Courtesy Reuters

Political Extremes in South America

WAR has come to the Americas. The policy of the Good Neighbor is undergoing its crucial test. Will the United States secure the collaboration of the Latin American republics in the policies which it finds necessary to its own safety during and after the present crisis? This is above all a political problem. The agreements signed at Rio de Janeiro, encouraging as they may be, do not in themselves provide a full or permanent solution for it. The most excellent plans for the naval and military defense of South America worked out by North American strategists must remain on paper unless South American governments find it politically possible to grant us the use of the necessary bases. The same is true of the inter-governmental coöperation essential for combating the Nazi fifth column. Similarly, measures of economic warfare against the Axis suggested by Washington will be efficacious only if they have an underpinning of political confidence and agreement. The Latin American republics are sovereign states, jealous of their sovereignty. If we attempted to base a common defense policy on the mere fact of their economic dependence on us it would be almost sure to backfire. In order, then, for our policy to attract the necessary degree of support in the diverse fields where our interests are involved, we must understand and take account of the political forces now at work in all these countries, and particularly in the larger republics of South America.

In those countries party labels often mean very little. The old established parties -- Conservatives or Liberals or Radicals, whatever they may be called -- as well as the newer parties which claim to be revolutionary, generally have been concerned more with securing office than with elaborating political doctrines. Personalismo has been the most potent force; people usually have followed men rather than programs. This does not mean that the latter can be ignored. The formal doctrinal position of a particular party often indicates the foreign power towards

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