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    Latin America Essay (3699 words)

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    In attempting to establish the current state of development in Latin America,historical chronology serves as the foundation necessary for a comprehensivelylogical position. Latin American development has evolved in distinct phases,which lead to the present day standings of the politics and peoples throughoutthe region.

    The culmination of distinct historical attributes: conquest,colonialism, mercantilism, captalism, industrialism, and globalism, serve as thedevelopmental path from the past, to allow an understanding of the current stateof development. In overview of this, as perceived by Latin American governments,the four primary areas of concern as reported from the 1994, Summit of theAmericas held by heads of 34 countries, were as follows: (1) preserving andstrengthening the community of democracies of the Americas, (2) free trade areaof the Americas (FTAA), (3) eradicating poverty and discrimination in thehemisphere, (4) education (Americas Net). Each issue examined by members of thesummit involves aspects of politics and economics. The desired changes in LatinAmerican society can be shown connected to these two subject areas, as held byauthors Skidmore and Smith, From modernization theory we take the casualpremise that economic transformations induce social changes which, in turn, havepolitical consequences.

    (Skidmore and Smith, 10) The understanding ofhistorical background, an awareness of current political goals, and theincorporation of modern political and social theory allow an increasinglyaccurate depiction of the state of development in Latin America to beconstructed. Development, largely defined as bringing to a more advanced oreffective state, stands often as the product of the successful management andcollaboration of economic, social, and political areas. The current state ofdevelopment should therefore gauge todays level of success in creating a moreadvanced and effective state. In considering these criteria, development inLatin America may best be described as progressively transitional, continuallyimproving, yet still lacking stability and permanence in structure. Thisapparent lack is causing disfunctionalism of governmental bodies to besuccessfully consistent in altering the povertized sectors of society. Theultimate pattern perpetuates the social stratifications of Latin America, whichonly continue to erode the workings of development at large.

    To break such acycle, successful structural functionalism under governments of stability andpermanence must be achieved. Economics: Economics holds key importance in anarray of political and social workings in all areas of the world. The factormaking this sector a central component in successful development is thateconomics often serves as the catalyst between developmental areas. Even inbasic terms as proposed in the modernization theory employed by authors Skidmoreand Smith, economics alters the society, and this in turn will play a crucialfactor in political outcomes, Latin America has occupied an essentiallysubordinate or dependent position, pursuing economic paths that have beenlargely shaped by the industrial powers of Europe and the United States.

    Theseeconomic developments have brought about transitions in the social order andclass structure, and these changes in turn have crucially affected politicalchange. (Skidmore and Smith, 42) Keeping this in mind, one applies thisbackground knowledge to the region of Latin America. Historically, the marketsand economies of Latin America have functioned with near absolute dependence onthe needs and conditions of foreign markets. Largely, this economic relationshipis referred to as dependency theory. This dependence was instilled from theincipient colonization efforts of Spain and Portugal, which operated on themonarchial duty of mercantilism; all efforts were done in honor of the mothercountry alone.

    With the fall of colonialism and the onset of independentgovernment, two major transitions occurred. First, the newly independentgovernments advanced peoples of European blood and descent into the majority ofpolitical positions and a new upper class was established, Given these neweconomic incentives, landowners and property owners were no longer content torun subsistence operations on their haciendas; instead they sought opportunitiesand maximized profits (S+S, 45); this would later affect economics, politicsand society as a whole. Second, entry into a development period attempting a newmodel of growth, focused primarily upon the creation and balance of imports andexports. The outcomes of this period varied for different countries of LatinAmerica, mainly dependent upon the resources found inside their borders and thedesire of the outside world to invest within.

    Investment served as both thepromise and poison of this period. With the Industrial Revolution alteringproduction priorities around the world, less developed areas were sought to actas a production center of natural and raw materials, Between 1870 and 1913the value of Britains investments in Latin America went from 85 millionpounds sterling to 757 million pounds in 1913 an increase of almost ninefoldin four decades. (S+S, 43) The importance of this transition is found in thefact that investment in Latin America was made only to develop industry, whichproduced raw materials necessary to fuel the industrial revolution in Europe andthe United States. The next phase of economic development was spurred primarilyby the Great Depression, and two World Wars.

