Latin America


AT THE San Francisco Conference, the Act of Chapultepec was geared with considerable paper skill into the world peace organization. Enough autonomy was left to the regional system for it to function effectively in sudden critical circumstances. Lines of authority and of procedure involving the American and world organizations were defined in the charter of the world establishment with sufficient clarity to avoid frivolous clashes and misunderstandings.

So far as arrangements can be made on paper for future human contentions, we have good reason to hope that the two peace systems, the world and the regional, will function harmoniously together. At the same time this harmony will certainly be greater if, right from the beginning, we face up to certain doubtful, even dangerous, factors in the situation.

If the Act of Chapultepec is invoked to further some imperialistic purpose of Washington or of some of the stronger South American powers, there will develop a virtual flight of frightened and angry Latin states into the protection of the United Nations organization.

On the other hand, failure of the world organization’s Security Council to meet a serious crisis for the peace firmly and successfully would as surely tighten the bonds within the American regional system. But in tightening them it would almost as certainly change the regional system into an aggressive and defensive regional alliance.

Washington can influence the Security Council strongly to avoid the type of errors most likely to alienate the American states and their regional system from the world organization. But within the American system the situation is different. There Washington, with its power and influence, can see to it that the American regional peace system functions with reasonable effectiveness and that the Act of Chapultepec is enforced with power and justice. But it will take a clearer understanding of interAmerican policy than the State Department has shown lately to do this.

Watch Argentina

What Argentina, under her present government, requires from now on is constant watching, both by the United Nations and by the inter-American organization of republics, to force her to live up to her membership pledges to both organizations. If the Argentine government and people should come to feel the full meaning of this treatment, not only would some of the dangers of future trouble from fascism in the Argentine quarter be allayed, but Argentina’s unity with the other nations in the cause of peace might eventually become a real unity.

This essentially probationary treatment of Argentina during the trial period of her membership in the peace groups might, if successfully pursued, relieve some of the mistrust among the nations of the world organization. Our chances of making either of the peace organizations click depend to a large extent on making Argentina’s membership take with the Argentine people and with some reformed government they may eventually establish for themselves.

Meanwhile there is one distinctly hopeful factor on the Buenos Aires front. Spruille Braden, the new American Ambassador to Argentina, appears to be taking a personally strong line with the FarrellPerón crew. He has wasted no entertainments or blandishments on the regime beyond those strictly required by official courtesy. He has refused any extra favors asked by the government-controlled press and by publications of the Army clique backing the government.

Still more significantly, Mr. Braden has made a point of cultivating close confidential relations with leaders of liberal and even underground organizations working against the government. Some of his conferences with them have come within a few hours or days after individual leaders have been released from jail. The Braden method has been to do all this publicly and let the government try to make something out of it, if it chooses. So far nothing has been made out of it — a fact which indicates that Argentina may respond to a strong policy, on a broader base, originating in Washington.

The signs all point now to twenty fairly quick Latin American ratifications of the United Nations Charter especially with a lead in swift action from the United States. But the strength of the world organization below the Rio Grande will depend on a good deal more than courteous Latin gestures of “joining up.”Will their domestic difficulties distract the Latin governments from contributing real power to the support of peace in the Western Hemisphere?

Argentine democracy

Argentina with her economic wealth and the forces making for order among her people could provide stability in the Hemisphere if she were living today under one of the better types of government which her people have enjoyed during the past half century. Also the world and regional peace systems would both gain through having a strong Argentina as a supporting member.

But so far, Argentina gets no better. Censorship on outgoing news has been relaxed slightly during the past month, but the domestic press of the republic and the channels of information are no more free than before. Some prominent political prisoners have been released with much government fanfare. But others are still imprisoned or have simply disappeared in the usual fascist way.

The state of siege under which most of these suppressions of Argentine constitutional liberties have been accomplished has not been lifted, and there are no signs that the government is thinking about lifting it. Worse still, the government’s capacity to perpetuate itself appears to be growing. Vice President Perón is now virtually an announced candidate for election to the presidency in an election for which no laws have yet been provided and no election date set.

The law now under discussion by the government would permit any member of the government to form a party of two thousand or more persons and to nominate national candidates. It would permit any individual citizen, without party formalities, to run as an independent candidate for anything. In such a hodgepodge of parties and independent candidacies, General Perón with his following and his official influence could walk away with the presidency.

That bandit: Inflation

Most of the Latin countries — including two of the strongest, Mexico and Brazil — are desperately plagued by inflation troubles, with all the threats that these carry in countries that have a low standard of living. Mexico and Brazil, moreover, are due, within a year, to have bitter presidential campaigns over complicated issues — in Brazil’s case under new and untested election laws.

The liberal elements in Brazil are becoming more gloomy about their chances of ousting the Vargas regime. As they see it now, a Vargas candidate, War Minister General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, is “in" on December 6, if the government goes through with the expected maneuver of rigging the election rules.

Especially the strong anti-government groups in the rich, big state of São Paulo are discouraged and indignant at the prospects. But they are still pleased that some form of presidential election has been forced, and they feel that they can take care of a stooge president like Dutra in the next election, or even — presidential politics in Brazil being traditionally volatile — before the next election.

Elsewhere political and border troubles, more or less connected with inflation, are on the rise. For instance, the new liberal government which came into office in Guatemala in March is beginning to be pushed around by old-school Army caudillos. The government still seems to be on top, but it is shedding some of the civil rights of its liberalism, in the traditional Latin way, in order to handle the opposition.

In the West Indies the notorious Dominican caudillo dictator, General Leonidas Trujillo, has been taking care of opposition with a new crop of firing squads, mysterious disappearances, and jail assassinations, possibly as a spur to patriotism. Trujillo’s government seems to have unofficially declared a new open season on massacres of Haitian peasants along disputed sections of the border between Haiti and Santo Domingo. There is a bare possibility that one of the first places in which the regional or the world system will be called on to act may be Haiti.

Chile, too, has inflation. The country is boiling with discontents and with threats of seizure of the government by totalitarian Army elements.

In Cuba the factions which elected Dr. Grau San Martín president last autumn are quarreling violently just below the surface. The issues are economic and are capable of producing open combat at the next turn of the screws of inflation and post-war trade displacements.