Latin America

on the World Today

THE ostensibly coöperative and harmonious meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the American Republics in Washington, just after Easter, accomplished little. Few tangible operations are now under way either to promote the defense of the Western Hemisphere or to contribute the Hemisphere’s full quota of force and supplies for the defense of the free world in other regions.

In a word, no genuine schedule has been set for the development of Latin America’s potentialities. Instead, the Foreign Ministers’ meeting ended with a series of vague and fragmentary recommendations for military and economic programs, which are now being slowly sifted over by the growing bureaucracy of inter-American collaborating agencies. The general idea seems to be to mull them over at comfortable diplomatic leisure.

In result, a good many doubtfully compatible ideas and proposals were yoked together in language which sought to gloss over basic national conflicts with glowing statements of general principles. But the hidden discords were there.

Passing the buck

The Foreign Ministers turned over the implementing and interpretation of most of their orucial resolutions to permanent inter-American bodies in Washington, such as the Inter-American Economic and Social Council. To this extent, the gathering turned out to be an extremely high-level operation in buck passing.

For example, the Inter-American Defense Board — a group of largely high-brass military technicians, representing the twenty-one republics and functioning from Washington — has been given the job of making plans for the collective defense of the Hemisphere. Yet the Board must undertake this assignment against the highly qualifying reservations of the Conference’s resolution that American governments may be called on to aid in the common defense against aggression only “in accordance with their capabilities and with their constitutional norms” and “without prejudice to their individual self-defense and their internal security.” In other words, the Defense Board can count on only as much actual “military coöperation” from any individual Latin American nation as its government, under the vicissitudes of domestic political issues, is disposed to provide.

Seven out of sixteen resolutions dealing with economic problems were referred to the InterAmerican Economic and Social Council. The Council, for instance, is instructed to convoke a committee of technical experts to make recommendations to the American governments on price controls and the maintenance of the purchasing power of currencies. It is requested to organize expert study groups to report on problems of the supply and allocation of scarce raw materials, mainly strategic. It is also charged with making recommendations for desirable changes in freight and insurance rates on essential materials in inter-American trade; with projecting a plan for increasing Latin America’s natural rubber production and manufacture; with filing reports on changes in labor standards in individual republics; and with proposing measures for bringing the Hemisphere economy back to normal when the emergency is over.

Along with the Inter-American Cultural Council — also a Washington-centered body — the Economic and Social Council is saddled with the broadly inclusive job of preparing “as soon as possible plans and programs of action for promoting effective coöperation among the American Republics in order to raise the economic, social, and cultural levels of their peoples.”

The Economic and Social Council would appear, indeed, to be loaded with enough working obligations to last through several international emergencies. Its members, consequently, have tended to approach most of their allotted tasks at a snail’s pace. This tendency to leisurely action has been encouraged, no doubt, by the fact that the Council is composed chiefly of amiable second-string diplomats from Washington’s Latin American embassies rather than of professional economists.

Controlling the Fifth Column

The visiting Foreign Ministers handled the extremely pressing problem of internal security against Communist espionage and subversive operations with, if possible, an even more remote touch. Their resolution on this subject instructed the Pan American Union to assign its proper department — the Union’s International Law and Organization Department was tentatively suggested — to make expert recommendations on antisubversive legislation within the republics. Although the resolution suggested, laudably enough, that such legislation should interfere as little as possible with democratic civil liberties, it underwrote no practical steps.

During World War II, the American governments maintained a joint Committee on Political Defense in Montevideo which did a highly efficient job of riding herd on the subversive operations of Nazis and Fascists. The 1951 Conference, however, made no suggestions for reviving the Committee’s machinery for use against the Communists.

As a result, it may be some time within the next two or three months that a project for reviving it could reasonably be expected to filter up to the governments of the republics through the bureaucratic chain of command in the Pan American Union. The mere fact that a functioning political defense organization might have been re-established by decision of the Conference virtually before the end of April apparently did not appeal to the Foreign Ministers.

Finally, the Conference left such important problems as the allocation of strategic materials, the increase of production, the expansion of economic development programs, and the strengthening of democratic rights and institutions in the republics largely to the individual governments.

Steps In the right direction

On the constructive side, the Foreign Ministers’ Conference did help to harmonize, as well as clarify, the thinking of the leaders of the republics on a number of controversial questions, The Latin Americans, for instance, won a useful bat t le for a resolution declaring that “the economic development of underdeveloped countries should be considered as an essential factor in the total concept of Hemisphere defense.”

Foundations were laid for sound working arrangements on the delicate problem of allocations and priorities. It was agreed that consultation between individual governments should be held prior to applications of new schedules. But the Conference resolution on the subject also agreed that when special developments in the emergency required establishment of allocations and priorities before consultations could be arranged, the government making the changes would be obligated to consider later adjustments of the new schedules on complaint of a government adversely affected. The Conference again gave its blessing— and requested those of individual republics — to all forms of administrative, treaty, and commercial measures designed to bring about increased output and faster processing of st rategic materials.

