labor in Mexico, working in conjunction with the distinguished Mexican social scientist Jorge Bustamante, has just completed a multivolume survey based upon, among other things, 60,000 household interviews.9 This study comes up with a maximum number of undocumented Mexican migrants slightly below the minimum U.S. figure, and merits serious analysis by scholars and policymakers alike. Another point worth stressing is that the overwhelming majority of the 800,000 or so annual migrants who come to the United States return to Mexico. In the study already cited, it was found that seven out of eight returned to Mexico and are thus "sojourners," not "settlers."

One of the most contested areas of interpretation concerns the question of "welfare burden" and "displacement." At present the Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall, is a well-known spokesman for a restrictionist approach, based on the assumption that Mexican labor is a welfare burden to the United States and that it displaces U.S. labor. At the very least one would like a reasonable hearing for counterevidence that migrant labor contributes more to Social Security and income tax payroll deductions than it receives in social services.10 What would also be useful would be a serious long-range analysis of the growing body of literature arguing that much of Mexican labor goes into jobs necessary for the U.S. economy but disdained by American-born citizens. In fact, some economists, such as Stanford's Clark Reynolds, argue that, given the demographic profile and job preferences of American citizens, the United States will have to import 15 to 20 million migrants between now and the year 2000 to provide the labor force necessary for a 3.5 percent annual growth rate. There may be increasing complementarity between the labor force profiles of Mexico and the United States.11 This line of reasoning may or may not be sound, but it merits more systematic and sympathetic investigation in the government than it has received to date.

Even if there are fewer permanent migrants than alarmists would say, and even if there is some degree of truth in the complementarity thesis, there is still a higher level of migration than many Americans would want. What if anything can be done? Rather than relying only on politically costly, and ultimately ineffective, border ceilings the United States could address the structural foundations of migration. Research has established which pockets of rural poverty in Mexico are the major sources of migration to the United States. Eight of Mexico's 32 states account for 80 percent of all the migration to the United States.12 Moreover, until the mid-1980s, Mexican investments will go mainly into capital-intensive areas of oil and petrochemicals. However, should the Mexican government be amenable to opening and supporting a World Bank fund for pockets of poverty and emigration, the United States should treat it as a major aid priority.13 The fund could give support to projects such as dam and irrigation works which would benefit small- and middle-sized farms in the areas of greatest emigration. Ideally, the projects should be labor intensive in the construction phase, and, when completed, should increase the number of rural jobs.

Another area of potential U.S. responsiveness concerns the legalization of migrant workers. Amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act by Congress in 1965 and 1976 give every country in the Hemisphere a quota of 20,000 immigrant visas. Because of the border and other foreign policy questions, it does not seem reasonable to impose the same ceiling for Mexico as for Paraguay, and it is time to reevaluate these amendments. Moreover, if serious studies of the labor force confirm the complementarity thesis, small-scale pilot "guest worker" programs could be worked out with employers and unions. Guest worker programs, if designed correctly, have the advantage of protecting the rights of workers and ensuring that guest workers go into those areas, such as the garment industry, where employers and unions acknowledge a labor shortage, and where, without a foreign labor force, plants would increasingly relocate out of the country and union membership continue to decline.

Bargaining chips to be exchanged for assured access to oil should be sought in the area of trade. Throughout 1979 the United States worked very hard to move away from the bilateral nature of its trade relations with Mexico by urging Mexico to join GATT. Should Mexico do so, as seems likely, the range of protection-especially via licences-that Mexico could extend to its industries would be narrowed, and it would be more difficult for the United States and Mexico to work out special trading agreements. However, countries sharing a border are allowed within the GATT protocol to work out special bilateral programs. This should be explored fully. It is also possible for the United States to extend GATT-wide lower tariffs for products, such as lead and petrochemicals like fertilizer, in which Mexico may have a special interest and comparative advantage.

If reasonable attention were given to such an integrated bargaining approach, the United States would be able to be responsive enough to Mexico's legitimate needs concerning migration, trade and border issues to achieve a reasonable policy framework for oil discussions. Some analysts maintain that as long as Mexico contributes to increasing the total amount of oil available to the world market, the question whether Mexico supplies oil directly to the United States is not of crucial importance. Nevertheless, considering the cost, the more certain long-term company supply contracts at world price are, the less likely that U.S. companies will be forced to buy oil on the more expensive spot market. From the viewpoint of national security, oil supplied from Mexico is obviously less militarily vulnerable than oil supplied from the Middle East. Given Mexican historical memories and nationalist sensitivities, however, a hard and fast state-to-state oil agreement could attract powerful opposition.

Here a comparison between gas and oil is instructive. The natural gas agreement finally reached between Mexico and the United States in September 1979 did not bind either party excessively. Mexico agreed to sell surplus gas to the United States, while the United States gained access to that gas when needed. Since gas is costly and difficult to liquefy and ship (it would cost Mexico at least five billion dollars in infrastructure to become an overseas exporter), the proximity of the United States to Mexico makes it the natural-indeed logically the monopsonistic-buyer of Mexican gas exports.

The United States is not in a position to be a monopoly buyer of Mexican oil, and an oil contract with Mexico similar to the gas contract is unlikely to materialize. But the United States is a natural buyer of Mexican oil and could continue to obtain a reasonable amount of it provided U.S. interests in Mexico are pursued by a variety of carefully crafted policy instruments that help contribute to an integrated trading, migration, technology, gas and oil bargaining relationship.

But even assured access to oil must be put in perspective. Justly or unjustly, a common charge heard in top policy circles in Mexico is that the United States is excessively preoccupied with Mexico's oil and is not as flexible and creative as the Japanese, the French or even the Koreans in devising ways to broaden Mexico's industrial exports to their countries, to increase technological transfer and to aid in integrated development. The irony is that precisely because we are permanent, not casual, neighbors (to use López Portillo's words), because we have a large Mexican-American population and because our biggest trading partner will soon be Mexico, we more than any country in the world have an abiding interest in contributing to balanced, equitable and continued growth in Mexico. If by the year 2030 Mexico has a population of over 200 million, and if it still does not have economic structures with a strong labor-absorbing and food-producing capacities, and if it has a capital-intensive industry built on cheap energy, and if then its too rapidly used oil begins to run out, this would indeed pose development, migration, equity and security problems for the United States that would make the difficulties of the late 1970s appear as a golden age of U.S.-Mexican relations.