    What both of these eventsdemonstrated was that if Latin America continued economic dependence to such anextreme upon foreign markets then internal unrest would be felt by everyexternal, international unrest. For young markets and weak governments, such anoutlook could not be considered. Thus, a major economic trend developed underthe encompassing title of primary product import substitution, which inresponse to these realizations encouraged the creation and promotion of nationalindustry. To redirect market sectors toward the production of finished products,not merely raw materials, as previously produced, By producing industrial aswell as agricultural and mineral goods, the Latin American economies wouldbecome more integrated and self-sufficient. And, as a result, they would be lessvulnerable to the kinds of shocks brought on by the worldwide depression.

    (S+S,53) The final phase, following generalized periods of success and growth lead tothe inevitable realization that the world market was becoming exponentiallyimbalanced. Impracticalities in the idea of Latin America becoming a worldtrading partner of finished goods soon showed themselves as unemployment beganto rise from less demand on manual labor and wages failed to rise with prices onthe world market of more highly industrialized countries. Beyond wages howeverwas the more important loss of purchasing power from their goods, Over time,the world market prices of Latin Americas principal exports underwent asteady decline in purchasing power. (S+S, 56) For the same amount of productsused in the past, less capital goods were being purchased.

    This marked the pointof entry for many countries into failing economies and debt. Governments, indesperation, were at a point of decision, and the new answer came in the formof, debt-lead growth and corporatism. Simultaneously, there was an internationaltrend of opening markets to practices of free trade. As governmentsde-nationalized industry and took on increased loans from the IMF and WorldBank, inflation ensued throughout the economy, Between 1970 and 1980 LatinAmerica increased its external debt from $27 billion to $231 billion, withannual debt-service payments (interest plus amortization) of $18 billion. (S+S,58) In exchange for debt relief, the IMF imposed restrictions on Latin Americaneconomies, which were largely termed as structural adjustments.

    Thesepractices were being followed at first, yet the initial periods of time provedto burden primarily the lower classes and by-pass the elites, whose prosperitywas secured outside of the countrys direct economy. The long-term result ofeconomic reform has been the lowering of inflation, Excluding Brazil, averageinflation throughout the region dropped from 130 percent in 1989 to 14 percentin 1994. (S+S, 60) Brazil Brazil did not heed the advice of the IMF and didnot choose to undergo the stringent economic reforms of the 1970s and 80s. Although the generalized trend was a lowering of deflation in the 1990s,Brazil fell short from that scenario and inflation soared.

    As reported bySkidmore and Smith, the rate of inflation found in 1993 was 2490 percentannually. In that same year a new finance minister was named, Fernando Cardoso,with his title came a $122 billion foreign debt. (My Brazil) In 1994, a newanti-inflation program was developed and this began to show results. Entitled,the Real Plan, its stringent economic reforms lead to improvements,consumer prices increased by 2% in 1998 compared to more than 1,000% in1994. (CIA World Fact Book) After initial improvements, Brazil became a victimof the 1998 world economic crisis, which began in Asia, spread to Russia andfrom there hit Brazil. Due to these pressures placed on the Brazilian currency,interest rates were hiked 50%, and according to the CIA, investment fled thecountry, Approximately $30 billion in capital left the country in August andSeptember.

    (CIA World Fact Book) After receiving $41. 5 billion in relief fromthe IMF, Brazil entered a new phase of economic reform to incorporate both adevaluation of the currency and a free floating exchange rate, On 13 January1999, Central Bank officials announced a one-time 8% devaluation of the real,and on 15 January 1999, the currency was declared to be freely floating. Theimmediate results from this are unable to be realized at such an early stage,yet companies are leaving neighboring nations and heading for Brazil due to theBrazilian devaluation, as reported in a recent Business Week article, The 35% slide of the Brazilian real against the Argentine peso is luring onemanufacturer after another north to Brazil. (Business Week)The currentgovernment under Cardoso can only speculate the outcome for now. Cuba Cuba hasserved as a classic example of the problems and downfalls of a dependent marketsystem. The main commodity produced worldwide by Cuba is sugar, and being aprimary product, the price fluctuates internationally.

