Top 10 Reasons Latin American Countries Are Still Underdeveloped

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Almost 2 centuries have passed since Latin American countries gained their independence from Spain and Portugal. Oscar Arias in “Culture Matters: the Real Obstacles to Latin American Development” of Foreign Affairs 90.1 (July 2011) examines the real reasons why Latin American countries are not developed, despite starting off equal and even better off than us. This article builds on the 4 reasons Arias gives, by including Latin American countries’ arguments as well as other research.


1. Resistance to Change:

Arias argues that Latin American countries glorify the past, which is hard if not impossible to change. Moreover, they are interested in preserving their status-quo which does not fit room for culture of improvement. Arias lastly cites a weak leader as the reason for this resistance to the change.


2. Fragile Democracy:

Arias believes that the democracy in Latin American countries in unstable. They reached their independence hoping to leave the clutches of a tyrant. However, in the 20th and 21st century, countries faced tyrants. These tyrants were elected through democratic means, but when in power did whatever they wanted.


3. No Confidence:

Arias also believes that there is no confidence amongst the countries. They are increasingly suspicious, wary of creativity and doubt their politicians and their abilities.


4. Militarism-Soft Spot:

Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Guatemala all had military leaders who were tyrants. This has prevented the countries from developing, sometimes putting them in a backward motion. This was especially the case with Agustus Pinochet.


5. Debt:

Almost all Latin American countries are in immense debt. Arias argues that there is no ongoing conflicts in the region, except in Colombia. However, the region still spends $60 billion on arms and soldiers. Costa Rica took the first initiative to declare peace by not spending any money on arms and soldiers.


6. Spanish Empire:

Many Latin American nations point the finger at Spain and its empire. They believe that the latter has taken away the riches from the region, through the export of crops, primary resources and other staples.


7. USA:

Latin American nations also believe that the US is the bad guy and a tyrant. They accuse America of bleeding them dry.


8. Globalization:

Here Latin American countries put the blame on the countries who get spotlight from globalization. The former feels that they are kept in the shadow by an interconnected world. However, Brazil is a rapidly developing country with excellent economic prospects.


9. Capitalism-not permanent culture:

The countries have striven to bring in capitalism but failed to keep it in their permanent culture.

The ideology did not cut deep, especially in the countryside where traditional ways ensued.


10. Mindset:

Latin American countries find the problems in others, and not themselves. In order to solve the problem, they must find the problem in themselves.



Arias, O. “Culture Matters: the Real Obstacles to Latin American Development” Foreign Affairs (Jan/Feb 2011), p.2


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