Foreign and Human Relations with Latin America

Courtesy Reuters

The substantive and procedural problems of Latin American development are hard enough. Harder still is the inseparable task of understanding the social and psychological problems well enough to begin coping with them. With Latin America, we do not have any significant difficulties in formulating goals. The 1961 Charter of Punta del Este, the lines of action agreed on by the Presidents at Punta del Este in 1967, the economic and social principles of the revised Charter of the Organization of American States-indeed the constitutions of the other American states-all support this assertion. The difficulties begin thereafter, when operations start to go forward. The problems are various, and their origins are distributed. Most of the impediments that are fairly attributable to the United States arise from that short-haul practicality all too often, and incorrectly, called "pragmatism."

Frequently, in Latin America, development operations have been impeded by emotional responses. Neither we, who want to help, nor they, who want help, understand very much about the psycho-political nature of these difficulties. The fact is that the difficulties are related to attitudes not yet scientifically identified. Traditional assumptions and classic models still govern the execution of mutual assistance.

We do justice to ourselves and a favor to our neighbors when we insist that the reasons for Latin America's problems are mostly in Latin America. We can, however, accomplish little by preaching to others, especially about problems that are emotional. These comments, then, focus on what North Americans need to understand about the nature of our own influence and its interaction with change to the south of us.


Most of us in the United States see ourselves as a large but well-motivated nation, richer than our neighbors but with no wish to exploit them, moderately successful in tackling our own immense problems and puzzled that others do not go about solving theirs in a more purposeful way. This image only slightly overlaps with what many Latin Americans see. For them, we are a giant with an unfair

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