With the S&L crisis growing by the day, a lot of people have all but forgotten another long-simmering financial mess: Latin American debt. Not George Bush. Last week he unveiled a broad package of trade, investment and debt proposals to aid Latin America.
The proposal, known as the Enterprise for the Americas Iniative, promises closer economic ties with Latin American nations--and ultimately raises the possibility of a common market for the entirre Western Hemisphere. In the more immediate future, the plan opened the door for debt forrgiveness, a tack taken by commercial banks but so far resisted by the government. While the Reagan administration used the stick of debt to compel nations to give support to the contra cause, Bush is asking those nations to reform theur economies--to move away from what he called "the statist economic policies that stifle growth" and toward free markets. "Prosperity in the Western Hemisphere," the president said last week, "depends on trade, not aid.'
Although the administration announced some very big goals in its "new economic partnership," it has not offered a great deal of monwy to help countries rach them. The $100 million a year that Bush proposes to kick in will make up just one third of a pool that the administration hopes will be equally funded by both Japan and Europe. The ral inentive for Latin American nations will come in the potential to get off the hook for much 9of the $12 billion owed to Uncle Sam.