Latin America: The High Costs of the Dependency Theory Myth

Dependency theory implies that Latin America is impotent, determined by outside forces, a passive observer of its own rape — it is a debilitating nostrum which diverts Latin America’s coming to grips with its real problems.

A conventional wisdom has evolved in the Latin American and American intellectual communities which blames the United States for Latin America’s ills. It goes under the name of “dependency theory.” The theory, as espoused by Andre Gunder Frank’ and others, goes something like this: Latin America is poor because we are rich. Many of its people do not eat enough because we eat too well. International capitalism, largely guided by Wall Street, has depressed the prices of what Latin America produces while charging Latin America exorbitant prices for what it imports from the United States and other developed countries. U.S. corporations which invest in Latin America are both bleeding it dry and conspiring to install or shore up right-wing dictatorships. The United States government supports rightist dictators and opposes truly popular movements to perpetuate its privileged imperialistic position.

A variant, evolved by Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto of the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), argues that the Latin American elites have betrayed their national loyalties by serving as lackeys for the interests of U.S. (and in the nineteenth century, British) imperialism.

While dependency theory highlights some truths — e.g., the consequences, particularly for small countries, of world price fluctuations for undiversified economies; the “export” of recession from the rich countries to the poor countries — it is, in my view, both fundamentally flawed and a major impediment to progress in Latin America.

The U.S. economy is substantially self-sufficient: according to World Bank figures, exports and imports represented about 18% of our Gross Domestic Product, quite possibly the highest in our entire history and importantly reflecting the higher costs of imported energy. (In 1960, the figure was slightly more than 10%) The 1980 ratio for West Germany was 47%, the United Kingdom 45%, France 38%, and Japan 26%. The 18% figure for the United States is a prima facie argument that the bulk of our economic growth is attributable to domestic production and our internal market. As an example, the city of Spring-field, Massachusetts, is about as important a market as all five Central American countries together.’ Moreover, about 55% of our trade is with developed countries; about 15% of our trade is with Latin America. (It was about 30% in 1950.) Thus, trade with Latin America currently represents something less than 3% of our GDP.

Although Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico are all now about as self-sufficient as the U.S., many Latin American economies are far more dependent on trade than we. Some may thus argue — not very convincingly, I think — that trade has made Latin America poor. Fidel Castro may have so argued at one time although it is clear that now he would welcome the reopening of trade with the U.S. But it is patently unreasonable to argue that trade has made the United States rich. Trade — particularly trade with Latin America — is just not that important to us in comparison to other countries. And Latin America’s trade with the United States is declining: in 1950 it represented almost 50% of the Latin America’s world trade total; in 1980 it accounted for about 32%.

On the other hand, for those Latin American economies, particularly the smaller ones, whose foreign trade is a much higher percentage of GDP, “dependency” has more substance. But what are the options? The dependency theorists, many of whom are Marxists, call for an end to dependency by disengagement from the capitalist system. But as Cuba clearly demonstrates this really means substituting one dependency for another. Moreover, policies aimed at self-sufficiency for small countries are patently infeasible and anti-economical.

There is a limited relationship between the quantities of food we eat and the quantities eaten in Latin America. Reduced food consumption in the United States would not result in higher food consumption in Latin America. In fact, the reverse is more likely true: lower food consumption here will mean lower demand for Latin America’s exports, which means lower incomes — and lower food consumption — in Latin America. The nutrition problem in Latin America is principally a consequence of low incomes and inequitable income distribution.

Nobody has yet produced a convincing, documented argument that long-term movements in the terms of trade — the relationship between the prices of what is exported and what is imported — have operated against Latin America’s interests as essentially a producer of primary products, particularly in relationship to the terms of trade for the United States. The only clear exception is the price of oil, which has also adversely affected the United States and most of the developed countries of the West. And, of course, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru have benefited from the oil price rise.

As the world’s largest exporter of primary products (about 30% of our total exports), the United States itself has a stake in what happens to the prices of primary products. And we must remember that the United States, Canada and Australia all grew rapidly in the nineteenth century as ex-porters of primary products (and, we should note, the three encouraged foreign investment, principally from Britain). It is also worth noting that Latin America is increasingly an ex-porter of manufactured goods. For example, in 1960, such goods accounted for 3% of Brazil’s exports. In 1979, they accounted for 39%.