Was the 30-second fusillade that killed two U.S. servicemen and left ten wounded in a suburb of San Juan in December 1979 an isolated event, or a harbinger of new conflict over the status of Puerto Rico? The ambush put the silent issue of 1979, Puerto Rico, on the front page for a day. However, little-noticed trends began to take shape in that year whose implications merit serious and sustained attention.

Change in Puerto Rico is inevitable. All political groups in the island are actively dissatisfied with the island's status. The current commonwealth arrangement is rejected as colonial not only by the independence movement but by leaders of the statehood movement as well, some of whom indeed argue that if Congress refuses to accept a plebiscitory vote in favor of statehood they too will work for independence. Even the leader of the party most associated with commonwealth, the Popular Democratic Party, has come out with a "new thesis" advocating a major restructuring of existing legislation to enable the commonwealth to achieve the "maximum plenitude of autonomy."

Surely thinking about 1983 is not futurology. But the following plausible Puerto Rican sequence-fraught with domestic and international implications of the highest order-is generally neither perceived nor pondered by the American public or foreign policy makers.

Step One-Winter 1979-80

Virtually every major presidential candidate visits Puerto Rico and affirms President Carter's statement that he will accept statehood if that is what Puerto Ricans want.14 Most candidates will be implicitly-some explicitly-pro-statehood.

Step Two-Summer 1980

Both the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions adopt planks which commit them to accepting the results of the plebiscite.

Step Three-November 12, 1980

Pro-statehood Governor Carlos Romero Barceló, currently favored to be the first governor to be reelected since 1964, wins. If he loses, stop. If he wins, advance to:

Step Four-July 4, 1981

Governor Romero Barceló honors his election commitment to hold a plebiscite on the future political status of Puerto Rico. Statehood could receive 55 to 75 percent of the votes cast. If so, advance to:

Step Five-Fall 1981

Governor Romero Barceló calls a special "Tennessee Plan" election to select delegates to a constitutional convention which will draft a new state constitution and a statehood enabling act. In the same election two pro forma U.S. Senators and seven pro forma U.S. Congressmen are selected. Advance to:

Step Six-Winter and Spring 1982

The Puerto Rican pro forma Senators and Congressmen negotiate the terms and conditions of a statehood enabling act with appropriate congressional committees and the White House. If tentative agreement is reached the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (at present a non-voting member of the U.S. Congress) introduces to the U.S. Congress the statehood enabling act with presidential support and as many congressional co-sponsors as possible. Advance to

Step Seven-Winter 1983

The U.S. Congress begins the great debate about admitting Puerto Rico as the 51st state of the union. Statehood strategists hope that it will be the 98th Congress, which convenes on January 20, 1983, that decides. Therefore they, and their opponents, will attempt to make statehood a major issue in the 1982 congressional elections. Statehood requires a simple majority in both houses. Denial by Congress will appear a racial slur on one of the nation's largest minorities, a crass betrayal of election pledges and of the unanimous Senate Concurrent Resolution Number 35 of August 2, 1979, "to respect and support the right of the people of Puerto Rico to determine their own political future through peaceful, open and democratic processes." Admission by Congress, however, may pose the threat of an American Quebec; moreover, as I discuss later, a Quebec with extensive international support and perhaps with the high violence levels of an Ulster before, during and long after admission to statehood.

What forces are at work in Puerto Rico? What, if anything, can be done to enhance the quality of the legal and political processes involved in the struggle over its future status?

Two sets of figures illuminate some of the forces propelling the statehood issue into the national political arena. Federal outlays to Puerto Rico have risen from $375 million in fiscal year 1967 to $3.2 billion in fiscal year 1978.15 One source projects outlays of $4.2 billion in fiscal year 1980. The growing dependence on the federal food stamp program (about 65 percent of the island's population is eligible to participate and about 53 percent do participate), on programs for unemployment relief (officially between 16 and 20 percent in the last three years) and on other welfare schemes suggest the depth of the crisis of the "bootstrap model" (whose strength was previously the source of much procommonwealth sentiment). A large part of the growing statehood constituency is the urban poor who worry that a more autonomous commonwealth status or independence will jeopardize these and other benefits of the island's ties to the United States and who rightly expect that statehood would automatically increase Puerto Rico's share of such benefits. This is the message of Governor Romero Barceló's book, Statehood is for the Poor.

The other set of powerful figures is the number of delegates from Puerto Rico to the national political conventions. In 1972 Puerto Rico had seven token delegates to the Democratic Convention. In 1976, after the decision to treat Puerto Rico as a state in the nominating convention even though it has no role in the presidential election, the number of Puerto Rican delegates increased to 22. In 1980 they will have 41. Puerto Rican Democrats are making a major effort to get a high turnout for the March 16 primary because one key statehood strategist has argued that a turnout of 600,000 could earn them 80 delegates in 1984, thus making Puerto Rico the ninth largest delegation to the convention. In the Republican Convention, the Puerto Rican delegation has had a less dramatic, but nonetheless significant rise. Given the nonparticipation of independentistas in mainland politics, and the on-and-off participation of even the pro-commonwealth party since 1976, pro-statehood forces have in essence controlled the island branch of the Democratic and Republican parties. This is a major reason why presidential candidates in both national parties have courted the statehooders.

The statehood constituency and the presidential candidates are organizationally and ideologically brought together by those Puerto Rican politicians who play a major role in mainland, especially Democratic, party politics. One of the most important of these brokers has been Franklin Delano López. López founded the Puerto Rican chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, until recently was the pro-statehood President of the Democratic Party in Puerto Rico, and is currently Chairman of the Carter-Mondale Campaign Committee in Puerto Rico. He has deep roots in mainland Democratic and minority politics. He argues that for him statehood is simply an extension of full civil rights to a minority group which gained United States citizenship in 1917, but which still cannot send Senators or Congressmen to Washington.

