In the Opinion page article "The US Can Be a Constructive Force in Latin America," Nov. 2, the authors make several dubious arguments, the most dramatic of which is the claim that opening United States markets to Latin American goods provides the best way to overcome the "economic slowdown, sharp inequalities, and pervasive poverty" that undermine democracy.
After living in Central America for 3 1/2 years, I saw that many of the wealthy elites own the best land, on which they produce export crops such as sugar, bananas, and coffee. Their wealth multiplies and their political power is immense. The majority must work as unskilled labor for petty wages. They lack basic food, housing, education, and medical care.
This semifeudal economy fosters the oligarchic politics sadly typical in Latin America that occasional elections can only disguise. The responses of the US Agency for International Development and the International Monetary Fund are to promote diversification of the agro-export model and not to replace it. We need to encourage land reform. Historically, we have opposed it. Perhaps with the cold war's passing, we can leave red-labeling behind. But until we are ready to promote change, US proclamations rem ain meaningless. Steven J. Bovingdon, Seattle
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