Subtitled ""Latin America--Land of Reformers and Rebels,"" this is, in keeping with the subject, a big, sprawling, colorful book. It doesn't read like nonfiction. The author is a gifted, enthusiastic raconteur, and his view of Latin America is deeply sympathetic, influenced only casually by his being German. His opinions are those of almost any informed, liberal European--or American, for that matter. Too long held back by their upper classes and foreign investors, he sees the common people of South and Central America ready to seize their rights, by violence if need be, with the help of Cuba and China if no better path is clear. With the brief exceptions of FDR's and Kennedy's administrations, U.S. policy has been anything but enlightened. Ranging freely from country to country, from ancient to colonial to contemporary history, weaving in his own first-hand reports, Mr. Wendt has managed to make his points with clearer and fresher effect than most, blending the readability of travelogue with the authority of serious social, political, and economic analysis.