In This Review

Saving the Americas: The Dangerous Decline of Latin America and What the US Must Do
Saving the Americas: The Dangerous Decline of Latin America and What the US Must Do
By Andres Oppenheimer
Random House, 2007, 300 pp.

Published in Spanish under the title Cuentos chinos (Tall Tales), this dazzling, hard-hitting polemic topped bestseller lists around Latin America. Oppenheimer, a Miami Herald columnist and the dean of U.S.-based journalists specializing in Latin America, paints utterly derisive portraits of the region's current crop of autocratic populists. He contrasts a Latin America "blinkered by ideology and obsessed with the past" with the success stories of globalization -- China, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland -- and urges his region (he is originally Argentine) to climb aboard the globalization train. Rejecting cultural pessimism, Oppenheimer places his faith in progressive, forward-looking leadership that can quickly turn countries around: by aspiring to global standards, attracting international capital, and committing to quality education -- in short, by making nations competitive on a global scale. Yet the sharp-eyed Oppenheimer worries about vested interests and complacent elites and toys with the idea of a European-style "Community of the Americas" whereby a group of like-minded Latin American countries would bind themselves by common rules of good behavior, with some enhancements from Washington. But the insight-laden Saving the Americas is less about sharing sovereignty or overcoming U.S. neglect than about dramatic national narratives -- and what Latin Americans must do to save themselves.