The following table, the numbers on which are index numbers, surely provides little support for dependency theory:

Terms of Trade
(Relationship of export prices
to import prices)





Latin America (all)




Latin America (oil exporters)




Latin America (non-oil exporters)




United States






In his book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Michael Novak examines the economic impact of U.S. multinational corporations in Latin America. He concludes that the economic significance of the multinationals is vastly exaggerated as is the extent of their profits. To start with, U.S. investment overseas is 5% of our total investment (underscoring again our economic self-sufficiency). More than 70% of our overseas investment is in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Our investments in Latin America account for less than 20% of our worldwide total, which means less than 1% of our total investment. And they also represent a very small proportion (perhaps 1-2%) of total domestic and foreign investments in Latin America.

Novak cites research done by an International Labor Organization economist, Joseph Ramos, which demonstrates that “the average rate of return on U.S. investments in Latin America has not been particularly high, either before 1950 or during the years 1950 to 1977. This return has been higher than in Canada but about the same as Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa.”

The multinationals have undeniably involved themselves in Latin American politics, often unwisely and sometimes irresponsibly. But it must be kept in mind that they operate in circumstances where due process and continuity of policy are the exception; where it is common for multinationals to become targets of nationalistic politicians, to say nothing of the Far Left; and where an uncompensated expropriation may be the bottom line. In any event, the multinationals have learned a lot of lessons during the past twenty years, perhaps foremost among them the importance of being “good corporate citizens.”

I have observed multinational corporations in the five Latin American countries in which I have worked. I have had innumerable conversations with Americans and Latin Americans about the costs and benefits of the multinationals. I always ask, “On balance, would the country be better off if they had never come?” Very few answer, “Yes.” In most cases, at least until recent years, there would have been a lapse of many years or even decades before national entrepreneurs or governments initiated comparable enterprises. Even where contracts were inordinately favorable to foreign capital, which was not uncommon in the early part of this century but is very rare today, jobs, foreign exchange earnings, and government revenues were created which otherwise would not have existed.

Interestingly, some researchers have found, to their “shock,” that there is a correlation between the degree of dependency, as measured by trade and capital data, on the one hand, and in income equality and political participation, on the other. But the correlations “go strongly and significantly in the opposite direction from that predicted by dependency theory. By most of the measures we have devised, more dependent economies grow faster, rather than more slowly; they have more rather than less equal land tenure structures; and, according to our measures of capital dependency, they have more constitutional stability and less militarism.”

With respect to the allegation that the United States supports (some on the Left in Latin America and in the U.S. would say “creates”) right-wing dictatorships, I believe that an objective reading of U.S. policy toward Latin America during the past two decades will demonstrate that above all we have tried to nurture the democratic center, which has not always been easy to find. Indeed, Yankee democratic evangelism was a factor in the Nicaraguan, Haitian, and Dominican interventions early in this century. For reasons that are central to the thesis of the book from which this article derives, Latin America has tended to produce the same kinds of authoritarian governments since independence that it knew during three hundred years of colonial status, and one of the thorniest dilemmas U.S. policy makers have faced is how to deal with these dictatorships. We have clearly gotten too cozy with some, particularly in Republican ad-ministrations. But the costs of a hostile policy toward them can also be high. Jimmy Carter alienated the Argentine military over human rights issues only to see U.S. influence in Argentina, including over human rights, vanish. The Carter administration also contributed to the demise of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, only to see a new authoritarianism replace the old. But the basic point remains valid: our policies have consistently shown a preference for the democratic center.

There are other reasons to conclude that dependency theory is in large measure mythical. Both Latin America and North America are richly endowed with resources. We started the nineteenth century in roughly the same economic shape as Latin America. U.S. economic involvement in Latin America for most of the nineteenth century was extremely limited. (To be sure, British involvement, particularly in Argentina, was substantial.) By the end of the century, we had become a world power — importantly as a result of foreign (European) investment, by the way — while most Latin American countries were essentially the same stagnant, exploitative, inequitable societies they had been since the sixteenth century as Iberian colonies.

