Printer Friendly

The current crisis in Latin America and the international economy.

An economic crisis is a period of change, a historical turning point. The old institutions that gave structure to economic relations can no longer function, severe disruptions of production and exchange occur, and social conflicts become intense. In such circumstances, there are ever-present dangers of political reaction and retrogression, but there are also opportunities for progressive change. In the underdeveloped world--plagued as it is by instability, dependency, and inequality--economic crises are not rare. Indeed, one might go so far as to assert that the condition of underdevelopment is a condition of perpetually recurring crises. Accordingly, we see among the underdeveloped nations focal points of both revolutionary progress and reaction.

The current crisis in Latin America, however, is not simply one more in the long string of crises that have characterized underdevelopment. It is different because it is part of an international crisis that has beset both the center and periphery of the capitalist world--and perhaps also the noncapitalist world--for well over a decade. crises that affect the international economy on such a wide scale are rather rare, appearing only every thirty or forty years. The last such crisis was that which centered around the Great Depression of the 1930s and which found its resolution only in the cataclysm of the Second World War.

Nonetheless, while the current crisis is not confined to Latin America, Latin ameirca is a focal point of considerable importance. As in the early colonial period when the huge flow of precious metals out of Latin America altered economic relations around the world, events in Latin America today are having repercussions throughout the international economy. Also as in that earlier era, the central events concern the international financial system. Then the issue was money in the most basic form of gold and silver; today it is money in the most abstract form of credit that is the potentially disruptive link between Latin America and the centers of wealth and power. The "debt crisis" of several Latin American nations (and of a few other nations in the periphery) has been the focus of headlines since mid-1982, and there is little likelihood that the problem will be resolved in the near future.

The "Debt crisi" is of course a much broader crisis within Latin America, not only affecting financial matters but also disrupting production and employment on a wide scale. This current crisis in one more illustration of the way the region's destiny is dominated and perverted by its subordination in the international economy, and an examination of its origins and development offers a good opportunity to re-analyze the dynamic of underdevelopment. Moreover, if we are to have any influence on what emerges from the crisis--if we are to affect the nature of this historic turning point--it will be helpful to have some idea of where it might lead. In order to give history a little push, it is necessary to know where history is going. Roots of the Crisis

In a broad sense, the financial crisis as it has manifested itself in the debt problems of several Latin American nations is an outgrowth of the general crisis that has plagued the economics of the advanced capitalist world since the early 1970s. The emergence of the general crisis spawned an enormous expansion of liquidity in the international economy. This expansion of liquidity in turn, concentrted as it was in an essentially unregulated banking system, led to a very rapid growth of international banking. Moreover, the general crisis reflected a marked decline in the rate of growth of investment in the advanced nations, and growth in the demand for credit did not keep pace with the burgeoning supply of funds. Faced with a rapid expansion in available liquidity that could not be absorbed in the center, the banks became mechanisms for pushing funds out into the periphery of the world capitalist system.

This "push," which contributed to the current financial crisis, was complemented by a "pull," a strong demand for credit in the economies of the periphery, especially economies in Latin America. In attempting to interpret underdevelopment and determine directions of change in Latin America, this pull is of central concern.

It is no exaggeration to say that the roots of this pull--the roots of Latin America's current debt problem--can be traced to the early colonial era, to the way Spanish and Portuguese America were connected to the international economy and to the types of social structures that were established in these Iberian colonies. During the sixteenth century, economic life in Spanish colonies was thoroughly dominated by gold and silver. After the original plundering of the Aztec and Inca empires, it was particularly silver mining, centered in the Peruvian-Bolivian Cordillera and the Mexican Sierra, that defined both social relations in the colonies and the colonies' relation to the rest of the world. The economy of the mines, first of all, was driven by the European demand for silver, and the rhythm of life in the colonies was subordinated and dependent upon developments in the external world. Secondly, the economy of the mines generated a highly unequal, bi-polar social structure, with a small group of Spaniards and creoles at the top and a large group of indigenous peoples drafted into labor at the bottom--and relatively few others in between.

These two characteristics of the early era--external orientation of economic life and great inequality--have continued to exist in Latin American economies, to one degree or another, down to the current period. In Brazil, where sugar instead of silver was the focus of sixteenth-century production, and where African slaves instead of drafted Amerindians did the work, the same sort of conditions have prevailed. Dramatic changes have taken place, to be sure. Today, Brazil and Mexico are major industrial powers, and mining and agriculture have dwindled to secondary importance. Yet, today's industry, and indeed each form of economic activity that has come and gone in Latin America during the last four centuries, has built upon and not transformed (or only minimally transformed) the original external dependence and inequality.

