Latin America


THE inter-American front serves three purposes: it is a supply line for essential war materials; it is an important reinforcement front for the rapid transport of “super priority” fighting men and materials and government officials to all portions of the European war areas, including Russia; and its network of air and naval bases is the Hemisphere’s defensive front against Axis submarine ravages, and for the protection of the Panama Canal.

All these emergency functions the Hemisphere front is still performing — except for a few materials — more than adequately. In spite of the huge war consumption of certain goods, considerable stockpiles of strategic minerals, now mainly derived from Latin America, have been accumulated. The political defections from which the front is suffering have not materially checked this flow of goods which armies must have. Even Argentina continues to supply meat and grain to Great Britain.

As for reinforcement and communications, the flow of air and shipping traffic through Brazil’s “Bulge” ports was never better. Brazil is closer to her allies — Russia, perhaps, excepted — both in Europe and in North America than any other Latin American power.

The third objective of inter-American collaboration — the defensive — already has been largely fulfilled. Sufficient bases to take care of practically any conceivable submarine, or even air, attack on the two continents have been established and are in operation. Things are going well defensively.

But after the war —

In the long haul, what may legitimately be expected of an inter-American concert of powers toward a permanent peace?

In the first place, for a considerable period after the war a vast flow of the Western Hemisphere’s foodstuffs and essential industrial materials must be maintained to the other continents in order to reestablish the war-stricken nations. And not all of these exports, by any means, can immediately be paid for in the kinds of manufactured products in which there are various degrees of critical shortages in almost every region of the American continents.

Second, the greatest possible degree of political agreement needs to be worked out among the American nations, including the United States, so that they can present a reasonably united front in bringing about the kind of peace which they most need themselves. An international agreement is needed which will safeguard the rights of small nations, guarantee a more fluid world trade economy, and reduce balance of power intrigues among the stronger countries by making the maintenance of peace against all aggressors a genuine international responsibility.

U. S. scapegoat

Little has been done to center the attention of the American power bloc — if we can use such a term to describe the wartime relationship of the American republics — on these long-term objectives. The republics are loosely united in an emergency operation to carry through a few immediate war enterprises together. But most of them will scramble eagerly to escape from the toils of effective collaboration as soon as the emergency is over.

Mexico, our nearest neighbor, is officially a cobelligerent. But Mexico is in the grip of one of the severest inflation and cost-of-living crises in her tangled financial history. And increasingly — if by no means altogether justly — the economic war policies of the United States are being blamed for it.

Still worse, out of the economic difficulties is arising another crisis: a struggle between the Left and Right in Mexico — between the old socializing revolutionist element once led by former President Lázaro Cárdenas and the anti-war Sinarquistas who have been backed from the beginning by the Spanish Falange. The aim of both factions is to destroy the middleof-the-road policies of President Ávila Camacho. The victory of either group is unlikely to lead to closer collaboration with the United States in promoting a sound inter-American policy.

Or take Colombia, the most democratic republic in South America in its working politics, and also a fellow belligerent. In the late autumn Colombia’s President Alfonso López took a leave of absence to visit the United States. He has been back on the home grounds for nearly three months, during which he has displayed reluctance to resume his office and has made several threats of formal resignation.

Part of this attitude has been due to certain peculiar and highly complicated domestic difficulties of some of López’s appointees to high office. Also, as one of the slickest Latin American politicians, he may prefer to run affairs from behind the scenes rather than in a star role. But the net effect has been to risk a split in the Liberal Party, which has administered the government since 1930, and to open the possibility of a victory in the elections —either in 1946 or directly after López’s resignation — by the Conservatives, who are openly anti-United States.

Further south, Ecuador is awaiting a presidential election in June in which, barring coups, a somewhat artificial coalition of eleven more or less liberal factions, called the Democratic Alliance, seems to have the best chance of winning. But the liberal factions in Ecuador have the same complaints as the Mexican leftists against the United States for shortages in goods and commodities and for high prices. In addition they charge that Washington has given undue support to the present unpopular President Carlos Arroyo del Rio.

Argentina beckons

Peru is reasonably free from liberal disturbances and election troubles, but during the winter narrowly escaped an army officers’ coup to oust the nominally pro-United States government and set up a corporative regime on the Argentinian model.

Deeper still in the southern continent, Uruguay resisted temporarily and uncertainly during March strong internal pressure to have the government recognize the corporative regime of General Edelmiro Farrell in Argentina, but Paraguay and Chile gave up the struggle and accorded recognition to the Farrellistas. President Higinio Morinigo of Paraguay, in fact, after a distinctly unpleasant session with a group of his rebellious pro-Argentine army officers, fired the members of his cabinet most friendly to the United States and thus Paraguay became tacitly a satellite of Buenos Aires.

Chile, to be sure, did not demote herself that far. Ever since its recognition of the Farrell regime on March 3, the Chilean government has been explaining privately to the State Department in Washington that no harm was intended to inter-American collaboration or the United Nations by the step. But, with things as they stand today, in the inevitable conflict between Buenos Aires and Washington over the longterm aims of an inter-American policy, Chile could no more be depended on for collaboration than the other disaffected republics.

Who’s on our side?

That leaves us, then, the nine Caribbean republics — of which five, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, are the starkest kind of dictatorships — and Brazil. They are fairly dependable for support toward a few longrange objectives. But El Salvador suffered a revolution early in April, and there are plenty of indications that Brazil collaborates quite as much on the strength of her South American power interests, which are opposed to Argentina’s, as on the score of the kind of peace which a genuine common front of American republics might aim for.

Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that Argentina and Bolivia have appeared lately to feel cockier than ever about their position. . Argentina signalized its contempt for United States opinion by virtually kicking the great central operating unit of the United Press for South America out of the republic, and by delivering to United States Ambassador Norman Armour, through the pro-Axis Minister of Interior, General Cesar Perlinger, one of the most insulting tongue-lashings to an important diplomat ever received by a major power in silence.

Bolivia proved her general cantankerousness by conducting a political purge which left José Antonio Arce, leader of the leftist revolutionary party, a prisoner on an island in Lake Titicaca and sent one of the fathers of the December revolution, Major Alberto Taborga, into exile in the jungles facing Brazil. Even without recognition by Washington, Bolivian totalitarianism was obviously strengthening itself.

Two factors are responsible for these progressive disintegrations: the failure of the United States to send even partially adequate supplies to suffering populations in Latin American countries as a legitimate necessity in our global war effort; and an insistence upon non-intervention, in our political contacts with the various republics, so rigid that its net effect has led us into appeasing our enemies while rebuffing our friends.

Half of our troubles in Latin America come, in other words, from not treating the “ Good Neighbors ” as an important factor in the war, or from slapping down, rather than cultivating, the progressive forces within the twenty republics who must be our allies, sooner or later, in the objectives we are fighting for.