All these are powerful and seldom appreciated economic, electoral and ideological forces at work for statehood. However, there are grave problems that arise in any serious analysis of the statehood option.

First of all, there is unfortunately no place in the federal administration with an integrated, day-by-day concern for the foreign and domestic policy implications of Puerto Rico. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations is periodically intensely involved with Puerto Rico, but this involvement is almost entirely focused on advancing the argument that Puerto Rico is a domestic affair of the United States, and in attempting to block the annual Cuban-sponsored resolution declaring Puerto Rico a U.S. colony and urging independence. This reactive, Cuba-centric approach has led to both analytic and prescriptive problems.

Second, plebiscites are notoriously tricky affairs. Since governments of the day almost never lose them, national and international acceptance of a plebiscite will depend very much on how the question of statehood is framed and how the plebiscitory process is conducted.

Rightly or wrongly, some groups in Puerto Rico have expressed doubts about how the commonwealth and independence options will be framed. In the status plebiscite of 1967 the commonwealth option was in fact explained in much greater detail than the other two options. Some key statehood advocates also worry whether every reasonable effort will be made to include all parties in the entire, very political, process of preparing for the plebiscite as well as to obtain high voter participation. Since the Carter Administration, Congress and the presidential candidates have all agreed to accept the results of the plebiscite, it would appear to be in Washington's best interest to participate actively in the procedural aspects of the plebiscite process. Furthermore, the United States, rather than clinging to the view that the plebiscite is a purely domestic matter, should recognize well-established precedents as well as political realities, and encourage international observation of the plebiscite so that all possible suggestions and objections about the plebiscite process are taken into account before rather than after the voting.

Whatever the results of the plebiscite, it is in the interest of the U.S. government, and the eventual winners, to have the plebiscite seen as a fair process by all interested parties, and to be accorded legitimacy in major international bodies. Available instruments that are not being used are the United Nations and the OAS.16 Serious consideration should be given to inviting the secretariats of both organizations to send plebiscite teams to Puerto Rico. There are ample legal precedents for such an invitation. In the last four years political status plebiscites have been observed in three U.S.-administered territories: the Northern Marianas Islands, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the Marshall Islands. A plebiscite to determine whether Puerto Rico will obtain greater home rule as a commonwealth, become a state, or choose independence is a vote about change or modification of status, and it is precisely on questions of changes in the political status of dependent territories that the United Nations has a traditional interest. Many members of the United Nations or the OAS will undoubtedly have deep reservations about the appropriateness of a plebiscite, one of whose possible outcomes is the integration into the United States of a territory that the United States acquired as a result of the same war that led to the establishment of a protectorate in Cuba. But it is in the U.S. interest to explore the emotional, political and legal depths of these reservations before the plebiscite.

Another point to consider is the real distribution of opinion in Puerto Rico. There could be a high abstention rate in the Puerto Rican plebiscite-possibly even over 30 percent. However, unlike the United States, Puerto Rico is a polity with a tradition of exceptionally high voter turnouts, averaging around 85 percent in the quadrennial elections since 1920. Thus the significance of a 30 percent abstention could be lost in the United States because the final turnout may be around 55 or 60 percent, a figure we have unhappily begun to accept as the norm for presidential elections. The fact that the United States also does not have a tradition of boycotting elections will further complicate Congress' and the American people's task of assessing the message of the boycott.

To my knowledge, there has never been a public poll with widely accepted methodology that explores the following crucial questions: What percentage of the island's population wants to become a state, and what percentage, for whatever reason, is not prepared to vote for that status? For the U.S. Congress the answers to these questions are most important. Since admission to statehood has the special quality of being an election to determine that there will be no further election about status, every effort to ascertain overall opinion on the island must be made. Periodic public opinion polls, commissioned by nonpartisan organizations, should be published. Such polls are useful because, should the boycott in the plebiscite be high, it is possible that statehood will be the choice of 80 percent of those who do vote. In this respect it is noteworthy that the highest recent pro-statehood figure in the private polls that have come to my attention is 63 percent. Other private polls indicate that if all the non-statehood positions are grouped together they come to over 50 percent. If, in fact, public opinion polls consistently show that about half of the Puerto Rican people do not favor statehood, Congress should give this, as well as the plebiscite results, deep consideration before taking such a major step as approving permanent political integration.

A third point to consider in greater detail is opinion in Latin America. One frequently hears that the question of Puerto Rican statehood or independence is not a burning issue in Latin America. Whatever the truth may have been in the past, it is no longer clear that this is so now. In the 1950s and early 1960s the key figures among the Latin American Social Democrats-Betancourt in Venezuela, Figueres in Costa Rica, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Haya de la Torre in Peru-were close associates of Governor Muñoz Marín of Puerto Rico, and by extension accepted his pro-commonwealth party. But a new generation has come to power in Latin America. The countries they represent are now less isolated in world politics and more assertive toward the United States. Many in this new generation will view statehood not as an act of self-determination consistent with the logic of democratic electoral politics, but as a culmination of over 80 years of military, political, cultural and economic power consistent with the logic of imperial rule and dependency. In October 1979 representatives of 21 Latin American social democratic parties from 14 countries held a meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico. These representatives, including the President of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the ruling party in Mexico, voted unanimously to give the struggle for Puerto Rican independence top hemispheric priority.17 In December the Second World Solidarity Conference for the Independence of Puerto Rico was held in Mexico, and nonaligned nations' conferences have repeatedly passed resolutions endorsing Puerto Rican independence.

