"Harvard hasn't given adequate attention to the problems of Latin America. They haven't done more than the minimum," Abelardo L. Valdez, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Agency for International Development, said in an interview yesterday.
Valdez, who also addressed a seminar at the University's Center for International Affairs yesterday afternoon, criticized Harvard for "not even having a Latin American Department."
"Because of Harvard's tremendous influence in the government and private sector, I think it should be devoting more attention to Latin American problems," Valdez, a former member of the faculty of the Kennedy Institute of Politics, said.
Juan Marichal, professor of Romance Languages and Literature and chairman of the Committee on Latin American Studies said, "the criticism simply reflects a lack of information. We are doing much more than what not-very-well-informed people say we are."
Marichal declined further comment on the issue.
Valdez said Latin America is a crucial area for United States and Harvard involvement. "Unless something is done to keep Latin American countries from failing economically, there might very well be revolutions in several countries within the next decade."
The Latin American economy is in danger of collapse because of heavy debts caused by oil-buying and attempts at coping with the area's "tremendous, overwhelming poverty," Valdez said.
The solution to the problem, according to Valdez, might be for the United States and other developed nations to provide more foreign aid to the Latin American countries that are already partially developed.
"Most World Bank money goes to the low-income areas," he said. "Except for the poorest countries, Haiti, Bolivia and Honduras, most of Latin America is considered middle-income," even though the per capita income is not much above the $500 level that the World Bank uses for determining middle-income status, he said.
Because of that designation the countries cannot get long-term loans, and hence are unable to cope with the problems of poverty, health and education that affect them all, Valdez said.