    Beyond traditionalfactors that play into the economy of Cuba, one had remained fairly consistentover the last two decades until 1992, when the collapse of the Soviet Unionended any allied funding toward Cuba, By 1992 all Russian Economic andmilitary aid was gone. Oil shipments fell 86 percent from 1989 to 1992, whilefood imports dropped 42 percent in almost the same period. (S+S, 291). And,as reported by the CIA, Havana announced in 1995 that GDP declined by 35%during 1989-93, the result of lost Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. (CIA World Fact Book) This was the ultimate and shattering example of how toomuch dependence upon any one market is unsound.

    This of course was only inaddition to the struggles endured from the US embargo already in place. Skidmoreand Smith goes on to report that in 1990, Cuba had a $6 billion debt. At the endof the decade little improvement has been found, as in 1998 export earnings werereported to have declined by 22%. (CIA World Fact Book). Most analysts speculatethat until Cuba is accepted into the capitalist West and expands from primaryproducts, the cycle will only continue to fail. Politics: An examination ofpolitics should logically follow economics, as the two are intrinsicallyinfluential upon one another, as presented earlier.

    In considering economicramifications throughout Latin America, the prospects of colonialism begin sucha view. Latin America is an interesting case study due to the existence ofindigenous cultures in place throughout the region who were exploited byEuropean settlers and have attempted to culminate and blend as a single societyin the current day. The three primary civilizations of note, Mayan, Aztec, andIncan, were each overcome by the conquistadors initially from both, Spain andPortugal. Each region, being carved as a vice royalty to a distantly respectivemonarchy, bowed to the pressures and duties of mercantilism.

    The colonies wereto serve the motherland and the motherland alone. The workings of the socialstratifications of Latin America begin as the European colonizers and indigenouspeoples develop a class society founded on the premise of dominance throughEuropean ancestry. These class divisions were embodied in three separatecategorical races: peninsulares, whites born in Spain; criollos, whites born inthe new world; mestizos, the mixed Spanish and Indian blood race, and the fewindigenous peoples that survived the plague of disease brought on by theEuropeans. So began the complex social stratifications embodied within everyfacet of culture and politics. With the defeat of the Spanish Armada,symbolically the power of Spain was diminishing and thus, the ambitions of thecolonies were increasing.

    Charles III was the last in a succession of rulers,which attempted to consolidate control over the colonies. This was attempted byboth re-designing the administrative system governing the colonies and allowingfree trade to occur from any of the ports to Spain, as contained in, theDeclaration of Free Trade. The unsatisfied colonies were finally forced toloose allegiance to the crown when Napoleon removed King Ferdinand and placedhis brother upon the throne. Many see this as the fateful move, which lead tocolonial independence, Without Napoleons interevention the SpanishAmerican colonies might all have remained Spanish until well into the nineteenthcentury, as did Cuba.

    (S+S, 29) Napoleons action may not have caused therebellions alone, yet they served as an impetus for change. This change came alltoo often tin the form of revolts and rebellions, yet slowly, the provincesgained their independence and a new era of struggling to establish legitimacyand stability in the established world order began. The economic troubles ofthese early governments had begun before the leaders had even fully beeninitiated into office and this economic frailty would follow these governmentsfor decades to come. The militant warfare and fighting of the nineteenth centurywas due mainly to a combination of factors consisting of social stratificationsand economic inadequacies. These inadequacies lead to a period of military rulethroughout most of Latin America; some of this was phased in and out as othersforms official dictatorships, with an iron grip upon the people, Within a yearor so after the October 1929 stock market crash in New York, army officers hadsought or taken power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador,and Honduras.

    (S+S, 52). As economic troubles expanded, the role of themilitary in government decreased, In this context of economic crisis, LatinAmerica turned way from authoritarianism and, in many cases, towarddemocracy. (S+S, 60) Generally the expanded middle class began demanding forgreater accountability within the government. This trend increased throughoutthe twentieth century and today Latin America boasts an all time high indemocratically elected governments, with the continued exclusion of Cuba, andthis period of democracy may set the precedence for forms of government andsuccess in fulfilling the desires of a people. Argentina The governmentalsituation within Argentina has been marked with considerable amounts of upheavaland violence, even when gauged by Latin American norms. Within the decade of thenineties much focus has been given to events in Argentinas past, primarilyconcerns, which focus upon the Dirty War.