Does dependency theory explain the currents of militarism, authoritarianism, and political instability common to most Latin American countries in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Does it explain the substantial illiteracy and serious public health problems which exist in many of these countries to this day? Included in that group of countries are some — e.g., Bolivia, Paraguay — in which U.S. involvement has been negligible, at least until the last few decades. Indeed, in a number of these countries, there is evidence that the United States has been more concerned about education and health — to say nothing of human rights — than the national governments.

Carlos Rangel’s view of the Hemisphere is diametrically opposed to that of Frank, Cardoso, and Faletto. He believes that Latin American history has been determined principally by Hispanic culture and that that history “is a story of failure.” He documents this assertion with the following:

(1) the disproportionate success of the United States in the same “New World” during a parallel period of history; (2) Latin America’s inability to evolve harmonious and cohesive nations, capable of redeeming, or at least reasonably improving, the lot of vast marginal social and economic groups; (3) Latin America’s impotence in its external relations — military, economic, political, cultural, et cetera — and hence its vulnerability to outside action of influences in each of these areas; (4) the notable lack of stability of the Latin-American forms of government, other than those founded on dictatorships and repression; (5) the absence of noteworthy Latin-American contributions in the sciences or the arts (the exceptions I could quote merely prove the rule); (6) its population growth rate, the highest in the world; (7) Latin America’s feeling that it is of little if any use to the world at large.

In reviewing New World history, Rangel observes, “As late as 1700, the Spanish American empire still gave the impression of being incomparably richer (which it was!), much more powerful, and more likely to succeed than the British colonies of North America.”” He goes on to emphasize the debility of the North American confederation born in 1776, surrounded by enemies and facing major obstacles to the formation of a federal state.

It was not long thereafter (1783-84) that Francisco de Miranda, a Spanish military officer born in Venezuela, toured the newly-formed United States from South Carolina to New England. Miranda kept a diary from which Rangel quotes liberally:

At his first American barbecue, Miranda observed that “the very first magistrates and people of note ate and drank with the common folk, passing the plate around, and drinking out of the same glass. A more purely democratic assembly could not be imagined. America incarnates all that our poets and historians imagined about the mores of the free peoples of ‘ancient Greece.

In Charleston, South Carolina, he attended a court session, which was open to the public, according to the English custom, and commented: “I cannot express the satisfaction I felt watching the workings of the admirable system of the British Constitution. God forgive me: but what a contrast to the system now current in Spain!” The government of the State of South Carolina also met with his admiration because it was “altogether democratic, as are all the States,” with separate and distinct executive, legislative, and judiciary branches.

He was surprised to disembark in Philadelphia “without ceremony or registration formalities.” Pondering on the North Americans’ ability to make and build things, he reminisced about Benjamin Franklin, inventor of a “new stove, which produces more heat with one third the coal or wood normally required. . .” He admired the absolute freedom of religion for which Philadelphia had been famous ever since its founding by William Penn. In general, he declared Philadelphia to be “one of the most pleasant and best-governed cities in the world.”

Miranda was only displaying common sense when he attributed the virtues and the pro- sense when he attributed the virtues and the prosperity he observed in North American society, (impossible at any rate for the fledgling government), but simply to “the advantages of a free government over any form of despotism” — something that “very few Frenchmen or Spaniards familiar with the United States are able to discern, not having been penetrated by the wonderful secrets of the British Constitution.”

On his way from Philadelphia to New York, he stopped to admire the landscape and the prosperity of New Jersey, “the pleasant appearance and the strength of its inhabitants . . . the degree of development and the activity of the farming community. It would be hard to find a corner or plot on which no house stands . . . and I can say that I have never met a man who seemed ill-dressed, hungry, sick, or unemployed. . . . The land, as we see it, is divided . . . into small plots called farms. As a result the land is far better cultivated and the density of houses — houses of simple appearance, it is true — is far greater than in other countries.” And yet, “it must be said the soil is extremely poor and sandy; but it is watered and tended by hard-working farmers. This fact, and the fact that the people are governed by an independent government, has led them to riches even in the face of harsh nature.”

