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Progress and prosperity now. (Editor's Note).

During the past decade, democracy, free market policies, privatizations and free trade promised less corruption and more wealth. As this month's cover story shows, Latin America still comes up short on all accounts.

Public and private dealings are not transparent. The region's star reformers are struggling along with the laggards to attract investment. Having sunk US$20 billion into Brazil, automakers have shiny new plants but lackluster sales.

After a year of political gridlock, ranging from Mexican President Vicente Fox's flailing on reform to Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde's scrambling to restore solvency, many people have grown weary. Voter patience has worn thin. Investors aren't interested in throwing good money after bad. Local and multinational companies can't afford more mistakes.

Countries in Latin America now struggle to continue reforms. The civil war in Colombia is intensifying. Argentina and Venezuela are immersed in bitter public debates about the future course of their countries. Opposition congresses in Mexico and Chile have stymied changes across the board. Whatever the outcome of the Brazilian elections this month, continued privatization, deregulation and economic opening will be a tough sell.

Good. The hard road to recovery leads through more reform, not less, but not without public debate. Policies forged in the fires of fierce challenge will ultimately prove permanent.

Under caudillo rule and dictatorships, openness was irrelevant in Latin America. People did what they were told or they were told to leave, or worse. The shift to democracy and open markets has raised expectations of better government and improved living standards. People are no longer satisfied with the status quo; they are demanding progress and prosperity. In that sense, the backlash against backroom dealing and borderless business indicates just how far the region has come, not how far it has to go.

Mike Zellner
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Zelner, Mike
Publication:Latin Trade
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:0LATI
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Previous Article:Refuerzo Bancario. (Panorama).
Next Article:Letters.

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