    As President of the country, Menem hadbegun a series of attempts to punish human rights offenses, which had occurredprior to his tenure. This action prompted mass riots and several rebellions,which posed serious threats and questions toward the legitimacy of government. Menem ceded pardons and the issue gradually subsided, yet this serves to showhow actions and inactions of past regimes affect the governments of today. Thecontinued power of military influence upon government remains evident inArgentina today. In 1994, as held by Skidmore and Smith, the constitution wasreformed for proclaimed reasons of efficiency and transparency, although someviewed it as a maneuver by which to prolong the rule of Menem. Menem was indeedsuccessful in prolonging his term by winning the elections of May 1995.

    UnderMenem, much of the Argentinian foreign policy mirrored that of the US, Menem adopted a foreign policy in line with the United States (the foreignminister, indeed, was reported to have quipped that Buenos Aires was seekingcarnal relations with Washington). (S+S, 113) In October of 1999 electionswere held once again, this time favoring candidate, Fernando de la RúaBruno by receiving 48. 5% of the popular vote over contender Maldonado. (Elections in Argentina) Chile Chile mirrors the haunting past of Argentina, asformer criminal acts are now on the forefront of the modern political agenda. Only since the nineties has Chile consistently begun to follow democraticprocedure. This procedure has of course, included investigations of past humanrights abuses.

    The source of the conflict has most often come down to a singleman, Pinochet. The role of the military in the Chilean government is stillheavily felt in many sectors of government, most notably the judiciary; thus thestruggle continues to design democracy amidst military tradition, precedence,and pressure. These pressures overall are beast summed up by Skidmore and Smith,Chiles newly restored democracy also faced formidable obstacle: anever-alert army still headed by an unrepentant Pinochet, a pro-militaryjudiciary, a rightist-dominated Senate, sporadic terrorism from left and right,and the explosive issue of what to do about past human rights abuses withits potential to ignite civilian-military conflict. (S+S,145) The presidentialelection of 1993 brought victory to Eduardo Frei, the son of a former ChileanPresident.

    The economic security and growth felt throughout the Chilean economyduring the nineties was a stabilizing effect upon government as well. Theelections held in December and Jamuary of this year introduced candidate Escobarto the presidency (Elections in Chile). Escobar ran on a platform to decreasegovernmental intervention in economics and increase focus and spending on publicworks. This marks a notable transition from past military rigidness faced bybusinesses and industry. Poverty: Stemming from the dependencia theory,the source of poverty throughout Latin America might possibly be postulated inany number of manners. The fact remains that at some point a world based totallyon agrarian and manual labor, was altered by the industrial revolution.

    LatinAmerica was certainly chosen to be the warehouse of supplies and materials, notthe boutique boasting finished products. Once an economic cycle begins, itbecomes difficult to alter; many years later, international powers havefaithfully held the same positions, including Latin America. The fate of thirdworld is largely determined by a lack of economic opportunity, which many mightcontend is ultimately inaccessible due to a lack of education. Mexico With apopulation of 85 million people, Mexico boasts one of the largest citizenries,yet also one of the lower standards of living. (S+S, 4) Together, high numbers ofpeople, with low standards of living, has made Mexico a country plagued withpoverty, and with that, higher rates of crime.

    The mid nineties brought furthereconomic crisis to Mexico as NAFTA had unpredictable effects on the Mexicaneconomy, Fearful of the overvaluation of the peso, investors withdrew morethan $10 billion from Mexico within a week. (S+S, 261) This of course led theUS to create an emergency aid package, necessary to prevent default on Mexicandebts. The ultimate concern has and continues to be the direct connectionbetween market conditions and the welfare of people at large, which only showsgrim results for now, Between 1963 and 1981, according to one study, theproportion of Mexicans below the poverty line dropped from 77. 5 to 48.

    5 percent;but from 1982 to 1992, under the pro-market reforms, it rose again to 66percent. (S+S, 262) Haiti Considered to be the poorest country in the Westernhemisphere, Haiti serves as the ultimate of lowered living standards, With apopulation of about 6. 7 million, Haiti has a per capita income of approximately$370. (S+S, 301) Originally colonized by the French, Haitian slave labor fromAfrica eventually took over government.

