U.S. Aid to Latin America: Funding Radical Change

Courtesy Reuters

We are confronting in Latin America what is in essence an ideological crisis-a question of purpose. Given our national predilections this is the kind of problem we find most difficult to deal with. The temptation is to retreat, retrench and look inward. This is an impossibility: our wealth is too great not to share, our enterprise too successful and too useful not to expand, our interests-and the peace of the world-too vulnerable not to protect.

The central issue is revolution-radical, structural change in the political, economic and social systems of Latin America-and the relationship to it of the United States. Comforting and noncontroversial as it may be to speak in familiar technical terms of "development," particularly "economic development," we must accept the fact that real development is change; and that change necessarily raises questions of speed, direction and control which are in the largest sense inherently political and deeply controversial. In the Latin American environment particularly, the introduction of seemingly innocuous economic or technological change often in fact requires profound, permanent and radical alteration of existing systems.

Let us take food production, which has been hobbling along beneath the burden of rising population. We have generally supposed improving agricultural output to be a matter of better seed, more fertilizer, irrigation and the like. We have proceeded on the vague assumption that Latin American peasants resemble in some half-formed way the homesteaders of our own West-confident, Protestant entrepreneurs eagerly waiting for the means to a better life. We have treated Latin American states as though they were in fact representative of their people, able and willing to introduce the manifold changes which we encourage-and pay-them to promise, and prepared to mobilize efficiently a vast spread of governmental services to their rural areas. While some governments receiving assistance may have such capacity and determination, most do not. The Latin American peasant, generally speaking, is snared in an historical web of pressures and powers which allows him little control over his environment and deprives

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