The duality of dependence and inequality that has characterized Latin American history is at the foundation of the current crisis. Once established, this duality tended to be self-perpetuating and, in particular, bred a continuing reliance on an inflow of capital from the center. The principal feature generating the self-perpetuating cycles of dependency and inequality has been external dependence itself, with the long history of reliance on external capital generating a continuing reliance. At any given point in time, a considerable share of the economic surplus generated in Latin America is obligated to pay--by way of expatriated profits or interest payments--for capital that came from the center in the past. Therefore, the share of the surplus that can be directed toward expansion within Latin American nations is limited. If growth is to be attained and those obligations are to be respected, then the only option is to take on more investments from the center.

It would be an error, however, to see the dependence on foreign investors as simply a dependence on a supply of foreign funds. Indeed, as has been widely recognized, foreign direct investors--the multinational corporations--operating in Latin America often obtain a considerable portion of the funds they invest from local capital markets. It is not simply a lack of funds that has forced a dependence on foreign capital, but also a lack of effective organizational strength. The essence of business power is the ability to use funds to control and effectively organize work activity and social, political, and economic institutions in such a way as to enhance both profits and the general accumulation process. The wielding of such power requires the firm cohesion of capitalists as a class, the development of their ability to organize economic life in their own interest--which is to say it requires a well-established domination of society by the capitalist class. A central, but not the only, example of capital's organizational ability is its effectiveness in creating and controlling technology.

The experience of imperialist domination in Latin America, and throughout the third world, has perverted the development of the local capitalist classes. Typically, the capitalist class that has emerged under the long-established domination of foreign capital has been heavily dependent either on the state apparatus or on foreign capital itself or on both. Consequently, it has in general not developed the effective national institutions, the social patterns, and the business practices that would give it the power to organize independent development. Continually, for example, capital in the periphery must turn to the center as a source of new technology. As a result, in key sectors of the economies of Latin America, national capital is unable to compete with the multinationals and indeed, welcomes entrance by the foreign firms. Thus the dependence is a social dependence--or class dependence--as well as a financial dependence.

It is not, however, the history of dependency alone that creates the self-perpetuating cycles of inequality and dependence. The great inequalities in Latin America--the bi-polar social structure that is the region's colonial heritage--also plays a major role. In social systems characterized by extreme inequality, the survival of groups at the top, the various elites, is always in question. The threat of rebellion, if not of revolution, by those on the bottom is continually a practical matter. Consequently, the elites are required to maintain a formidable bureaucratic and military apparatus to control their own populations.

Such an extensive apparatus of control and coercion is, however, a costly drain on a nation's resources that might otherwise be directed toward economic growth.

Moreover, even with relatively large bureaucratic and military forces, todayhs elites in Latin America must strive to promote economic growth. Economic growth is not only the means for expanding the wealth of those at the top, it is also the most effective way to prevent middle-level groups (and even some groups near the bottom) who would otherwise suffer severe inequality from entering the opposition. The successes of Brazil's military and especially of Mexico's elite in preserving their positions of power and privilege owe as much to economic expansion as to repression. Instability in Argentina, where repression has certainly not been lacking, can be traced to a continuing poor economic record.

Within the context of Latin America's history of inequality and dependence, this necessary growth cannot be maintained on the basis of internal resources. The masses of the population are too poverty-stricken to provide a strong internal market; and the elites' own spending on lavish living and the upkeep of the extensive bureaucratic-military machines leave insufficient funds to drive investment forward. Consequently, to achieve growth, Brazil, Mexico, and other Latin American nations have cultivated export markets and welcomed foreign investment. In this way, the great inequality generates growing external dependence.

Bringing the self-perpetuation of inequality and dependence full circle, external dependence buttresses the system of inequality. Politically, investors from the center along with their governments support the power and privilege of the elites. (As evidence and illustration, one need only point to the relationship between U.S. interest--government and business--and the ascendancy of the military regimes in Brazil and Chile, to say nothing of the current situation in Central America.) Economically, investors from the center introduce technology that generates minimal employment and direct their sales toward the market created by the elites' expenditures. Thus, the dependency-inequality structure that predominates in Latin America has been a self-reinforcing structure, and, what deserves emphasis here, it generates a growth process that relies heavily on imported capital.