    Following a political history ofviolence and rebellion, Haiti still remains on the outer edges of politicalstability. Aid amounts given to Haiti are high, yet the actual dispersion ofthese funds is halted often if the government shows signs of internal fracturingor corruption. Here is a list of aid currently being given to Haiti: UnitedStates $458 million European Union $467 million Canada $133 million France $121million Germany $76 million Japan $28 million Switzerland $20 million Holland$12 million Other $140 million Multilateral Inter-American Dev. Bank $761million World Bank (International Dev. Association) $377 million InternationalMonetary Fund $131 million U. N.

    Dev. Program $38 million Other U. N. $50 million$2.

    8 billion (Center for International Policy) Education: Education is able tobe shown in direct correlation to ones standard of living and thus, thisbecomes a central issue on both the political and social agendas of LatinAmerica. The low budgets of Latin American governments often leave public works,including education, on the bottom rung of priorities. Money is needed toattempt to solve problems caused ultimately by a lack of education, instead ofbeing spent on education itself, thus this creates a problem of a selfperpetuating nature. Only in the twentieth century has this cycle of poverty anddependence been actively pursued by increasing the quality and standards ofeducation, and political activism has been a central mode through which suchchanges might be made. Peru Peru is highlighted under education to understandthe multi-facted uses of education in Latin America.

    Far from traditionaleducational institutions, agrarian education as well as environmental educationhas a far more valuable impact in these countries. Perumujer is an NGO,which spreads literacy throughout farming regions, yet more importantly, addscomponents of conservancy and ecological education which not only allow thePeruvians to farm more efficiently, yet bring higher yields of food usingsmaller land area. Many of the storms throughout Latin America cause mudslides,which kill thousands each year; most often this is due to barren hillsides,which have been inappropriately farmed. Education in many countries focuses onapplicable and pertinent living skills and this can make an impact withunlimited benefits. Costa Rica This island country is one general exception tothe trends of education in Latin America and thus is used as an example ofpossible success in the educational sector. Over the last ten years, Costa Ricahas boasted a 93% literacy rating, far above the averages held by many tropicalneighbors.

    (Info Costa Rica. com) This exists as the most literate population inCentral America. In 1869 the Costa Rican government, having generated large sumsof wealth from the coffee industry made education mandatory and free. Thenhaving one the lower literacy rates, one in ten could read and write; Costa Ricasets an uplifting trend that has developed over time.

    Not having a universityuntil 1940, Costa Rica now proudly has four such places of study and continuesto devote more money toward education annually. Students, under PresidentFigueres, are now required to take English, tying Costa Rica more closely intothe new economy and increasing success for tourism. (Info Costa Rica. com) In ananalysis of the structures in place in the areas of economics, politics, povertyreduction, and education, one sees that the state of development in LatinAmerica is not neglected for sure-sighted tactics are consistently beingemployed.

    The point of interest is that within all of these categories, mostpolitical stability has not fully developed until the onset of the final decadeof the twentieth century. Development in Latin America is a priority andexamples of successes are amply available, even in the midst of setbacks. Insummation, the development of Latin America is progressively transitional. Withtime, continued effort, and constant pursuit of democratic principles, thedevelopment of Latin America will succeed.

    BibliographyElections in Argentina by Wilfried Dirksen, 2000 http://www. agora. stm. it/elections/election/argentina.

    htmMy Brazil by Sergio Koreisha, 1997 http://darkwing. uoregon. edu/~sergiok/brasil. htmlCIA World Fact Book: Brazil, 2000 http://www.

    odci. gov/cia/publications/factbook/br. html#econCIA World Fact Book: Cuba, 2000 http://www. odci.

    gov/cia/publications/factbook/cu. htmlBusiness Week (International Edition), January 17, 2000 Adios, Argentina Companies are Leaving for Brazil. Elections in Chile by Wilfried Dirksen,2000 http://www. agora. stm. it/elections/election/chile.

    htm Center forInternational Policy; Haiti: Democrats vs. Democracy by Robert E. White Mujer: Peruvian Literacy project Costa Overview, Education

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