This international support for independence should be borne in mind when evaluating the size, intensity and strategic location of violent anti-statehood forces. The 1950 Blair House assassination effort, the 1954 shooting that wounded five congressmen, and the December 1979 shooting of U.S. servicemen in Puerto Rico testify to the fact that supporters of Puerto Rican independence resort to violence. This constituency for violence is not restricted to the revolutionary Left but on occasions has included Catholic rightists, and Spanish cultural militants. It is highly unlikely it will decrease with statehood, and it is certain it will not lack international allies in the Hemisphere. As Quebec, Basque, Ulster and Croatian violence has shown, some of the most intractable problems in politics are nationality problems.

Should the U.S. Congress deny statehood to Puerto Rico, then it must begin to give systematic consideration to independence. Governor Romero Barceló, for one says he will personally attempt to lead his party toward independence if a Puerto Rican petition for statehood is refused. Certainly he will lose many of his party members if he pursues this strategy, but his statement underscores the new anticolonial psychology of the statehood party and indicates that the main beneficiary of a blocked statehood movement will be the independence movement.

At this point the new power centers in Latin America, especially Mexico and the Andean Pact countries, could again play a significant role. U.S. policymakers up to now have not given serious attention to how these nations could possibly help ameliorate the great problems of any transition to an independent Puerto Rico because they claim it conjures up the economics of Haiti and, especially, the politics of Cuba. However, if Governor Romero Barceló, himself has raised independence as a possible policy option, and since President Carter and the U.S. Congress are on record as accepting independence should that be the electoral choice of the island, it would ill behoove the U.S. government not to analyze the significance of independence.

Such an analysis would begin with clear differentiation between the pro-Cuban, Marxist, Puerto Rican Socialist Party and the larger Puerto Rican Independence Party. Study of the latter's new October 1979 platform (and also its domestic social basis and its international allies) will reveal it is increasingly a social democratic party, and has given very careful consideration to a cautionary transition period of ten years from commonwealth to independence. In any case, if there is ever to be a pro-independence electoral majority in the next 10 to 20 years it will certainly be composed of a coalition in which former statehooders and commonwealth voters figure prominently. Should such a strong independence majority materialize, the Mexicos, Venezuelas and Costa Ricas that may constrain the prospects of Puerto Rico's integration into the American Union may very well play an important role in sustaining a viable, independent, social democratic Puerto Rico toward the end of the century.

In Puerto Rico, the United States is therefore facing a major policy issue, and an issue that has simply not been analyzed in an integrated fashion by Washington. Given both the domestic and the international dimensions of Puerto Rican problems, one of the few instruments of integration within the federal government could be the Office of the Vice Presidency. The creation of a standing, interagency committee on Puerto Rico, chaired by the Office of the Vice President and with its own secretariat responsible for following and interpreting events in Puerto Rico in the critical years ahead, would be a first useful step.

The insular, marginal, colonial status of Puerto Rico has gone forever. Puerto Rico is simultaneously becoming more integrated into both mainland and hemispheric controversies. Only one thing is clear. There is a deep desire in Puerto Rico to change the status quo, and all three options-statehood, independence or a commonwealth with substantially increased economic and political powers of self-rule-entail major structural changes in relations with the United States. Whatever the outcome, we have an interest-as well as an obligation-in facilitating an orderly transition to Puerto Rico's new structure and status.


On July 17, 1979 President Anastasio Somoza Debayle fled Nicaragua, thus ending over 40 years of family rule and one of the most personalistic and arbitrary dictatorial regimes in modern Latin American history. By July 19, the Sandinistas had assumed power, and the United States faced its first revolutionary guerrilla triumph in the Hemisphere since Castro's victory over 20 years before.

The events leading up to the Sandinistas' triumph have been largely recounted in this journal and others, so, with the benefit of a recent visit to Nicaragua, it seems most appropriate to assess the nature of the new regime and the U.S. relationship to it.18 One assessment concerns the characterization of the armed struggle. To classify it as a civil war would be misleading, because no major social or geographical groups independently organized themselves to defend the regime. Rather, the struggle against a long-entrenched despot closely identified with a foreign power made the struggle against Somoza not so much a class war as a war of national liberation. In this war of national liberation the Catholic church as a corporate institution, and even business groups acting under the occasional direction of the Chamber of Commerce, protested against the regime. The Sandinistas did, of course, play a crucial role in galvanizing resentment into insurrection. In my travels in Nicaragua I noticed that while one town in an area was ravaged by the struggle, a nearby town remained untouched. When I asked what explained the difference the answer was that "the Sandinistas never took the [other] town." Here then was a war of national liberation in which groups from all classes contributed, but it was a war in which the Sandinistas did indeed play the special role of vanguard.

The above assessment leads us to another. It is becoming the fashion to assert that the U.S. human rights policy destabilized Somoza. This assertion gives too little credit to the struggle of the Nicaraguans themselves. Moreover, it obscures the deep ambivalence that characterized the U.S. human rights policy and the effect this ambivalence had in strengthening the Sandinistas' claim to be the indispensable vanguard of the revolution. In the wake of the massive uprising of September 1978, the United States, from September to December 1978, played a major role in a mediation effort to get Somoza to resign, and in November backed up its commitment to a firm human rights policy by blocking a $20 million IMF loan to Somoza. During this period Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama deliberately slowed their aid to the Sandinistas, and the moderate Broad Opposition Front (FAO) actively associated itself with the mediation discussions. However, by January 1979, it was clear that Somoza had stymied the mediation effort. The United States, denied its hoped-for moderate solution and faced with the choice of supporting more radical forces and measures or accepting Somoza, entered a period of policy inertia.

From January to May 1979 the United States made no major new efforts-such as blocking Nicaraguan meat quotas-to press serious sanctions against Somoza. More than inertia, there was at least one important reversal. In mid-May, during a lull in the fighting and when many analysts in the Administration felt that possibly Somoza, and almost certainly the National Guard, could hold out until the elections scheduled for 1981, the United States allowed a $66 million IMF loan to Nicaragua to be approved without a disclaimer. This U.S. ambivalence and inertia from January to May 1979 almost certainly contributed to the final collapse of the FAO and helped convince Costa Rica and Panama that the way to bring down Somoza was to increase their help to the Sandinistas.