During the period from the Second World War through the late 1960s, foreign investment coming into Latin America was primarily the direct investment of multinational firms based in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Funds coming in as foreign loans were relatively less important. In that period, however, at least within some of the Latin American nations--Brazil and Mexico are the prime examples--national industry, both state owned and private, became relatively well established. These new developments did not constitute a break from the relationship between national and international capital; the former remained in its subordinate role and retained its preverted character. National industry did not replace the multinationals, but it did grow up alongside of the multinationals, often in a supportive or symbiotic relation. For example, in Brazil the multinationals dominated auto production, but national capital became active in several industries supplying the auto producers and in construction (building roads, among other things). Parastatal agencies dominated several aspects of energy production and distribution and also became important in the steel industry. Further, in some instances, multinational, state, and national capital combined in large and complex projects--chemical production in Brazil provides an example. Nonetheless, in spite of the complementary and often cooperative relation between international and Latin American capital, developments that have become clear since the early 1970s mark a potentially significant alteration in the condition of national capital in at least the larger and more economically successful Latin American nations. While a break with dependency had not taken place, a new form of center-periphery relationship was emerging in some cases, and some new form of economic development was at least conceivable.

The growing role of enterprises owned by Latin American nationals or by Latin American governments altered the form in which capital from abroad was needed. Instead of simply direct foreign investment, in the early 1970s nationally based firms in Latin America began to pull in increasing amounts of loan capital, money coming through the large banks of New York, London, Frankfurt, and Tokyo. Thus, while Latin America's dependence on foreign investment is nothing new, based on the pull produced by the long-established structure of inequality and dependence, the current dependence on financial capital is a form that has its origins in relatively recent developments. (There have, of course, been earlier periods in Latin American history when financial capital played a similarly important role.) The implications of these developments--as shall become evident shortly--are rather important to an interpretation of where the crisis is leading.

While the basic pull of foreign funds into Latin America has long historical roots and the current form of that pull has roots that have been evolving throughout the post-Second World War era, additional pulls came into operation as the 1970s proceeded and the international crisis matured. The most widely noted factor affecting the need for foreign loans in Latin America was, of course, the huge increase in oil prices in 1973. Especially for Brazil, but also for several other nations of the region, maintaining growth meant importing oil; and importing oil meant borrowing hard currency to pay for it. Oil price increases did not initiate the debt problems, but after both 1973 and 1979 oil price increases did make the problems considerably more severe for several nations.

The pull continued to grow in the 1970s, as economic growth in the center continueed to ebb. With their export markets thus weakening, Latin American countries could maintain imports and economic growth only by more borrowing. By the end of the decade, however, it was well recognized that in the absence of expansion in the center, growth attained in Latin America throught borrowing would only postpone the day of reckoning. In addition, continuing inflation and instability in the center imposed extremely high interest rates on the debtor nations, making the entire financial system more precarious.

Then, as the slow growth of the late 1970s turned into the severe recession of the early 1980s, the day of reckoning did come. The current crisis in Latin America--with default scares, debt renegotiations and "conditionality" agreements, declining output and austerity programs, political turmoil and riots--appeared in its full form. Power in the Crisis

The current crisis marks a setback for the strength of national development in Latin America. The growing role of state and national capital in Brazil, Mexico, and elsewhere did not involv a break from the region's history of dependence. Nonetheless, changes since the 1960s have involved a threat to the old system of power relations that dominated the international economy after the Second World War. The growing strength of national capital in Latin American nations was closely connected, in particular, to the decline of U.S. hegemony.

In the early postwar period there was virtually no effective challenge to the operation of U.S. business and the U.S. government, within the international capitalist economy generally and within Latin America in particular. In Latin America, of course, there was considerable nationalist rhetoric and popular feeling for limiting the role of U.S. corporations. Even where nationalism appeared powerful, however, policies of that era accommodated to the interests of the multinational corporations. The U.S.-based firms, with their control of capital and technology and with the political leverage exercised by the U.S. government, met only limited resistance. Nationalists who were driven by the growth imperative and who accepted the general framework of capitalism, had little choice but to turn to the U.S. firms. In Brazil, for example, nationalist rhetoric was but a limited barrier tot he establisment of "Instruction 113," which, through preferential exchange rate treatment, gave a decided advantage to foreign investors over national capital. Elsewhere, as in Bolivia, "the debt trap" forced nationalist forces to comply with the interests of the multinationals. It certainly appeared in that era that a course of national capitalist development was not a real option; national capital, it seemed, could and would always do better for itself by welcoming foreign capital and accepting a subordinate role--and through the 1950s and on into the 1960s, foreign capital meant almost always U.S. capital.

