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Book Review: 'An Atlas of Latin American Affairs'

Latin America

'An Atlas of Latin American Affairs', by Ronald M. Schneider and Robert C. Kingsbury, Methuen, 7s. 6d.

There is more to Latin America than the popular conception of Carmen Miranda girls, dictators and brawling footballers. Schneider and Kingsbury say that it is an " . . . area whose importance has only recently been recognised in the United States as well as in Europe.”

And well it might be. By 1959 Foreign investment in Latin America came to almost $14,000 million, three-fifths of it from the United States. There is oil, bauxite and copper there, as well as many other valuable minerals—and, of course, the cattle of the Argentinian Pampa as well as Cuba's famous sugar.

The continent has had a violent history. Once largely ruled by Spain, it began its movement towards independence, with all the customary misleading propaganda, at the beginning of the 19th Century, canonising the names of Jose de San Martin and Simon Bolivar.

Political change did not, however, reach down to the toiling people; they continued to scratch their living from the hot earth while the power struggle went on between the big landowners, the church and the army. These are still powerful elements in the politics of Latin America, sometimes challenged by industrial and commercial interests.

The United States has sufficient strategic interest in the area, apart from its economic usefulness, to make it keep a steady eye on Latin America's turbulent affairs. Washington at present aims at keeping popularly elected governments in being there—provided they accept their place in America’s sphere of control.

This is the background to the Cuba crisis, to the cynical diplomacy and to the busyness of the CIA in Latin America.

This book, the latest in the Methuen series, presents some of Latin America's history, economy and politics in an acceptable and easily digestible form. It is a paperback and small (127 pages), but it does a useful job.

Ivan