Latin America Emerges from Underdevelopment
Speech opening the fourteenth annual session of the United Nations
Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL)
Santiago, 27 April 1971
As we assemble today to begin another debate on the economy of Latin America, it is important to bear in mind what CE PAL has meant up to now.
It is not enough to recount the disappointments of the past decade. At the start of the new one, we must apply such experience to our present obligations and map out an appropriate economic strategy. In the coming decade, the session which we are inaugurating today will have to redress the balance of what then took place in quantitive terms; it is an opportunity to analyse in depth exactly what is happening in our countries and to anticipate the historical tasks which lie ahead.
We are witnesses to the awakening of a profound revolutionary consciousness. Each day more and more of us reject the existing system, and rightly so. For we must keep reiterating, until these facts are driven home to everyone, these appalling figures which you yourselves have so often uttered in anxious voices, which we have so often repeated with tones of despair and which have so often fallen on deaf ears.
More than 30 per cent of our population is illiterate -80 million people. 11 per cent of the labour force is totally unemployed, 9 million in forced retirement, 28 per cent of the labour force is underemployed, 75 million workers make a minimum contribution to the development of the continent. Each person consumes an average of 2,500 calories per day, compared with more than 3,000 per person in developed countries; 65 grams of protein per day, compared with 100 grams in European countries. This means malnutrition, constant hunger, listlessness and irreparable brain damage.
Year after year, foreign investors have drawn profits far in excess of the sum invested. Since 1962, the profits obtained from Latin America have exceeded investments by $1,000 million. Since the middle sixties, our repayments on loan facilities have totalled more than our new debts. The foreign debt of our continent reaches astronomical figures. Day by day the distance between the industrialized and the developing countries grows greater and greater.
Some nations have shown a temporary growth, but invariably this has remained restricted to the modem sector of the economy, without affecting the rest of the system. The increase in revenue has gone into the hands of a disproportionate few, and the rate of this sporadic growth has not reflected an organic expansion of the economy.
Unequal distribution of revenues, and economic plus technical dependence, have marched hand in hand in the traditional model. With them has co-existed the phenomenon of marginalidad - the exclusion of great numbers of people, of millions of people, from any participation in the collective effort. More than 15 million Latin Americans do not even know money as a form of exchange. These are the concrete and living forms of the historical pattern of our continent. Despite all this, a small minority is still permitted to own the land, the factories and the mines, and to exercise unquestioned political power.
This brutal reality is condemned daily by workers, students, peasants, technologists and professional and clerical workers. The unemployed suffer most of all. This brutal reality must be destroyed. The nations of Latin America, except Cuba and Chile, still have to face a fundamental decision in the economic field: either to continue along the same pattern of growth, or to create the conditions for development of a different kind. This system, which has prevailed for so long, this pattern of historical development, accentuates economic and technological dependence. Starting with control of primary resources, it has gradually taken over industry, the banks, services and markets. It has gained control of investments, culture, technology and science, until finally a totally dominated society has been created.
Faced with these facts, our people are searching for other forms of development, each one suited to their national characteristics, but which at the same time - necessarily, for we share a common yoke - will have many elements in common. We are all fighting for our independence, for the affirmation of our own values, for the expansion of foreign markets and the joint exploitation of complementary ones. We are trying to trade on equal terms. We need an economic surplus to remain in the country to be shared among workers, not among a small group of proprietors. We need a distribution of income based both on humane considerations, so that the needs of our people should be met, and on technical grounds, so that our trading position may improve. Our internal regional economy must be organized to prevent the concentration of productive processes in but one or a few zones of the country. We must arrange a smooth development at economically integrated intervals, because a centralizing capitalism results in internal colonialism, which is just as destructive as any other.
Our frustration, both as a continent and as individual nations, has led inevitably to the crisis of the OAS, as was evidenced some days ago at the Foreign Ministers' Conference at San Jose in Costa Rica, where Chile's opinions were made abundantly clear. Let us point out the two fictitious notions which govern the policy of that organization - one, that all twenty-three nations meet on equal terms, and, two, that they all have common interests, aims and ideals.
Certainly, it is essential to make sure that this becomes a fact.
But, our needs will never be met as long as we do not abandon the existing structure of relations between production and labour, or while we continue to concentrate economic power, and consequently political power as well. Only by fundamental structural changes - agrarian reform, the nationalization of basic wealth and of the banks, the reform of political institutions, the reconstruction of industry - only thus will it be possible better to grasp and mobilize the economic surplus, directing it to a planned development which will satisfy the basic needs of the population. Only with measures of this magnitude will we be able to put an end to stagnation, poverty and the violence of dependence.
The necessity of changing the economic structure has been imposed on us by objective conditions. Chile spends more than $200 million a year on importing food-stuffs. By the end of the century, if there is no substantial change in our agriculture, we will be having to import more than $1,000 million worth of food, in spite of having adequate land, water and marine resources. Another fact is that the country has been continually drained of its basic wealth by foreign capital. Between 1910 and 1970, in the form of remittances, as profits, or in the form of various services, we have handed over $2,850 million. $1,300,000 leave this country every day. That is the daily wage of one million workers.
