A critique of the popular notion that Latin American problems are more the fault of North American devils than of shortcomings in traditional Latin American society. The author--a Venezuelan political writer and former diplomat--preaches the gospel of uncharismatic democratic reformism and social democracy, neither of which have had much success in that part of the world, although his oil-rich country happens to be a functioning democracy under social democratic leadership. Rangel argues that the much admired Cuban alternative is basically a throwback to the Spanish-American tradition of ruthless one-man rule supported by foreign patronage. Castro, according to Rangel, touched a sympathetic chord with all those open to the psychological payoffs of anti-Americanism, but--unlike Mexico's Porfirio Diaz, whose dictatorship was decorated with the then-trendy elements of Positivism--he is at bottom a primitive caudillo dressed in the trappings of socialist rhetoric; the success of his dictatorship might best be judged by his subjects' eagerness to emigrate. Rangel claims that Castro's appeal to Latin Americans is due to an inferiority complex born out of the real inferiority of Latin American political and social organization to that of the United States. The refusal to face up to this engendered the myth of the noble savage--glorious ancestors, or pseudo-ancestors, destroyed by imperialism--and its contemporary avatar, the myth of the noble revolutionary. These myths fit in with prevailing Third World ideologies, notions of various First World intellectuals, and Soviet foreign policy. Rangel also touches on political developments in modern Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile, along with the role of the Church and the universities. As a vigorously argued polemic, this will delight many on the non-revolutionary end of the political spectrum, but its points merit consideration regardless.