Sunday, December 29, 2002

New Zealand News Gwynne Dyer: Latin America continues to its individual beat

What is wrong with Latin America?

Most Latin Americans at the moment place the blame on neo-liberal economic policies imposed by Washington and the International Monetary Fund, but Latin America's backwardness and political failure long predate the latest economic fashion.

Poverty is so widespread that even if Latin American economies grew by 4 per cent a year for the next decade, according to the World Bank, only half of the region's people would be lifted out of extreme poverty.

That is longer than most people are willing to wait, so there is a region-wide revolt against the neo-liberal orthodoxy, with populist politicians offering vaguely socialist nostrums winning power in one country after another.

So what is the real reason that Latin America doesn't work like the rest of the West? I'm afraid I have no idea. Tell me it's corruption, military coups, poor education, and I'll just ask you why they persisted in Latin America long after they declined elsewhere in the West.

The one consoling thought is that Brazil and Mexico, the countries that seem likeliest to escape from the pattern, make up over half the total population of Latin America.

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