Fiebra aftosa, or foot-and-mouth disease, has afflicted livestock in every nation of the western hemisphere. Control of the malady is important, particularly among the economically poorer and predominantly rural populations of the Americas, in order to guarantee adequate amounts of animal protein in their diet. Embargos on importations from countries harboring the disease have affected international relations as well as domestic politics and economy.
The United States has been generally successful in combining slaughter with vaccination to eradicate the illness. Since the 1920s its prodigious technical and financial resources along with strict importation policies have been domestically rewarding. Other nations, however, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Peru, have suffered recurrently, even into the 1960s. Regional organizations, multinational ventures, and the OAS have produced indifferent results. A notable exception was the binational effort between Mexico and the United States which successfully stamped out an epidemic near Veracruz in 1946, caused by the importation of Argentine stock. The work of the Pan American FMD (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) Center has been repeatedly hampered by a combination of inadequate financial support, excessive illiteracy, political instability, and international jealousy. While progress has occurred in certain areas, the viral disease still threatens many Western Hemisphere nations in ravaging and epidemic proportions.
Manuel A. Machado, Jr.’s small volume is a generally capable account of the various labors, successes, and failures making up the struggle with foot-and-mouth disease in Middle and South America. The chronicle of the United States’ own trials with aftosa is insufficiently told, however, and Canada and the Caribbean receive less than a half dozen sentences. In this regard the book’s subtitle, “A Historical Survey of Foot-and-Mouth Disease and Inter-American Relations,” seems too broad. Here and there, particularly in the early portions of the book, the author relies heavily on English-language sources such as the New York Times, and especially on American diplomatic and consular reports. This reviewer felt too that the book needed more extensive description of the precise dangers presented by the disease to both man and animal. And throughout, both liveliness and conceptualization would gain from greater attention to the political problems encountered by those attempting to suppress the disease.
Nevertheless, Machado makes a convincing case for urgent attention to a common problem in a politically and ethnically divided hemisphere. He also offers a clear statement of how economic protectionism has combined with considerations of health to shape United States importation agreements. The last two-thirds of the volume is well documented, and the author has made especially good use of reports by Edgardo Seoane and Carlos Palacios, indefatigable chief officers of the Pan American FMD agency. If a more broadly conceived survey is still needed, this monograph provides a good beginning.