Intimately acquainted with Chile’s Foreign Ministry Archives, which he played an important role in organizing, Oscar Espinosa Moraga has in the past published carefully documented, if rather chauvinistic, studies on Argentine-Chilean relations subsequent to the War of the Pacific. The present work lacks documentation, being largely interpretive in nature.
A principal thesis advanced by Espinosa is that from the attainment of independence, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina each pursued a policy aimed at diminishing Chilean power. Frequently, the three anti-Chilean powers cooperated in this policy. As a consequence, Chile became an isolated nation. The main culprit was Argentina, obsessed by a desire to extend its rule from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Owing to faulty statesmanship and lack of vision, Chile needlessly lost thousands of square miles of national territory to Argentina, represented by informed, astute and scheming diplomats. Regret is expressed that Brazil did not realize the advantages to be obtained from a defensive treaty with Chile in the early twentieth century when the Andean boundary dispute threatened to explode into war. The diplomatic history which Espinosa has written of balance-of-power politics in South America, 1810-1906, constitutes the most fascinating and valuable part of the book, notwithstanding its strongly nationalistic bias which may be particularly unfortunate at this time when Latin American cooperation has become imperative.
The development of greatest significance in contemporary South America, according to Espinosa, is the expansion of Brazil to the West. Thanks to railway and road connections through Bolivia, Peru, and Chile, Brazil will soon be, economically speaking, a transcontinental power. Peru and Bolivia will probably benefit more from increasing contact with Brazil than will Chile. Especially Peruvians, it is contended, have more economic forethought than Chileans, and have developed a better transportation system than their southern neighbors. As Peru’s and Bolivia’s economic situations improve, they may think of gaining revenge on Chile for its War of the Pacific triumph. What, then, should Chile’s policy be? To increase vastly its. military strength, answers Espinosa. Here is an incredible suggestion for a country that may already be losing the battle to meet its internal social crisis.