From New York Miranda went on to New England. He recorded one of his most meaningful observations in Providence, Rhode Island. He had been taken to see a mine equipped with a kind of pump, a “machine to evacuate water by evaporation, invented and built by a Mr. Joseph Brown. The cylinder must measure some two feet by ten; it is of iron and had been cast by Mr. Brown himself. With the use of this machine, water from three hundred feet below the surface can be pumped out at a rate of a hundred gallons a minute. What a difference in the character of these two nations! In Mexico, or in any of our colonies in Spanish America, there is no such machine, there is nothing to compare to it. Thus our richest gold and silver mines are readily lost to us. Here such a machine is invented to draw water from a mine producing only iron. . . .”

In Boston, Miranda marveled at this society that viewed as permissible all that was not expressly forbidden by law, a society that trusted the truth of all statements unless proven false. His luggage arrived, and he remarked that the customs officials let him through without even opening his trunks, “on my simple assurance that they did not contain any commercial goods.”

Near Salem, Massachusetts, he made observations similar to those he recorded in New Jersey: “The soil seems poor and is poor. Farming consists mostly of pasture grazing, corn, and rye. But such is the industrious spirit with which freedom fills these people that a small plot of land allows them to feed their large families, pay heavy taxes, and live well and pleasantly, a thousand times happier than the slave-owning landlords of rich mines and fertile lands in Mexico, Peru, Buenos Aires, Caracas, and all the Spanish American world.”

These homely truths, describing the reasons for the United States’ prosperity and subsequent power, and antedating the onset of that country’s relations with Latin America, are ignored nowadays in favor of complicated explanations based on a casual connection between the wealth of the one half of the hemisphere and the poverty of the other. Such explanations attribute the poverty of Latin America to Yankee exploitation — which is said to be the main cause, perhaps the only cause, of their progress and our want. Anyone who still wishes to read Miranda’s words today must do so in utmost privacy, for no one refers to his writing publicly any longer. The fact is that an age that thrives on myths would be bewildered by an explanation as clear, as simple, as obviously true as Miranda’s — an explanation by one of Spanish America’s great men, f its great heroes.

Miranda’s impressions contrast sharply with Simon Bolivar’s final judgment of Latin America, pronounced in 1830, the year of his death:

I was in command for twenty years, and during that time came to only a few definite conclusions: (1) I consider that, for us, [Latin] America is ungovernable; (2) whosoever works for a revolution is plowing the sea; (3) the most sensible action to take in [Latin] America is to emigrate (4) this country [Great Colombia, later to be divided into Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador] will ineluctably fall into the hands of a mob gone wild, later again to fall under the domination of obscure small tyrants of every color and race; (5) though decimated by every kind of crime and exhausted by our cruel excesses, we shall sill not be tempting to Europeans for a conquest/ (6) if any part of the world were to return to a Primeval chaos, such would be the last avatar of [Latin] America.

Rangel notes that most Europeans expected Mexico to defeat the United States in the war fought from 1846 to 1848. He also observes that, in 1879, the Chilean navy was stronger than the United States navy and that up to that time, “. . . the United States was mainly a producer of agricultural and mineral raw materials. It participated in world commerce mainly by trading those raw materials for manufactured goods and by encouraging foreign investment, the very same situation that today is alleged to be sufficient cause for Latin America’s underdevelopment.”

Yet 19 years later, the United States Navy destroyed the Spanish Navy. The United States succeeded where the French had failed in building the Panama Canal (it was started n 1904 and completed in 1914). And by World War I, the United States had become a first-rank world power.

Of the U.S. interventions in the Caribbean basin in this century, Rangel says, “. . . the United States strictly adhered to its policy of not tolerating any situation in the Caribbean that might threaten its control of the seaways leading to the canal. This is the main reason for North American intervention in the Caribbean, a fact generally ignored in Latin America, where it is agreed that the main (if not the only) object of Marine landings was the protection of (supposedly) vital North American economic interests. Ignoring the primary cause of United States intervention allows critic of that country to take the next step and pin on these interventions the bulk of responsibility for the developmental lag of the countries involved. No one stops to remember the conditions in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua etc. before these interventions.”

Rangel goes on to say:

The United States has rightly been blamed for having tolerated or openly supported such dictators as Trujillo and Somoza. But it would be wrong to infer that this style of leadership appealed to Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt, whose governments supported it. No less misleading is the extrapolation that there must be a deep affinity between the North American political or economic system and the coercive regimes of the client states. When national security is at stake, nations, whatever their form of government, are not particularly scrupulous in choosing their means of protecting it; the American democracy, in fact, may perhaps show greater concern than other countries because of the nature of its institutions.