The crucial role played by Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and especially the Andean Pact countries before and after the Nicaraguan revolution, also has not received the judicious assessment it deserves. In fact, their role highlights the importance and interrelationship of two of our four main trends-the emerging power centers and the diminishing effectiveness of traditional state-to-state instruments. But it is more complicated than this: their role illustrates the new "constraining/sustaining" power relationships that are emerging in the Hemisphere.

In 1965 the United States unilaterally sent troops into the Dominican Republic. The next day the United States asked for and received OAS sanction. The hemispheric balance of forces and initiative in 1979 is quite different. In May 1979, Mexico broke diplomatic relations with the Somoza regime. On June 17, the Andean Pact countries declared Nicaragua to be in a "state of war" and described Sandinistas as "legitimate combatants" who were seeking to establish "a true representative democracy, freedom and justice in Nicaragua."19 This declaration had important implications for the openness with which other countries, including Cuba, increased their supplies to the Sandinistas, and in retrospect was an important step toward the military and political triumph of the Sandinistas. At the OAS conference in June, it was the social democratic countries of Latin America-Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and the Andean Pact countries-not just socialist-inclined countries like Jamaica or Grenada that blocked the U.S. initiative to consider sending a peacekeeping force to Nicaragua which, among other things, would have denied the Sandinistas full military power.

This is the "constraining" dimension. What is the "sustaining" dimension? The near panic that gripped part of the U.S. national security bureaucracy in June and July was due to fear that Nicaragua would become "another Cuba." The characteristic of Cuba that bureaucracy most feared was its economic dependence on, and political integration into, the Soviet bloc. However, despite continuing ideological differences, the rapid financial support of Nicaragua by Latin American countries ensures Nicaragua multiple sources of international financial aid and fraternal support from a variety of political systems. Within the first four months of the revolution, the central banks of Latin America granted Nicaragua loans of $40 million, the Central American Monetary Council approved loans of $10 million, and Venezuela of $25 million. In addition, the Panamanian National Guard helped train and equip the new Nicaraguan police force, Venezuela agreed to buy all the sugar Nicaragua produced beyond its International Sugar Agreement quota, Mexico extended special contracts, and during President López Portillo's January 1980 visit major new assistance will no doubt be forthcoming.

The point is that a number of the Latin American social democrats (and others) have their own national interest in sustaining a viable, independent, progressive Nicaragua, just as in a different context European Social and Christian Democrats had an intense interest in helping to shore up political democracy in Portugal. To the extent that such actions are consistent with long-range U.S. interests we can say that, despite the desire and ability of such political groups to constrain the United States from exercising the crudest instruments of hegemony, they may well play a sustaining role in the Hemisphere.

How, then, is Nicaragua evolving, and what should U.S. policy be? If the presidential campaign does not get mired in a debate over "who lost Nicaragua" but explores what is actually happening in Nicaragua, the American people and the U.S. Congress will probably acknowledge that both equity and self-interest indicate that the United States should help in the reconstruction of Nicaragua.

What policymakers have to keep in mind about Nicaragua is that the situation there is still evolving and that a plurality of forces is at work. Given the participation of many classes in the anti-Somoza struggle and the magnitude of the reconstruction task, a wide variety of groups are seen as having the legitimacy to participate in the construction of a new Nicaragua. Furthermore, such groups have economic and social resources that the Sandinista vanguard has decided they must retain if at all possible. The most important of these groups are controllers of private capital and the Catholic Church. There are certainly groups within the Sandinista movement who would like to push for a rapid political, institutional and economic transition to socialism. However, most acknowledge critical constraints.

The Nicaraguan public sector under Somoza was one of the smallest and least sophisticated in Latin America. The expropriations and nationalizations following the revolution have necessitated a great growth of the public sector. Planners recognize the political importance of administering the public sector honestly and effectively, but they acknowledge that, given the low base they are starting from, the current size of the public sector will strain their managerial and financial capacity. Thus, the exact size of the new Nicaraguan public sector is still being defined. However, it is unlikely that its relative weight-especially in the industrial and infrastructure sectors where 20 of the largest firms are in the hands of the private sector-will compare with that of Chile under Frei, Peru in the mid-1970s, or contemporary Brazil or Mexico. The Sandinistas want the revolution to be able to provide some material gains to the Nicaraguan people. But they know this will be difficult. Due to the war, the 1979 GNP was about a third lower than it was in 1977. The government hopes to invest $400 million in 1980, but in inflation-adjusted figures this is a lower investment than in 1977. Furthermore, the fiscal basis of the state is so weak that from 50 to 75 percent of these funds will have to come from abroad, and the state's borrowing capacity is limited.

Thus, the Sandinistas see the national and international private sector as having to perform some basic functions if the revolution is to go forward in the areas of production and investment. To encourage foreign investment but to channel it into areas that support the priorities of the revolution, the planners are devising "production agreements" in the areas of necessary consumer goods, basic industrial materials such as wood or cement and selected export sectors. The production agreements currently under discussion will be only for government-designated projects and will prohibit advertising. Those foreign firms who sign the production agreement will be given import licenses, and the government will agree to buy most or all the production. The government will set the price but will allow a profit return higher than world interest rates. The estimate of one key planner is that possibly up to 30 foreign firms will sign production agreements in 1980-81.

Another major source of de facto pluralism within Nicaragua is the Catholic Church. In a pastoral message, signed by all seven bishops of Nicaragua on June 2, 1979, they underscored the legitimacy of the insurrection. On November 17, in an even more authoritative pastoral letter, once again signed by every bishop, the Church leaders acknowledged the leading role of the Sandinistas. After a pioneering theological discussion of inequality, justice and class conflict, they explicitly endorsed socialism in Nicaragua but expect socialism to be non-imitative, pluralist and participatory.20 The Church's position in the revolutionary struggle has given it a base from which to participate, and-if it feels necessary-to criticize.

