Kingston, Jamaica — As the Us presidential election campaign came dowm to the wire, only the most right wing of Latin American governments were still leaning toward Ronald Reagan.
While these governments hoped that a Reagan victory might somehow help them stifle internal opposition, most other Latin Americans, including government officals and many businessmen, were hoping for a Jimmy Carter win.
Perhaps ironically, some of Mr. Carter's strongest support comes from Cuba. President Fidel Castro says that the possibility of a Reagan victory would be "very dangerous" for Latin America. He also told visiting European newsmen that a Carter victory "would be much more desireable.
This picture of overall Latin American preference of the Democratic candidate represents something of a switch. Earlier in the US presidential campaign many conservative regimes and even some more liberal Latin governments briefly flirted with the Republican candidacy.
In Mexico, for example, much Mexican opinion holds President Carter personally responsible for the deep deterioration in US-Mexican relations. For a time, therefore, a feeling prevailed that if Mr. Carter lost, he "deserved to lose" -- as the newspaper Excelsior wrote.
But more recent Mexican newspaper comment, reflecting both government and business reaction, has swung back toward President Carter. This seems to flow from fears that Mr. Reagan, a former California governor, will implement protectionist trade measures and be unsympathetic to the undocumented worker flow from Mexico into the United States.
At the same time, in Mexico and eleswhere in the hemisphere, support for President Cartter's re-election is lukewarm at best. Latin Americans deeply resent many of his attitudes, and even in circles concerned about human rights Mr. Carter is not held in the highest of esteem.
"We have the feeling he simply talks and pontificates and doesn't have much substance," complained a leading human-rights advocate in El Salvador. "It looks more like he champions human rights for United States domestic considerations than for any really basic support for the human condition in Latin America."
That view is common -- as is the view of right-wing governments that Mr. Carter is meddling in their affairs by his human rights advocacy.