Having travelled by land from San Francisco to Buenos Aires, I can attest
to the poverty of most of the people. Much is spoken, but not much is done
about it. The very informative Latin American News Syndicate enumerates,
with barely concealed irony, the endless conferences at which politicians
make speeches, eat fine meals, and enjoy the company before going on to
more rounds of the same good life.
Poverty in Latin America was a major theme at the conference of
Ibero-American leaders held in Margarita Island late last year. Another
conference on poverty in Latin America has just been held in Caracas, with
delegates parading down a red carpet to be received. The Pope, whose
intellectual baggage consists almost entirely of classical theologians,
blames capitalism and neo-liberalism, i.e. the United States.
In all of this there is no stress on the population explosion and its
control. Even Castro has just denounced birth control. This is avoiding a
key problem, analyzed by the Population Institution and Worldwatch
Association as well as a host of specialists.
Private groups can act where governments just talk. Stanford's Center of
Latin American Studies (out of which WAIS grew) has received a 200,000
grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to "implement" a
two-year interdisciplinary program on "The Ecology of Poverty in Latin
America." This may not be action, although the word implement suggests
that, but it will be better than speeches. Especially encouraging is the
participation of the School of Medicine, and therefore presumably its
Department of Health Research and Policy. The medical profession is the one
with the best record of public service; witness the international
activities of Medicins sans Frontieres. As time goes on, we will report on
the activities of this new program.