The international dimensions of the Nicaraguan revolution are also uncertain. The leaders are concerned with stabilizing their own revolution and have not played any significant role in exporting revolution to Central America. In fact, in October when a new junta came to power in El Salvador and appointed reformist progressives to key posts, the Sandinistas made efforts to normalize relations and actively to control groups inside Nicaragua interested in assisting revolutionary forces in El Salvador. Unfortunately, by early January, most of the reform ministers in El Salvador had resigned in frustration. Thus, as the year begins, there could be new pressures in the area. But the fact remains that Nicaragua is still wary of conflicts with Honduras and other oppressive military regimes in the area, conflicts which could only delay and even jeopardize the economic and political consolidation of the Nicaraguan revolution. The human and material destruction during the war was immense. The Secretary General of the United Nations estimates that 45,000 people were killed in the conflict, and some economists put property damage in the $1.5 billion to $2 billion range.

It is within this wider political, economic and human context that the U.S. role in Nicaragua should be judged. The new Nicaraguan government has expressed an interest in working with a variety of U.S. groups, such as welfare relief organizations, some American universities in the area of agricultural technology, and USAID. Of the almost 100 U.S. companies operating in Nicaragua before the revolution, only two mining companies have been nationalized. For its part, the Carter Administration has chosen to maintain U.S. presence, help with the reconstruction, and has forwarded a $75 million supplementary aid request to Congress, hoping for approval early in 1980.

Some skeptics have been arguing for a "wait and see" policy toward Nicaragua. This misses the point. The sooner U.S. aid is given, the sooner it will be most effective-both from the perspective of disaster relief and to maintain pluralism in a still fluid situation. In formative, critical situations, "wait and see" is dangerous folly.


"The status quo is unacceptable." With these words President Carter in September 1979 raised the issue of the presence of a Soviet brigade in Cuba to a major policy confrontation. The confrontation ended with a face-saving formula-Carter accepted Soviet assertions that the brigade was essentially a training unit which would not be used in offensive action. This formula obscured both an old and a new reality of U.S.-Cuban relations. We have virtually no mechanisms for influencing Cuban behavior outside of our policies toward the Soviet Union. And one of the root causes of the confrontation was the realization that Cuban activity in the Hemisphere grew in 1979. Cuban doctors, technicians and teachers were sent to Jamaica, Grenada and St. Lucia, and arms and military advisers to the Sandinistas in the last two months of the struggle in Nicaragua. It is time to consider a new Cuban policy.

The problem of inadequate U.S.-Cuban instruments is over 15 years old. U.S. policy toward Cuba by the early 1960s already employed relatively few, and blunt, instruments: invasion and counterrevolution on the one hand, and economic embargo on the other. By the mid-1960s these measures for advancing U.S. interests in Cuba were bankrupt. Invasion had failed and was unlikely to be repeated. U.S. fostering of counterrevolution served to strengthen a nationalist siege mentality and helped to consolidate the regime. By the mid-1960s Cuba had also counterbalanced the U.S. embargo by the Soviet presence. The embargo policy, while it has cost the Soviet Union much money and contributed to Cuba's sluggish economy, has emphatically not increased Washington's ability to influence Cuba, and it gave the Soviet Union an unprecedented opportunity to play a predominant role in a country in this Hemisphere.

The Ford Administration took some steps to improve relations with Cuba, but these stopped with the introduction of Cuban troops into Angola. The Carter Administration in 1977 made the most serious attempt since the Cuban Revolution to arrive at a modus vivendi with Cuba by allowing U.S. tourists to visit Cuba, canceling intelligence overflights, arriving at a fishing agreement and, finally, in October 1977, exchanging diplomatic Interest Sections with Cuba. However, the dispatch of Cuban troops to Ethiopia, in an area where the Soviet Union was seen by the Carter Administration as playing the key initiating and coordinating role, virtually stopped this process. Since then the Carter Administration for the most part has chosen to treat Cuba as a puppet of the Soviet Union. From this perspective the absence of any U.S. leverage within Cuba does not seem harmful. One does not create an independent policy toward a puppet. One attempts to influence the puppeteer. Cuba has been absorbed into the global functional category of the cold war.

In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan most Americans as well as most policymakers will see less reason than ever to normalize U.S. relations with a close ally of the Soviet Union. Cuba's withdrawal of its bid for a Security Council seat after losing a dozen or so votes by Third World countries in the wake of Afghanistan shows that other countries also react negatively to the Soviet-Cuban alliance.

Nonetheless, at the risk of appearing quixotic, two points are worth bearing in mind. The first is that, notwithstanding Cuba's alliance with the Soviet Union-most closely coordinated in the case of Ethiopia-and Cuba's heavy-handed stage management of the Havana Conference of Nonaligned Nations in September, Castro and Cuba have an appeal to some countries that is quite different from the appeal of the Soviet Union.

Cuba, by virtue of its history, location, style, racial composition, and the achievements of its socialist model in the areas of public health, mass education and full employment, has a distinctive foreign policy attraction for some Latin American, Caribbean and Third World countries. The Caribbean deserves special attention in this respect. When Castro came to power the only other independent Caribbean island countries were Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since then there has been an explosion of newly independent ministates such as Jamaica (1962), Trinidad and Tobago (1962), Barbados (1966), Grenada (1974), Dominica (1978), and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia (1979). Also newly independent in the area in this period were Guyana (1966) and Surinam (1975), and more French, Dutch and English colonies will become independent in the 1980s. These countries have all become independent after the era of U.S. hegemony. Moreover, with the possible exception of Trinidad and Barbados, all are experiencing economic difficulties, especially high unemployment. Cuba's full-employment model may seem highly attractive to some of the ministates. Furthermore, almost all the new ministates are predominantly black. As the Director of the State Department's Office of Caribbean Affairs recently noted: "An additional factor contributing to the growth of the Cuban influence in the black, English-speaking Caribbean may have been Cuba's growing role in Africa. Black countries in the Carribbean are emotionally involved in the fate and future of black liberation movements in Africa and have tended to applaud Cuba's intervention on their behalf."21

Given the issues posed by the new Caribbean ministates, what sort of U.S. policy toward Cuba is most appropriate? Is it in our interest to continue an embargo that decreases chances of the United States having leverage inside Cuba, that is seen as punitive by many of Cuba's neighbors, and that may make them less, rather than more, disposed to a good relationship with the United States?