Rangel is not a raving Americanophile. He is a highly-respected Venezuelan journalist who, with his wife Sofia, hosts a popular news program on Venezuelan television. In addition to U.S. links with Trujillo and Somoza, he is critical of the “sordid” U.S. role in converting Panama from a Colombian province to an independent country and of the failure of the United States to share canal revenues fairly with Panama. He quotes Talleyrand in labeling the U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965 “worse than a crime; it was a mistake.” He is also fully aware of “the darker aspects of North American society, such as racial discrimination, the excesses of consumerism, the disquieting power of the ‘military-industrial complex’ . . .”

But he flatly rejects dependency theory, which he describes as “an almost general belief in Latin America today.” He expresses the fear that “by echoing this line of thought, we Latin Americans are starting on a new cycle in our self-delusion over the causes of our frustration. We are once again refusing to admit that the reasons for North American success and Latin American failure are to be found in the qualities of North Americans and in the defects of Latin Americans.” The concluding sentence of Gibson’s Spain in America comes to mind:

But what the colonial and modern history of Spain in America so steadfastly informs us is that Spanish America is less concerned with progress than we are.

Rangel goes on to say what is for most Latin Americans unthinkable:

A sincere, rational, scientific examination of North American influence on Latin America’s destiny would have to dispense with prejudging the issue . . . keeping open the possibility that the United States’ overall contribution may have been positive.

There is a clear link between the Vietnam tragedy and the blossoming of dependency theory in the United States. Those who saw our intervention in Vietnam as a blatant act of American imperialism, ordered by an immoral government elected by a corrupted society, were able to persuade many others — mostly young people — that our policies and actions in Latin America were similarly imperialistic and immoral. The demise of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, “engineered,” according to the prophets of dependency theory, by the U.S. government, strengthened their arguments about the destructive, exploitative role of the United States in Latin America. (The dependency theorists downplay the internal factors — the military, the middle class, Allende’s tampering with Chile’s traditional democratic institutions, and his unsound economic policies — which in my view and the view of others, vastly over-shadowed the U.S. role, some elements of which were clearly unsavory.)

Dependency theorists often point to U.S. interventionism — in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic early in this century and in recent years in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Chile, and now Central America — as evidence of U.S. exploitation of Latin America. In all these cases, as Rangel points out, the principal motivation for the intervention has been a security concern, not our economic interests. The early interventions were mounted principally to prevent European powers from obtaining strategically important bases near the Panama Canal at the time of World War I; the later interventions all related to what was viewed — rightly or wrongly — as a communist threat which would inevitably involve our own security. In none of these cases was there a truly significant U.S. economic interest. The only one that was close was Allende’s Chile. But there, U.S. copper interests had already been substantially nationalized by the predecessor Frei administration.

The United States does have economic interests in Latin America, and those interests are not inconsequential, e.g., Venezuela and Mexico are important sources of oil: bauxite deposits around the Caribbean are also important; and the Latin American market, particularly with its promise in the long term, cannot be ignored. Clearly, these interests have to be taken into account in national policy making, and indeed they have been historically. Moreover, U.S. companies operating in Latin America have influenced U.S. policies, as indeed have the AFL-CIO, church groups, and intellectuals. But in all the cases of intervention, the dominant consideration has been national security.

The interventions understandably make us uncomfortable and appear to buttress the case of the dependency theorists, particularly in the wake of Vietnam. In any event, for the past ten or more years, high school and college students have heard a great deal of dependency theory from their teachers. Peer pressure operates: few students have the courage to challenge a conventional wisdom which recent history appears to confirm and which can be emotionally satisfying to people who are guilt-ridden — and who of us isn’t made uncomfortable — because Americans are so much better off than Latin Americans. The students don what Mark Falcoff has labeled “our Latin American hairshirt.”25 Many professors have been enjoying it for some time.

Dependency theorists stress that our own society is sick, greedy, materialistic, inequitable, and exploitative — the stark contrasts with Latin America notwithstanding. The U.S. government is the ultimate expression of what is bad in our society, most particularly in its policies toward Latin America. The policies and rhetoric of the Reagan administration appear to reinforce this view. The basic message to the student is, “You cannot ever trust your government to do the decent or right thing.” Another legacy of Vietnam.