In restrospect, however, it is clear that even in those decades of extreme U.S. power in Latin America, change was taking place. Myra Wilkins, in her history of U.S. multinational corporations, recounts the steps taken by Latin American governments in the late 1950s and 1960s which forced U.S. firms to transform long-standing sales, service, and assembly operations into full-fledged manufacturing facilities; she also points to the nationalization of public utility and natural resource-based investments, and to the requirements for local participation in ownership. In themselves, such events were not a threat to the power of U.S. capital in Latin America. Yet they marked the beginning of a process that, under altered international circumstances, had the potential to take on significant force. Moreover, as economic growth did take place in Latin America, largely through import substitution and under the aegis of penetration by U.S. capital, both national capitalist classes in Latin America and the economic roles of several governments expanded considerably.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, international circumstances did begin to change. With the demise of the Bretton Woods international monetary arrangements in 1971, there was much talk of the end of U.S. hegemony. For economic change in Latin America, the end of U.S. hegemony meant national forces were less constrained in pursuing their favored development policies. The direct leverage of the U.S. government in influencing policies was considerably weakened. More important, U.S.-based firms now faced considerable competition from Japanese and European-based rivals, allowing greater leeway to Latin American forces in their dealings with the multinationals. (Also, a greater number of U.S. firms had developed international operations, contributing to the competition among the multinationals.)

One manifestation of the new situation was the rise in certain important areas int he frequency with which joint ownership arrangements were imposed on the multinationals. The experience of Brazil with joint ventures stands out, but available data suggest similar tendencies in Colombia and Mexico as well as elsewhere in the third world. Also, even with "high tech" industries, the new situation gave Latin American governments greater leverage, allowing them to insist, for example, on local-content and export requirements as conditions for computer firms to set up production facilities and gain access to the growing market; here Mexico provides an illustrative case. An increase in nationalizations of U.S. firms in the third world was still another sign of the new circumstances, with the experience of the oil industry--in Venezuela, for example--as the overshadowing case. The point here is not that these sorts of changes resulted in great losses for the multinationals. As the case of oil illustrates, the firms have been able to adjust to the new situation fairly well, at least in the short run. Their profits and, through their control of markets and technology, much of their power have been maintained. Yet the potential implications of these changes cannot be discounted. Within Latin America, the growing power and organizational capacity of national capital, always in concert with the state apparatus, has been considerable.

An analogy to an earlier historical period suggests itself. During the early nineteenth century, conflict and disarray in Europe (in the center) facilitated the great change in Latin America (in the periphery). Latin America did not break from its subordinate condition in the international economy, but the structures of its position were changed, and a well-ordered subordination was only re-established as the century proceeded and British hegemony became firmly entrenched. In the current era, the decline of U.S. hegemony and the associated disorder and rivalry in the center have facilitated change in the Latin American periphery. It would be erroneous to expect this change to move unabated in the direction of greater power and autonomy for Latin America, but it would also be a mistake to ignore the reality of the change.

It is against this background that the current crisis has descended upon Latin America. With the advance of national forces so dependent on the flow of financial capital from the center, the crisis in the flow of funds upsets the advance. In order to extricate themselves from the debt crisis, Latin American governments are being forced to accept conditions that run contrary to their programs of national development. There should be no mistake of course about the fact that, as far as human suffering is concerned, it is the poorest groups in Latin America that will bear the brunt of the austerity programs imposed by the IMF and the private banks. Yet the "conditionality" which accompanies new loans from the center includes much more than austerity. Latin American governments are being pressured to ease regulations on the inflow of foreign investment (e.g., to ease joint venture and export requirements), to reduce currency controls that might be used to insulate and protect their national development, and to abandon stimulatory fiscal policies. Moreover, they are pushed to rededicate themselves to export promotion as the route to economic growth. The programs being imposed on the periphery by the central powers in their effort to resolve the debt crisis thus amount to a counter-offensive against national development. Directions of Change

It is not at all clear how the struggles in Latin America between international capital--as represented most clearly by the IMF and the banks--and national capital, including the state, will be resolved. There are of course other forces that will play a major role in the overall resolution of the conflicts surrounding the debt crisis. Principal among these are the popular movements in Latin America, the loose collection of workers, peasants, and others who are generally far removed from power. In understanding the conflict between national and international capital, it is well to remember that historically, when faced with aggressive popular movements, national capital in Latin America has always opted for an alliance of subordination with international capital. Any practical appraisal of where the current crisis is leading would require a careful analysis of the political composition of these movements, as well as an examination of the particular conditions of the elite forces in various Latin American countries.

