For Latin American Prosperity, No Easy Formula

The opinion-page column ``Latin America's Needs,'' Dec. 3, leaves much out of the equation that is Latin America. Despite high annual GNP growth rates in the 1970s, the maldistribution of wealth and inequalities in land ownership were not ameliorated but rather aggravated by the apparent success. Our neighbors to the south may become more economically austere, their currencies might become stronger, and their balance of payments might become more favorable. But what that means for the average citizen is less easily extracted from formulas of macroeconomics.

The fundamental economic problems of the region - which have given birth to rebellion, civil war, and poverty - are disparities in the distribution of wealth, land, and social services, the severe levels of poverty and unemployment, and the lack of capital and domestic markets. These problems will not be solved by privatizing the economy and encouraging foreign investment, reducing the debt, increasing exports, and cutting government spending. This was the strategy employed in the boom years, which managed only to widen the gap between rich and poor and relegate Latin America to its current position in the global capitalist economy as provider of raw materials and agro-exports. This has left them exposed to the wildly and unpredictably fluctuating world market prices for their products.

Latin America cannot be expected to rise above its problems by following the same path as the US during its years of development. What Latin America needs is more innovative thinking on development strategies and more radical domestic measures of economic, social, and political inclusion of its people. John Keller, North Manchester, Ill.

A changing Soviet society The opinion-page column ``What Ukrainians Want - Strong Links to the West,'' Nov. 28, deduces that the West should accept the breakup in the USSR, claiming that independence is inevitable for the republics. Yet this perspective invites a host of questions.

Is economic autonomy for the republics sufficient, while national defense and security is reserved for a central authority? Must there be either a unitary form of government or separatism? What of civil strife and civil war? And aren't there grave risks which accompany the dissolution of the Soviet Union?

Reform in the Soviet Union should include, among other things, privatization, a market economy, an effective distribution system of goods and services, foreign investment, and the direct election of the Soviet president by the people and rule of law. Yet, after autocratic czarism for centuries and 73 years of totalitarian socialism, is it either feasible or wise to change Soviet society with one bold stroke? Elliott A. Cohen, New York

Intimidation in the free world The opinion-page column ``Ethics of Survival,'' Dec. 3, leaves the impression that the Soviet system is the only one where intimidation is or was rampant. But intimidation is present in every society - even our own. The only thing that varies is degree. Intimidation in other - sometimes democratic - countries is attested to by Amnesty International and other human-rights organizations. Examples of intimidation are not a rarity in our ``free world.'' Still, they are galling to those of us who were led to believe that only the ``evil empire'' could be capable of such things. Anton Schittek, Lancaster, Calif.

The fall of communism I agree with the editorial, ``The Revolution, Contd,'' Dec. 4. The possible negative effects resulting from the fall of communism are very real. Many countries experiencing their first taste of democracy are finding it difficult to swallow. The frustration has become so widespread that there is now potential for violence.

It is the responsibility of experienced democratic nations to lend a hand in this transition, both economically and diplomatically. The US should help create new securities in business and government by providing trade agreements that will benefit the newly democratic countries. If asked, the US should also send diplomats to these countries to help them gain a better understanding of democracy - positive and negative. Only then will newly democratic countries be able to find some kind of stability. If this does not occur, the likelihood of internal violence increases and history may repeat itself. Jennifer K. Proses, Seattle, Seattle Pacific University

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