The students graduate and go out into the world. Some end up in professions where their views on Latin America count:

—     Some become reporters for influential newspapers. They give the benefit of the doubt to Latin American “liberation” movements and give no benefit of any doubt to the U.S. government. The article of Pulitzer Prize winner Shirley Christian of the Miami Herald, “Covering the Sandinistas,” in the March 1982 Washington Journalism Review, makes a convincing case that the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CBS all gave too much benefit of the doubt to Nicaragua’s Sandinistas.

—     Some end up in editorial departments of influential newspapers. One such person, with whom I had dealings recently, was carrying around the idea that the United States was exploiting Latin America in the eighteenth century.

—     Some end up as congressmen. One visited Nicaragua in 1981, while I was there. He came to Managua convinced that the Sandinistas were really well-intentioned democratic reformers and that U.S. embassy personnel in Nicaragua weren’t sufficiently enlightened or sensitive to appreciate that. He left Nicaragua with essentially the same viewpoint, in part because he chose not to spend much time with embassy personnel.

—     Some students become professors. They attend the annual meetings of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA). In the LASA meeting in Bloomington, Indiana, in October of 1980, they gave a standing ovation to Sergio Ramirez and Miguel D’Escoto, two high officials of a Nicaraguan government that is pushing its people back into authoritarianism, albeit of a new variety, and, in the process, abusing human rights in many of the same ways that Somoza did. The LASA audience then proceeded to heckle and jeer James Cheek, one of the Foreign Service’s most distinguished and enlightened Latin Americanists, who had played a key role in disengaging the U.S. from Somoza.

And there are many others who do not end up in positions where they influence U.S. policy toward Latin America but in whom linger the precepts — the self-doubt, the mistrust of our society and government — on which dependency theory rests. I am not now talking of that healthy suspicion of power and human nature which guided those who shaped our constitution. I am talking about a mistrust, a hostility, a cynicism that strain the fabric of our society. Those who have managed the affairs of the U.S. government who have succumbed to the arrogance of power have helped to nurture these feelings of doubt and mistrust, to be sure. But the dependency theorists magnify and distort their errors and give no credit where it is due. And, as I reflect on what the U.S. government has done in Latin America during my twenty years in A.I.D., I conclude there is much to be proud of: e.g., the Alliance for Progress, its genesis as a reaction to the Cuban revolution and its achievement shortfalls notwithstanding; efforts to move away from paternalism and build “a mature partnership” in the early 1970’s; the ratification of a new Panama Canal treaty, a bipartisan achievement which returned sovereignty over the Canal to Panama; a strong message to the Dominican military in 1978 which preserved that country’s promising democratic experiment; and a sincere and forthcoming effort to build a new relationship with Nicaragua after the Sandinistas came to power.

Dependency theory erodes our belief in ourselves and in our society. But it may have even more pernicious consequences for Latin America. As Jean-Francois Revel has observed, self-criticism is a rare commodity in Latin America. Most Latin American intellectuals are inclined to blame the United States for Latin America’s shortcomings. This is true of the writers — Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Miguel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, for example – and of the economists, Raul Prebisch and the ECLA school foremost among them.

In contrast, self-criticism is over-developed in U.S. intellectual circles, with the result that U.S. intellectuals are telling Latin American intellectuals just what they want to hear: that Latin America would be a wonderful place if only it could break out of the clutches of the Yankee devil. The two tendencies reinforce each other, erode the quality of scholarship both in the U.S. and in Latin America, and lead those Latin American intellectuals and politicians who want. to do something about Latin America’s condition down a dead-end street.

Dependency theory implies that Latin America is impotent, the course of its history determined by outside forces, a passive observer of its own rape. Dependency theory both patronizes and paralyzes Latin America. Yet Latin America can determine its own destiny. Venezuela’s architect’s role in OPEC, Brazil’s industrialization, and Peru’s development of its fishmeal industry are cases in point.

Above all, Latin America needs to see itself objectively. Dependency theory may be comforting, but it is a debilitating nostrum which diverts Latin America’s attention from that indispensable coming to grips with itself.

  • Lawrence E. Harrison

    Lawrence E. Harrison directs the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

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