What can be done here is to specify the principal general directions of change that might take place, the alternative directions in which history might turn as a consequence of the current crisis in Latin America.

To begin with, a major international financial crash cannot be ruled out. The events of the early 1980s have led even those with the most remarkable faith in the system to raise the specter of a crash. In early November 1982, for example, the Wall Street Journal printed on its front page a fictitious scenario of international financial panic and collapse. The Journal emphasized that, while its tale was entirely fictitious, the events "could happen." Certainly the genesis of the Great Depression of the 1930s provides cause for alarm. Although the economic decline that commenced in 1929 was quickly a severe one, it did not move fully into its nadir until the general financial collapse of 1931 that was initiated by the failure of Austria's Creditanstalt. What we learn from 1931 is of course first, that breakdown is possible. Although new institution have been established since the 1930s to forestall such developments, events of that period demonstrate that when panic emerges individual governments and businesses will pursue policies to protect their own narrow interests. In so doing, they often exacerbate the severity of the crisis. Second, we can see from the experience of the 1930s the futility of attempts to predict the outcome of the chaos that would ensue from financial collapse.

Still, while one cannot ignore the possibility of panic and general collapse, this scenario does not seem highly likely. The debacle with the Continental Illinois bank in the United States during early 1984 demonstrated the extent to which both the private banking sector and especially the U.S. government will go to protect the viability of the financial system. Abandoning any ideological proclivities against government intervention in the economy and going well beyond existing formal channels, federal authorities moved to bail out Continental Illinois and prevent the damage from spreading by in effect taking over the bank. Similarly, when the IMF needed an expansion of its available funds to handle international debt problems, the U.S. government set aside it earlier political objections and provided the money. These and other related actions in the recent period suggest that the U.S. government, the IMF, and the governments of other wealthy nations are able and willing to go to great length to protect the financial system. Such actions, however, have their own important implications, as shall be noted shortly.

An alternative extreme prognosis of the current situation is represented by those are sanguine about the debt problems, assert that they represent no basic flaws in the international economy, and forecast a relatively stable readjustment during the mid-1980s. This view is hardly credible unless one entirely dismisses the sort of historical and structural expalnation of the debt crisis that has been suggested above. One can expect stable adjustment only if the debt crisis is simply the manifestation of ephemeral phenomena, such passing disruptions of the 1970s and early 1980s as "oil shocks" and aberrant recessions and interest rates.

Furthermore, even if one accepts some of the basic premises of the optimistic diagnosis, stable adjustment and a return to the status quo ante seems unlikely. Formal econometric forecasts that hold out the possibility of a return to normal after the mid-1980s contain at least two fundamental weaknesses. First, the project continuing and stable (though not necessarily rapid) economic expansion in the advanced capitalist countries. Both a projection of past experience and an appraisal of current conditions and policies make it appear unlikely that the strong upswing of 1983 and early 1984 in the United States and the recovery that seems to be fllowing in Europe will be durable. Indeed, the huge government deficits in the United States are leading some to predict reversals of policy by early 1985 and consequent sharp changes in economic conditions. Second, forecasts that discount the likehood of continuing debt crisis tend to understate the potential difficulties arising from debt problems in individual countries. Although the third world generally may have sufficient funds to meet its obligations in coming years, Argentina or Brazil or Mexico may not. Were default to occur in the case of one nation, its impact could spread--both through a shortage of liquidity in the financial system and through a political demonstration effect.

If neither financial collapse nor a return to stability in the near future appears likely, then the prognosis must be for a continuation of the crisis. Of course, since conditions in the central capitalist economies are a major cause of the crisis, generally and in Latin America, any full appraisal of the probable course of future events would require an analysis of conditions in the center. Nonetheless, within the realm of the financial problems that are centered in Latin America, several factors point toward a continuation of instability for the visible future.

First, the threat of financial collapse--the understanding that it "could happen"--makes a great deal of difference to the functioning of the international economy. Under such circumstances, interest rates rise as lenders insist upon getting a higher payment for greater risk. High interest rates tend to curtail any economic expansion that could contribute to a solution to the debtor countries' difficulties.

