Courtesy Reuters

Latin America's Troubled Cities

Of all our foreign aid programs, the one which probably excites the greatest concern currently is the Alliance for Progress, that enterprise dedicated to promoting economic and social progress in Latin America. Agricultural land reform and improvement in the conditions of rural life are prominent among the measures advocated by the Alliance. Through these it is hoped that revolutionary ferment can be channeled into evolutionary development. At this time, when the direction of the Alliance is under review, we should consider whether these measures are the ones most suitable to achieve the stated goals, or whether other measures, presently subordinated, hold greater promise for success.

A starting point for this reëvaluation could be a questioning of the relative emphasis placed on the rural and urban problems of the Latin American nations, both in the original framework of the Alliance and in the policies of those who now direct its work. The strategy of Latin American development demands that efforts be directed toward improving both sectors of national life-but which should be given priority? So far the emphasis has been on agricultural land reform and other rural improvements. To deal realistically with the economic and social problems of Latin American countries, we must critically examine the position of their cities-their relative importance to the country, rate of growth and intensity of problems-to see if they are being neglected in the formulation of Alliance policy.

In the years preceding the Alliance, Latin American nations did not come to grips with the massive problem of providing a suitable environment for their city dwellers. Very little by way of urban reform was carried out in terms of what was needed. In Bolivia, where the current urban housing shortage is estimated at 100,000, the national agency set up to build workers' homes completed only 1,000 dwellings from 1956 to 1961. In Venezuela, with an urban housing shortage of 250,000 units, the Banco Obrero, established to build housing for low- and middle-income families in the cities, from 1946 to 1960 built only 40,966 homes,

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