Latin America


AS SYMPTOMS of the kind of politics we shall be dealing with in the adjustment period ahead, some of Latin America’s presidential campaign tangles are worth looking at. In Peru, for instance, the Liberal element, whose majority faction is the longsuppressed pro-Indian, mildly socialistic Apra Party, chose Dr. José Luis Bustamante as president of the republic. Getting the votes out was easy, once the principle of permitting freedom of political action to the Apra Party was conceded by the government. But getting Bustamante counted in and accepted as the winner took some doing.

The administration, whose candidate was General Eloy Ureta, an old-fashioned South American horseback reactionary, controlled the electoral count in a crucial number of heavily voting regions in the republic. At once in these districts the old Spanish American custom of disqualifying ballots for “irregularities” began.

The disqualifications stopped only when the Liberal leaders threatened the National Electoral Jury (the national board of election commissioners ) with calling some highly inflammable mass meetings. Since then, there have been threats of an Army coup to prevent Dr. Bustamante from taking office.

At that, it was Peru’s fairest election in at least half a century. But the new president still has his toughest problem ahead of him: getting his substantial “Liberal Front” majority in Congress to agree on a few basic economic and social reforms.

Will we please cede Texas

Other election prospects in Latin America are somewhat less complicated, although by no means totally encouraging. In Mexico, Foreign Minister Ezequiel Padilla has resigned, apparently to run for president sometime in 1946. Although Dr. Padilla has publicly requested his supporters to stop campaigning for his nomination, his campaign headquarters suggestively remains open.

Mexican political analysts, however, consider it even more significant that the former Foreign Minister is now trying to take the curse off his recent assistance to Washington diplomacy in his ardent support of the admission of Argentina to the United Nations and the San Francisco Conference. He has started to raise Cain, suddenly, over 81-year-old Mexican demands for the return of a small section of El Paso, Texas, — the Chamizal zone, — to Mexico.

The consensus in Mexican political circles is that Miguel Aleman, the recently retired Secretary of Interior, is a much stouter 1946 candidate. He has Administration support and has, in addition, avoided all foreign entanglements and accusations of stooging for the “Yanquis. ”

Venezuela’s presidential problem mainly has to do with defeating former President López Contreras, who succeeded Juan Vicente Gómez, the country’s dictator from 1908 to 1935. López Contreras did an excellent job of making the transition from a brutal dictatorship to a middle-of-the-road liberal government.

But today, after four years of President Isaías Medina’s still more liberal regime, progressive Venezuelans, especially labor elements, dislike the idea of going as far back toward government-controlled labor unions as the López Contreras faction proposes.

Consequently, Dr. Diógenes Escalante, after ten years in Venezuela’s Washington embassy, has gone home with practically certain assurances of becoming a mild left-wing candidate against López Contreras. He has prestige enough so that there is still doubt as to whether aging López Contreras will actually come to the point of running against him.

In Colombia, intrigues and in-fighting engagements are occurring between the various Liberal Party leaders who are seeking either to become candidates or to control the Liberal candidates in the 1946 presidential elections.

Straw men in Brazil

Brazil’s election melancholia chiefly comes from not sharing the hopes of either Peru or Venezuela, or even the chronic uncertainties of Colombia. The main difficulty with the Brazilian electorate is that it has had Dictator Vargas so long — fifteen years — that it is difficult for anyone to take seriously the idea of a change.

Consequently, most Brazilian political cynicism tends to put prospects of the December 6 presidential election this way: If the ostensible government candidate, War Minister Eurico Gaspar Dutra, wins, Vargas will certainly be boss. But if the technical “opposition” candidate, General Eduardo Gomes, comes through, Vargas will also wind up as boss because Gomes has been given the nod by the regime as its pet “opposition” candidate.

But Brazilian political cynics are predicting that a few public disorders will be promoted by the Vargas secret police during the later stages of the campaign. The probable result will be that Dictator Vargas, with one of his characteristic addresses (“You see, my children, what these democratic excesses lead you to”), will simply call off elections and go on being dictator.

Perón campaigns in Argentina

Argentina’s fascist methods of government, as well as her relations with the United States and the entire regional “front” of American republics, are still the top moral and political dilemma in the Western Hemisphere. And no relief is probable until our State Department adopts a firm and coherent United States policy toward Argentina and toward fascism in this hemisphere.

The new choice of a president in Argentina was promised by President Farrell on July 7. A few days later the president also agreed that there would be no official government support of any specific candidate in the elections.

But this has not prevented Vice President Juan D. Perón, who is also generally accepted as stage manager of General Farrell’s puppet show in the presidency, from using all the facilities of the government to advance his own announced presidential candidacy if an election is really to be permitted the Argentine people in November or December. As an official of policy-making rank, Perón lately made a spectacular effort to twist Argentine popular attitudes on foreign policy to his uses.

Braden takes on the colonels

United States Ambassador Spruille Braden has been known since his arrival in Buenos Aires in May as a frank critic of the Farrell-Perón government’s failure to live up to its obligations as a member of the United Nations and of the regional peace-keeping system of the American republics.

Early in July, consequently, Buenos Aires was suddenly treated to a deluge of printed leaflets, smearing Ambassador Braden as “Cowboy Braden,” the “tamer” of free republics, the advance agent of “Yanqui imperialism” in Latin America, the insulter of civilizations better than his own, and so on. The Ambassador was even accused of responsibility for a tragic fire accident in the Braden copper mines in Chile, although no member of the Braden family has owned stock in these properties since 1912.

But when Ambassador Braden returned from a lecture tour, he was met at the Santa Fé station in Buenos Aires by a cheering crowd of nearly three thousand calling for “democracy,” “freedom of speech,” and “free elections.” It was led by former President General Arturo Rawson, former Foreign Minister José Maria Cantilo, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Carlos Saavedra Lamas. Surprisingly, only two demonstrators were immediately arrested.

There are even stronger evidences in Argentina of the results which a forthright and determined ambassador can bring about by his personal weight. No one knows yet, for instance, what threats of retaliation Ambassador Braden has been able to make to the Perón government, concerning what might happen if critical copy written by American news correspondents were seriously tampered with.

But we do know that, ever since Arnaldo Cortesi, late in May, sent his famous dispatch to the New York Times declaring that fascist political methods in Argentina were worse than any he had seen during seventeen years in Italy, coverage of the Perón regime’s scandalous political methods in Argentina has been clean, factual, and uninterrupted.

The changing situation gives hope, in fact, that if our State Department should openly and affirmatively back the Braden program in Argentina, it might even blow the Perón candidacy out of the water into the limbo of merely wishful Latin American dictatorships. But up to August, State Department management of inter-American affairs confined its support of the courageous ambassador to merely whispering, in Washington club bars, that it had “put Braden up to what he was up to.”