Second, these same conditions of uncertainty make businesses reluctant to commit themselves to long-term projects. In late 1984, for example, even as the Mexican government seemed to be having some success with its economic programs, foreign investors still did not show a willingness to return, and Mexican capital continued to flow out of the country. Without a growth of investment, there will be no new round of expansion.

Third, the austerity programs imposed on the debtor countries have the same impact as does the uncertainty. The programs force continued slump rather than expansion. Stimulatory government programs are directly curtailed in the name of eliminating inflation, and austerity programs that drastically cut back wages undermine consumer spending and assure that no stimulation will come from that quarter.

Fourth, the austerity programs also raise considerably the likelihood of social and political conflicts. Regardless of the long-run direction of change that such conflicts may generate, in the short run they undermine investment and economic expansion. While food riots in Brazil may have the IMF as their principal--and conveniently abstract and distant--target, neither foreign nor Brazilian business finds any encouragement in these struggles.

Fifth, when the governments of the center act to avoid an international financial collapse, they add to the foundation of long-run instability. Their only mechanism for preventing defaults and bankruptcies is to create more liquidity, to extend more credit to those in trouble. This solution pumps up the debt balloon even further and will lead to a favorable outcome only if the world economy enters a period of renewed expansion. If expansion is not sufficiently great or does not come sufficiently soon, expanding credit only increases the size of the problem. Moreover, although these injections of liquidity can be offset by other actions, they tend to have an inflationary impact on the international economy. Thus, efforts to deal with the debt problem add to the instability that gave rise to the problem in the first place.

Continuing crisis, then, is most likely to set the context for events in Latin America during the coming period. Under such circumstances, two connected types of changes seem highly likely--an intensification of class struggles throughout the region and an increasingly large role for governments in economic affairs. The basis for growing class struggle is relatively obvious: without growth--or with relatively slow growth--the elites in Latin America will find their power and privilege under attack. Class struggle itself will provide one of the bases for a larger government role in economic affairs, as the elites turn to an enlarged bureaucratic-military apparatus to preserve their dominance.

In addition, there are directly economic reasons to expect growing government action. The crisis will have its most severe impact on the weakest segments of the private sector, namely on those enterprises in the hands of national capital. While in a few instances, foreign capital will be ready to enter where local capital has failed, by and large multinational firms are not attracted to those sectors of the economy where nationally based businesses have been concentrated--the more competitive sectors, labor intensive production, small scale operations. Governments will be forced to provide more support to the private sector or extend parastatal activity into new areas.

More generally, in implementing austerity programs and in simply responding to the ongoing impacts of the crisis, governments will be forced to intervene in the economies. Readjustments of wage contracts, the promotion of new export lines, and the implementation of new import controls all call forth greater government involvement. Officials of the IMF and representatives of the U.S. government see a freer rein for free market activity as the best route for accomplishing these tasks. Yet the experiences in Chile and Argentina, where the free market approach has failed so thoroughly, are likely to discourage movement in that direction. Moreover, in Brazil and Mexico and in most other nations of Latin America, the state has become too central to economic organization to reduce its role in a time of crisis. Thus there seems every reason to expect the role of the state to grow as the crisis continues.

To be sure, crises do not last forever. Both Latin America and the international capitalist system have experienced crises in the past, and they have been followed by periods of stability and even progress. To emphasize the difficulties that now exist and to offer a prognosis of continued crisis is only to suggest that the current crisis is still rather far from a resolution. When that resolution does come, substantial structural changes will ensue.

Moreover, those changes will affect not only Latin America. In the early colonial period, while economic affairs in Latin America were thoroughly subordinate to the interests of Madrid and Lisbon, Spain and Portugal themselves became increasingly reliant upon the wealth generated in the Americas. Precious metals from the Americas set off an international inflation and economic expansion throughout the capitalist world. At the end of the seventeenth century, when silver lodes began to give out in the Andes, and northeast Brazil had lost its relative monopoly in sugar, these areas suffered general economic decline and proverty became entrenched. Yet, Spain and Portugal, as well as other parts of Europe, also felt the impact. The situation with the debt difficulties of today is similar. The negative consequences of the financial crisis will, at least for the foreseeable future, be most severe in Latin America, but the entire international financial system and, through the financial system, the lives of people around the world will be affected.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Monthly Review Foundation, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:MacEwan, Arthur
Publication:Monthly Review
Date:Feb 1, 1985
Previous Article:Peddlers of crisis: the committee on the present danger and the politics of containment.
Next Article:Corporate interests, philanthropies, and the peace movement.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters