The entrance of the United States into the war at once raises a question as to the effect which that step will have upon our relations with Latin-America. Particularly significant from our point of view is the prospect of South American cooperation and even of actual alliance. This phase of the situation is suggested by two factors: first, the maritime interests of some of the Latin-American republics, which will tend to draw those countries into the war sooner or later in the same manner that the United States now finds itself involved; second, the presence of certain natural resources and conditions in the southern republics which are peculiarly valuable for belligerent preparation.
The first of these two considerations applies particularly to the largest of the South American republics, namely, Brazil. For almost a generation Brazil has been actively concerned, because of her extensive coast-line and river system, with the problem of building up water transportation facilities. This policy has involved such steps as the expenditure of liberal subsidies, the enforcement of protective legislation with reference to coast-wise traffic, and the general encouragement of national shipping. Until the beginning of the present war, the Brazilian merchant marine did not figure conspicuously in foreign trade. But with the disordered shipping conditions that arose after August 1, 1914, and particularly as a result of the disruption of the pooling agreement between various English and German lines, the Brazilian merchant marine, especially the government line (Lloyds-Brazileiro), suddenly found itself in a very favorable position. Brazilian maritime ambitions have developed considerably during the past two and a half years, which explains the aggressive attitude of public opinion at Riode Janeiro after the inauguration of the present U-boat campaign. Brazil is, therefore, the first of the South American republics to which we may look for something more than merely sentimental co-operation in our coming struggle. In all probability we may very soon look for Brazil's entrance into the war.
This at once brings up the much discussed question of the so-called German peril in Brazil. Although no official figures are available as to the size of the German colonies in southern Brazil, it has recently been estimated by impartial investigators that the Teutonic population is between 250,000 and 300,000, on the face of it an ominous figure. But the fact that the colonies have no access to the outside world except by rail-roads controlled by French and English capital goes far towards nullifying the danger. Add to this the fact that the Germans are surrounded by Italian settlements (the total number of Italians in Brazil being about 1,000,000), and the German peril has vanished.
As for the national resources of the Latin-American countries which are available for belligerent purposes one must note first of all the manganese ore of Brazil. At present practically all of the manganese used by the steel industries of the United States is obtained from Brazil. Because of the importance of this material in the manufacture of heavy ordnance, gun carriages, etc., it is highly desirable that our relations with this southern republic should be just as cordial as possible.
On the west coast of the continent we find one of the most valuable of the materials for warlike preparation in the nitrate of northern Chile. This substance is not found in marketable quantities elsewhere, and is very necessary for the manufacture of explosives. In this connection it might be said that the trade in iodine, an invaluable commodity for surgical purposes, is entirely controlled by the iodine Combination of the nitrate companies. Because of her nitrate and iodine, if for no other reason, an understanding with Chile is not only, desirable but essential.
A further feature of the need for the careful assurance of our connections with the Latin-American republics is the need for a careful observation of their long and sparsely populated coast lines. The difficulty of patrolling these shores with the modest naval equipment of many of these republics is quite obvious; and the danger which may be presented by the use of certain strategic points along the South Atlantic and Caribbean shores are of course of prime importance in any campaign against roving commerce raiders and submarines.
The long-standing commercial and banking connections of England throughout South America together with, the steadily growing influence of Italian immigration in the East-coast countries has strengthened the adherence of Latin-America to the alliance which the United States has now joined. It is very important that we do everything in our power to bring these southern republics as close to us as possible