It conferred its approval on higher wages and better living, health, and educational standards for workers in all the republics — though not directly upon labor unions as agencies for obtaining these benefits. With a somewhat more gingerly touch, the Foreign Ministers even recognized that the United Nations might have some need of their military assistance outside the Hemisphere. “The present world situation,” declared the resolution on this point, “requires positive support by the American republics for . . . coöperation, within the United Nations Organization, to prevent and suppress aggression in other parts of the world.”

But the Inter-American Defense Board was given no commission to plan for these remote global operations. The resolution was further watered down by the qualification that armed forces should be made available for UN service only “ to the full extent that, in [each individual republic’s] judgment, its capabilities permit.”It was perfectly obvious at the Conference’s end, in fact, that no additional Latin American powers had been sold on offering troops for service in Korea.

Nevertheless, some gains definitely were being made on the military side in the wake of the Conference. The Inter-American Defense Board by late May had assembled the strongest technical staff in its history, which was spending from five to six days a week in concrete planning on Hemisphere defense. As General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, former chief of staff of the Colombian Army, joined the planning group as its vice-director, a fully trained Colombian battalion was being readied to embark for Korea.

Meanwhile, in spite of the delays and frustrations which the Economic and Social Council was experiencing in dealing with the problems passed on to it by the Conference, something was being learned by the Councilors about how to conduct continuous international business together. It was, perhaps, a kind of “spring football practice" method of teaching this rather elementary branch of international government. But if the emergency would only refrain long enough from blowing up into World War III, the diplomats and economic statesmen of the American countries might yet learn how to sit as a hoard of directors on the Hemisphere’s delicate problems of supply and preparedness.

Same old Perón

For live years, a succession of United States Ambassadors to Argentina— George Messersmith, James Bruce, and Stanton A. Griffis — have praised, with varying degrees of enthusiasm. the totalitarian regime of Dictator-President Juan Domingo Perón. As self-described “ practical men" they have advocated that Washington policy pay court to it for ils influence in Latin American power politics if not for its charm. In something of a climax to these persuasions, a U S. loan of 125 million dollars was arranged last year for Perón as an act of propitiatory friendship and to enable his government to pay off its commercial debts to the United States.

The Perónist response to these courtesies this year was to extinguish and expropriate La Prensa of Buenos Aires, one of the world’s outstanding liberal newspapers, and to begin circulating the propaganda, carried in the speeches of Perón himself, that. United States capitalism is as much the enemy of the Argentine people as Communism itself.

Under these circumstances, the Argentine government’s acceptance of all the resolutions of the Foreign Ministers’ Conference without protest or serious reservation could scarcely be called a diplomatic victory for Washington. Fairly obviously, the Argentinians did not consider their obligations to carry out the Conference decisions as serious enough to he worth arguing about. Or, as the Rio de Janeiro newspaper, Correio da Manhã, put it, “Perón’s solidarity is at best an equivocation.”

No Expropriation in Bolivia

Since the early days of World War II the United States has fallen far short of fulfilling its promises to help in improving the living and working conditions of Bolivian tin miners. In partial result, at the Bolivian national elections on May 6, the anti-gringo vote strongly coalesced.

Victor Paz Estenssoro, a wartime pro-Nazi and former minister of a government which came into power in 1943 frankly to oppose United States influence in the republic, received practically the solid support of the miners. His platform, a combination of Nazi and Communist appeals, virtually pledged nationalizat ion of t he tin mines; and in the May 6 contest, Paz Estenssoro won a heavy plurality over three other candidates, of 41 per cent of all the votes cast. This lead was enough practically to ensure his election by the Bolivian Congress, which makes the decision among candidates when there is no clear majority winner.

Bolivia thus stood on the verge of expropriation of its tin industry and of a government friendly to, if not fully meshed with, the Latin American Communist front.

Rescue was accomplished by ah orthodox Andean military coup. O.i May Hi General Ovidio Quiroga, chief of the armed forces, ousted civilian President Mamerto Urriolagoitia, installed General Hugo Ballivian in the presidential palace, dismissed Congress, and outlawed the results of the May (i election. General Quiroga has been an honor guest of the United States armed forces recently, and President Ballivian has been a delegate to the Inter-American Defense Board in W ashington.

So there will be no expropriation of the tin interests at present. But there were some indications that there might be civil war on the labor fron’ in Bolivia before the Paz Estenssor exclusion issue is settled with the miners. Meanwhile the tin which the free world needs for its strategic stockpiles will be produced by men who resent the armed coercion at their back.