Latin America: Testing Ground for International Business

by Peter Nehemkis



The impact of nationalism upon international business in Latin America is not as recent or as abrupt as casual observers have reported. Foreign control and ownership over sensitive sectors of Latin American countries have been diminishing for more than a generation. During the 1930s popular resentment was focused on foreign-owned enterprises engaged in transportation and other public services. Because their freedom to increase rates was restricted, many foreign-owned utilities became unprofitable, ultimately were unable to provide adequate services, and were regarded as a drag on development. The wretched services supplied by many such utilities fanned the flame of nationalism. A transfer of ownership of public service facilities was accelerated through repatriation of the external bonded debt of Latin American countries by means of open-market purchases and amortization, as well as through scaling down the normal value of bonds, notably those of Brazil and Mexico, under debt and renegotiation agreements. The drive to eliminate foreign ownership of public utilities and communication facilities has continued.

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