Bush finds Latin Americans concerned about sugar prices, not Castro
Vice-President George Bush is finding that Latin Americans are more concerned about sugar prices and economic measures in the the United States Congress than they are about Cuba and the Soviet Union.
In the midst of a three-nation Latin American trip in which he is warning of the dangers of Cuban and Soviet expanionism in the Americas, Mr. Bush has run into a storm of protest over US trade policies.
Moreover, he and his party have received sharp rebukes from Latin Americans angry about several perceived slights by the US.
The official reception accorded Mr. Bush in the Dominican Republic and Colombia was warm and cordial. But sources in Santo Domingo say that Dominican President Silvestre Antonio Guzman Fernandez told Mr. Bush the time had come for Washington to pay more attention to Latin America.
That same message came through in Mr. Bush's meetings witrh Colombian officials at midweek and his earlier conversations with Dominican Vice-President Jacobo Majluta and other of the island's leaders.
One of the legislators, Hatuey Decamps, president of the Chamber of Deputies, noted that Cuba enjoys a subsidized market for sugar in the Soviet Union but the Dominican Republic sells its sugar to the US without a subsidy.
When prices plunge, as they are doing now, the Dominican Republic not only suffers from lessened income, but also in effect is subsidizing the US market.
Particularly onerous from the Dominican point of view is a 1 2/2 cent per pound US levy on sugar imports when the world sugar supply falls below a fixed floor. Mr. Majluta told Mr. Bush that removal of the levy would go a long way toward bolstering US-Dominican relations.
Moreover, US domestic sugar price supports rankle Dominicans. Just before Mr. bush's arrival, the Dominican legislature approved a resolution opposing a proposal in the US House of Representatives to increase those supports from 15 to 18 cents a pound.
An editorial writer for Listin diario, one of the morning papers in Santo Domingo, wrote, "The Dominican Republic at this moment is underwriting the United States economy with the low sugar prices. Yet when we buy manufactured goods from the US, the price is higher all the time. The irony of this situation is that out economy is one that needs bolstering, not that of the rich United States."
This message is not a new one. Latin Americans have long complained about the low prices for their basic raw materials sold to the US, when they must pay such high prices for US-manufactured goods.
To this complaint, Vice-President Bush had a response that clearly does not please Latin Americans:
"The best way Americans can help is by putting out own economic house in order. There are some who say the United States isn't concerned about third-world problems. This isn't true. What is true is that President Reagan recognizes that only if America's economy is healthy are we in a position to assist other countries -- this is a fact of life that is irrefutable."
Mr. Bush, however, did promise the Dominicans he would take their complaints to President Reagan. "We have heard your words of concern on this subject," he said. "You can be sure I will convey to President Reagan this important message you have given me."
He added that he personally has "a heightened sensitivity" to the issue.
The vice-president also hopes that his very presence in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Brazil will turn aside complaints that the Reagan administration is not interested in the area.