Courtesy Reuters

What Private Enterprise Means to Latin America

The ultimate success or failure of the Alliance for Progress will be determined, in my judgment, primarily by the attitudes and actions of the business community in both the United States and the Latin American republics. This is not to say that the role of governments is unimportant; it is, indeed, essential. But without the enlightened coöperation of private enterprise, which provides 80 percent of the gross national product in Latin America, the growth pattern prescribed by the Alliance is unlikely to be realized.

The experience of United States private business to date reveals that a fundamental obstacle to its effective participation in hemispheric development is the existence of a deep-rooted misunderstanding of its purpose, practice and potential. In many countries this misunderstanding has led to laws and regulations unfavorable to business and to extreme forms of nationalism which create a climate unfavorable to foreign investment. The clichés responsible, endlessly repeated, are in some cases the result of ignorance, while others have been cunningly insinuated by those who seek to undermine free and democratic societies and confidence in free enterprise as the economic system that can best advance the public welfare.

Communist propaganda stridently blames the United States and United States business for all the readily visible ills of Latin America. Soviet, Castro and Chinese Communist agents move through city and village spreading half- truths and whole falsehoods. North American capitalists, they say, are out to exploit resources and markets to the detriment of the host nations; the capitalists want to keep the people in poverty so they can take over their minerals and metals; they are obsessed with excessive profits and have no concern for the land or its inhabitants.

Although these charges are largely without foundation, United States companies, with a few notable exceptions, are doing little to refute the misinformation and clear up the suspicion spread by Communist propaganda. Yet combat it we must, for otherwise we are in grave danger of losing our investments, our markets

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