A second point to examine regarding Cuba is its "puppet" status. Certainly Cuba is an ally of the Soviet Union and certainly a case could be made that it followed the Soviet lead in Ethiopia. However, this should not completely obscure Cuba's independent role-seen in the fact that in 1960 Cuba sent arms to the Algerian National Liberation Front, that it established a permanent military mission in Ghana in 1961, that in 1973 when Soviet aid was described as "inadequate" by a South Yemen rebel leader the Cubans responded with more extensive aid than the Soviets. Close students of Cuba's overseas military activities again and again have documented elements of distinctive Cuban international behavior.22

In one of the most famous cases of Cuba's supposed mercenary action-Angola in 1975-a plausible case can be made for a distinctive Cuban foreign policy. All the facts are not in, but scholars are beginning to make a documented case for the following. Since 1966, Cuba consistently maintained important and independent arms and training programs for the MPLA both within Cuba and in Congo Brazzaville. Moreover, "Soviet aid began to wane in 1972 and by early 1974 had been halted altogether."23 The Soviets ultimately supported Cuba's decision to increase its presence by sending combat troops to reinforce the MPLA, which was retreating under the attack in October of a South African armored column which had already penetrated a few hundred kilometers into Angolan territory. Available accounts suggest, nonetheless, that Cuban troops initially were transported in a Batista-vintage Dutch ship, two Cuban merchant marine ships, and a number of Cuba's old Bristol Britannia turboprop planes.

The point worth stressing is that Cuban foreign policy objectives and ideological preferences in Angola have been a significant component in determining their actions. As Edward Gonzalez concludes, "Cuba does not appear to have been serving as a surrogate for the Soviet Union in Angola despite the latter's massive logistical support for the operation. Rather . . . the Cubans seem to have been promoting their own Third World interests-interests which, to be sure, coincided with, and were supportive of, Soviet political and strategic objectives in Southern Africa."24 If something like the above is so-and I suspect it is-it distorts both history and policy to describe Cuban foreign policy as that of a "mercenary" in Angola. Indeed, a number of scholars go further and argue that "it may well be that Cuban militance in Angola drew the U.S.S.R. more deeply into the civil war than Soviet policy-makers would have preferred."25

One also expects that in some areas of the world, especially Central America and the Caribbean, in such countries as Nicaragua, El Salvador and Grenada, Cuba will continue to have a military advisory, training or assistance role that in some respects is distinctive.

If, then, one can make a reasonable case either that some countries are attracted to Cuba for reasons that would not necessarily attract them to the Soviet Union; or in some cases in the past, and possibly some cases in the future, Cuba has had a distinctive military policy, then there is a strong case to be made for reexamining our policies by specifically asking whether they increase or decrease our capacity to advance the U.S. national interest within the specific context of U.S.-Cuban relations. Assuming that Cuban decisions are important in their own right, what policies might, within the limits imposed by the fundamentally different natures of the Cuban and the U.S. political-economic systems, marginally increase U.S. influence in Cuban decision-making?

This leads us to the basic principles of diplomacy. Diplomatic recognition between countries is not a recognition of ideological affinity. The United States recognizes and deals with many kinds of governments throughout the world. Recognition is also not a reward for policies of which we approve. Diplomatic recognition is simply an institutionalized acknowledgment that real interests and real conflicts are at stake between two countries, and that recognition will increase the range of mechanisms by which the countries can pursue these interests.

Many U.S. citizens and policymakers have expressed concern about what they see as the great weight of the Soviet Union's presence in Cuba. Rather than merely deploring this presence, U.S. policies should be coldly assessed to see how they relate to this state of affairs. Perpetuating a U.S.-imposed trade embargo that impedes the possible emergence of a U.S. presence in a wide range of areas of potential interest to Cuba, such as nickel technology, farm machinery and tropical citrus farming techniques, certainly continues to maintain the relative weight of the Soviet Union's presence rather than reduce it. Conversely, the question must be asked whether a complex and diversified range of U.S. trading, technological, cultural and diplomatic relationships would seriously increase or decrease the weight of the United States in Cuba. The current "weightlessness" of the United States in Cuba deprives U.S. foreign policy makers of most of the leverage and instruments of international diplomacy by which diplomats normally attempt to advance the national interest.

Normalized relations might also lessen the Soviet Union's sense of obligation to back Cuba against the United States in those cases where the policy initiative is clearly Cuban. By ceasing to deal with only one partner in the Soviet-Cuban alliance the United States will complicate rather than simplify the task of the Soviets and the Cubans of maintaining their alliance.

Given the continuing presence of Cubans in Ethiopia and other African countries, the reality of Florida's role in the primary calendar, and the at times violent opposition to normalization among sectors of the Cuban exile community as well as many other Americans, one cannot expect presidential candidates to make recognition of Cuba a campaign issue. However, it is time to suggest that whoever is inaugurated in January 1981 give serious consideration to taking advantage of the time-honored tradition of doing important but difficult tasks in the very first weeks. Recognition of Cuba and termination of the embargo as part of a policy of punitive, isolating measures would be such tasks. Medicine and some form of critical food supplies could be traded as soon as the President ends the embargo, but the full development of trading relations will require the approval of Congress and the Department of the Treasury, and this will almost certainly have to include some form of compensation for expropriated properties. The United States has managed to arrive at some mutually acceptable compensation formula with all other communist countries with which it has begun relations. And it is important to remember that Cuba has recognized the legitimacy of the principle of compensation. Beginning in 1967 it signed and subsequently implemented compensation agreements with Switzerland and France.26

No new Cuba policy will be without its difficulties and risks. But precisely because of Cuba's new weight and assertiveness in international affairs, the status quo that is most unacceptable is U.S. persistence in policies that have been so ineffectual for such a long time.


