Michael Hoganís SAVAGE CAPITALISM AND THE MYTH OF DEMOCRACY: Latin America in the Third Millennium is a collection of essays that present a clear and passionate account of the reaping of profits by multinationals to the detriment of local economies; the politics of subservience to U.S. interventions, and the creation of unequal capitalist societies. Now, after a decade of neglect by the U.S. and a deepening global economic crisis, disgruntled electorates have voted in left-of-center governments throughout Latin America. More focused on mutual development and improving social conditions than with U.S. approval or traditional ideologies, they have formed regional alliances and created a new solidarity.
Hogan also provides on-site observations of Central American gangs which he considers the most serious threat to regional security. Hogan himself has traveled extensively throughout the region, met with gang members and with police officials and worked with Homies Unidos on gang-related projects. His description of the murders of gang members in Honduran prisons is chilling, as are the reprisal of the gangs on local populations after those deaths.
The crisis in the Catholic Church is another concern of Hoganís. After recounting the failure of the Vatican and its conservative appointees to meet the needs of the people, the silencing of liberation theologians with their preferential option for the poor, and the horrible deaths of both Maryknoll nuns and Jesuit priests in Central America, the author paints a bleak picture of the current Church politics which has lost both the dynamism and the sense of mission which characterized it in the past.
Yet, there is much that is positive in this book as well. After castigating the U.S. for crop subsidies, and global corporations for excesses which have had devastating effects on the Latin American economies and ecologies, he gives a wonderful example of how one Caribbean country has established agricultural policies which manage to feed all the people and preserve the environment. He also gives high marks to unsung diplomatic ventures which have helped strengthen the educational systems especially in Colombia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic where growth of the Advanced Placement program and university entrance exams has raised standards and academic rigor.
Hoganís most controversial thesis is that the massive movement to the political left by Latin American electorates need not be a worrisome issue in terms of U.S. security or the sustainability of the region. Despite the bluster of Chavez and the dangers of populism, most of the socialist reforms being enacted in Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela are not international conspiracies. They are regional efforts designed to improve the livelihood of the citizens. Few of the plans are more radical than those proposed by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s in the U.S. However, after a hundred and fifty years of U.S. interventions in Latin America to preserve corporate interests followed by two decades of neglect, there is no question that the U.S. is among last to be consulted in these plans.