Our government has chosen its own path. It is a path of change which will lead to a new economy. It is a path leading to a socialism which will benefit from our finer traditions, and enrich them with the creative energy of a people dedicated to their liberation. Nationalization will take place within the terms of our legal system, in the exercise of our sovereignty and in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations. The interests of the whole people come before those of particular individuals.
Neither unfair nor arbitrary sanctions nor the threat of force will hold back the advance of the people. We demand full respect for self-determination and for non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. The dignity of nations is not measured by per capita income.
Every day we become more aware of the frustration and suffering to which the traditional economic regimes and foreign domination subject our workers and all those who do not share the privilege of belonging to the ruling economic minority.
The continued and cumulative efforts of our political movements and our trade unions throughout many decades have prevented the frustration and incompetence of the capitalist system from exhausting the energy of the people, or from mystifying those who do not partake of privilege, or from artificially integrating them into the very system to be overthrown.
The Chilean people, after years of political and social struggle along a path marked by partial successes and partial defeats, has achieved an extraordinary victory. Its great significance lies in the fact that it marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new age. The people have recognized their proper role. They have reached the seat of government and advance now to take control of the nation's affairs.
I come before you as the representative not merely of a government, but of a politically mature people who, in complete freedom and understanding when faced with the alternative, rejected the continuation of a repressive system of production.
Our analysis of the irrational disequilibrium which characterizes the Chilean economic system agrees in quantitative terms with the analysis of CEPAL. But the Chilean government diverges from the political content there implied, in our plans for socio-economic changes. We are still formulating the theoretical premises on which these changes are based, the means by which to institute them and the goals to which they tend.
The experience of Chile and of so many other countries demonstrates the enormous limitations of the capitalist structure in satisfying the needs of the masses, whatever the extent of their internal development. In the case of Latin America its inadequacies are multiplied by the distorted features of a global system of production and exchange in which we have been given, and continue to suffer, the subordinate role that has allowed us to be exploited to an intolerable degree. Our internal economic structures are distorted, and within our own national boundaries a pattern of dominant and dominated areas has been created which puts ever greater distances between integral parts of one and the same social and economic unit.
The Chilean government and its people have taken the responsibility of directing all their energy as an organized nation to the free construction of their own future, upon the basis of their own resources and of a new international cooperation, which rejects any domination of the majority by a few economic systems.
Hence the priority we have granted to the recovery of our natural basic wealth and to the opening-up of economic and political barriers which artificially separated our people from socialist countries. Hence our concern to maintain commercial relations with all the countries of the world, based upon that mutual respect among all people which should be demanded by small and poor nations.
As a result of these principles, our country chose as its first task to end the unjust isolation imposed upon Cuba. It is solidarity which leads us on resolutely to make every effort now, as in the future, to establish new channels of co-operation between our economies; a necessary step if we wish Latin American unity to become a concrete and tangible reality. In this sense, the progress made in the Andean Pact provides hope for the coming decade.
CEPAL's contribution to this task should continue to be substantial. Because of this we should like it to continue in even closer collaboration with CECLA,  bringing to it its technical resources. V/e hope, also, that in the more distant future it might co-ordinate its activities with sister commissions for Africa and Asia, towards the solution of common problems.
The Unidad Popular government of Chile realizes that a genuine economic development is very different from simple economic growth. It realizes that our development depends upon transforming the base on which the system of internal and external exploitation stands. It knows that these foundations will be modified only to the extent that political and economic power is held by the great majority, and the extent to which the people actually have the power of decision. Popular participation, indispensable for the establishing of a socialist order, is beginning now throughout the whole of Chile. It will soon take a decisive step when it calls upon the workers of the public and mixed sectors to become members of management councils, having a number of representatives equal to those in the councils of state organizations. Only together with the workers, with their awareness and their sacrifice, can we put an end to inflation and unemployment. Only by learning more, by producing more and by working more for the good of all the people can nations make any progress at all.
The government of Chile has received a mandate to make further changes in the existing structures. Reformist and neo-capitalist policies have been applied in Chile and we are all familiar with the consequences.
Our country's road to development lies in synchronizing our economic and political changes. That is our only means of escape from dependence on foreign aid.
The problem is to make substantial changes in political and economic power, while observing the limits set down by existing laws. At the same time we must construct a new legal order and the embryo of a future institutionality by means of existing institutional mechanisms.
This government is going to work out a new institutional structure and establish a legal system which will serve the interests of the people. We intend to achieve this not by means of violent destruction, but by dismantling the existing order and restoring it in a progressive form, as soon as the understanding of our people and our technical resources will allow.
We prefer to make our revolution, not to speak of it.
Today in Chile we have pluralism, legality and public freedom, thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of many generations. The road we shall follow towards socialism will strengthen these victories, so that they may operate truly in the service of the great majority.
We know it is difficult. The task is itself immense, gigantic. The way we have chosen brings with it additional obstacles, for the powerful interests which see themselves threatened will resist by any means whatever.
They have not hesitated to murder the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in an insane attempt to prevent the realization of the will of the people.
But our country takes up this challenge in full recognition of its dimensions, of its hopes and also of the risks it entails.
Gentlemen delegates, I have the honour to inaugurate the present conference at the moment that our country takes up this task.
As President of Chile, I ask you to have understanding for our situation; I ask for your solidarity; I invite you to work with us to meet the dire needs of Latin America, this continent of peoples.
1. Special Co-ordinating Commission for Latin America.