What do the 1980s hold for the people of the Americas? The movement toward authoritarian solutions in the Hemisphere that seemed to gain a steady momentum between 1964 and 1977, especially in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, seems to have measurably abated. The year 1979 saw an elected government installed in Ecuador, attempts to reverse democratization thwarted in the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, adherence to a schedule of turning over the government to civilian rule in Peru, the announcement of a terminal date for military rule in Argentina, uneven but real progress toward the revitalization of civil society and democratic values in Brazil, and the end of 40 years of despotism in Nicaragua.

For U.S.-Latin American relations, the four trends discussed in this paper-the growth of U.S. interests in the Hemisphere, the decline in effectiveness of traditional instruments of state-to-state power, the deepening domestic dimensions of our foreign policy, and the emergence of new power centers in the Hemisphere-will almost certainly all continue.

Rapid political changes in the Hemisphere that appear inimical to our interests and foreign to our assumptions will inevitably occur. The basic principles of geopolitics will require more systematic, bilateral attention to those countries closest to our borders. Yet with a clear sense of long-run interests, and a commitment to shared human values, the United States can coexist and even prosper with the trends I have discussed.

The spread of power in the Hemisphere is to be clearly acknowledged rather than lamented. Both the "constraining" as well as the "sustaining" dimensions of these new power realities may well encourage the development-as in the Andean Pact countries-of innovative and responsible policies to shape the Hemisphere's future. On balance, U.S. human rights activists at large, in Congress, and in the Carter Administration have contributed to the process of democratization in Latin America. It is certainly consistent with our professed values and our most enduring interests to demonstrate that pluralist societies can be viable in the Hemisphere. However, for democratization to be consolidated in the 1980s, the United States must help create a new economic order that will facilitate integral, sustainable and equitable development in the newly industralizing countries to the south.

In the coming decade, the Western Hemisphere is likely to become an area of ever-increasing U.S. concern. And by looking at the changing nature of Latin-American realities, we may sensibly conclude that there is a clear need to modify our traditional, or current, definitions of U.S. vital interests as well as our ability to implement them.

2 Luigi Einaudi, testimony before the Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, April 5, 1978.

4 See Bernard Gwertzman, "U.S. Cuts off Assistance to Bolivia In Reaction to Takeover of Military," The New York Times, November 3, 1979, p. 3.

5 See The New York Times, February 15, 1979, p. 3, and The New York Times Magazine, September 16, 1979, p. 141, for López Portillo's remarks.

6 The two billion dollar estimate is by Wayne A. Cornelius in his valuable Mexican Migration to the United States: Causes, Consequences, and U.S. Responses, Cambridge, Mass.: Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Monograph Series of the Migration and Development Study Group, July, 1978.

11 Clark Reynolds, "Prospects for Employment Creation in Mexico During the Next Decade: Implications for the Relationship between Mexican Labor Supply and Future Employment Opportunities in the United States," Stanford, California: Food Research Institute, July 1979; and Reynolds' commentary presented at the Colloquium on "The Political Economy of Contemporary Mexico," Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C., September 13, 1979.

13 This formulation of the policy recommendation avoids two obstacles: Mexico's long-standing aversion to bilateral aid from the United States, and the U.S. policy against giving bilateral aid to a middle-income country such as Mexico.

14 President Carter's July 25, 1978 Proclamation to the People of Puerto Rico stated, "My Administration will respect the wishes of the people of Puerto Rico and your right to self-determination. Whatever decision the people of Puerto Rico may wish to take-statehood, independence, commonwealth status or mutually agreed modifications in that status-it will be yours, reached in accordance with your traditions, democratically and peacefully. . . . Should the Government of Puerto Rico decide to hold a referendum, I will support, and urge the Congress to support, whatever decision the people of Puerto Rico reach."

15 Data from the Geographical Distribution of Federal Funds, an annual report compiled for the Executive Office of the President by the Community Services Administration.

17 To be sure, many of the parties were small, but in addition to Mexico's PRI, some of Latin America's most important centrist parties were present. Former President of Bolivia Victor Paz Estenssoro represented the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR); former President of Costa Rica Daniel Oduber represented the Partido de Liberación Nacional (PLN); and the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria American (APRA) of Peru, the Partido Liberal of Columbia and Acción Democratica of Venezuela also sent delegates.

20 Conferencia Episcopal de Nicaragua, Mensaje al Pueblo Nicaragüense: Momento insurreccional, 2 de Junio 1979, Managua, and Carta Pastoral del Episcopado Nicaragüense, Compromiso Cristiano para una Nicaragua nueva, Managua, 17 de Noviembre de 1979.

22 See Carla Anne Robbins, "Looking for Another Angola: Cuban Policy Dilemmas in Africa," The Wilson Center, Latin American Program, Working Papers No. 38, 1979, and William J. Durch, "The Cuban Military in Africa and the Middle East: From Algeria to Angola," Center for Naval Analysis, Professional Paper No. 201, Washington, D.C., September 1977.

23 William LeoGrande, "Cuban-Soviet Relations and Cuban Policy in Africa," Paper prepared for the International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada, March 22-26, 1979, p. 16.

24 Edward Gonzalez, Statement before the Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, Impact of Cuban-Soviet Ties in the Western Hemisphere, April 12, 1978, p. 161.

25 LeoGrande, "Cuban-Soviet Relations and Cuban Policy in Africa," op. cit., p. 55.

26 For a careful discussion of these points, see Jorge I. Dominguez, "U.S. Policy Toward Cuba: A Discussion of Options," in The Americas in a Changing World: New York: Quadrangle, 1975, p. 126.


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  • Alfred Stepan is Professor of Political Science and Chairman of Latin American Studies at Yale University. He is the author of The Military in Politics: Changing Patterns in Brazil, The State and Society: Peru in Comparative Perspective, and other works.
  • More By Alfred Stepan