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Latin Americans can feel insecure for many different and overlapping reasons. U.S. and Latin American leaders don’t always agree on what these are, what causes them, and what should be done about them. Given all the previous chapters, this shouldn’t surprise us. In 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pointed to threats stemming from economic crisis (exacerbated by Covid-19), crime, narcotics trafficking, corruption, and Venezuela. It also noted the threatening presence of China and Russia. Latin American leaders show widely varying degrees of agreement about these. This chapter highlights U.S. policy dealing with insecurity and Latin American divergence from it. The dynamics of the economy, as well as extrahemispheric actors, are already addressed in other chapters. That leaves a focus on crime, drug trafficking, and corruption, but also considered is climate change, which the Organization of American States keeps front and center.
Following the Civil War, the United States exerted its diplomatic, economic, and military leverage to pursue economic and political interests in Latin America, as it believed that what was good for business was good for the country. The emphasis on national security had not disappeared, but the threats to U.S. borders were less dire than in the past as European countries were generally easing themselves out of the region. Latin American leaders had neither the unified political support nor the military strength required to counter U.S. influence. While certain Latin American policy makers resisted U.S. hegemony, both politically and militarily, others welcomed it. Political and economic elites out of power appealed to the United States for assistance because they believed it could provide stability and wealth. The United States stepped neatly and easily into this political maelstrom. The chapter concludes at the turn of the twentieth century, when the era of intervention began in earnest.
During the 1960s, the effects of the Cuban Revolution – especially in terms of support for guerrilla warfare against U.S. allies – became all too evident, and the United States pursued interventionism with new vigor. This renewed use of power included economic and diplomatic pressures, veiled threats, covert operations, and even invasion. U.S. officials framed the Cold War as a valiant struggle to protect freedom in the hemisphere, and the cases of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Guatemala epitomized the lengths to which the United States would go to fight what it considered to be security threats. In Latin America, many elites supported U.S. policy, but a growing undercurrent of discontent also emerged, which pushed for negotiated conclusions to war and protested against the treatment of so many citizens caught in the middle. They did not share the notion that leftist or even Marxist governments necessarily constituted a threat to national security and global order. This chapter ends with a discussion of the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
Mexico’s 1982 announcement that it would be unable to make its debt payment set off Latin America’s “Lost Decade.” All over the region, economies stagnated and millions of people suffered. The international response, spearheaded by the United States, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, initiated market reforms that would cut state spending, privatize state-run industries, dismantle tariffs, and construct free trade agreements. The neoliberal era had been launched. The reforms and trade agreements that accompanied this new era reflected continued U.S. hegemony but also the ways in which economic power was supplanting military power. Latin America initially found few alternatives to the neoliberal model. At the end of the twentieth century Latin American economies were growing once again, but in many cases they were only returning to where they had been before the crash. With millions feeling economic pain, neopopulist leaders gained momentum. Commitment to free trade agreements also waned as leaders like Donald Trump questioned their benefits. This chapter explores the region’s political economy of the last 50 years.
The U.S.–Latin American relationship has never been easy. A combination of wars, invasions, occupations, mutual suspicion (and occasionally open dislike and insults), dictatorships, and/or differences in ideology represents a consistent obstacle to strong national friendships. However, relations have not always been negative. Periodically, Latin American political leaders have worked closely with the U.S. government in a spirit of partnership, and the United States has also periodically offered new initiatives and shown a willingness to establish a positive and friendly relationship. How, then, can we make sense of it all? This book has three intertwined purposes, focusing on theory, political history, and research. It examines four prominent approaches to international relations: realism, dependency theory, autonomy, and liberal institutionalism. However, there is no perfect theory, and the strengths and weaknesses of each are discussed. Students are strongly encouraged to engage different theories of international relations in the light of empirical evidence. Resources are also offered for further study of chapter topics.
U.S. political and economic influence in Latin America grew and the U.S. government proudly proclaimed its hegemonic position in the early twentieth century. The U.S. adopted the Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine as a response to the specter of European intervention and to Latin America’s inability to get its economic and political affairs in order. Espousing a moral obligation to bring democracy to the rest of the world, President Wilson sent U.S. troops to occupy several countries. This combination meant that hegemony and “democratic promotion” were one and the same. With U.S. businesses demonstrating greater interest in the entire region, the dollar diplomacy era saw U.S. investors and troops move ceaselessly, as diplomacy and money worked closely together. Only with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s enunciation of the Good Neighbor Policy did the United States assert the integrity and sovereignty of Latin American countries. By the end of World War II, however, the Good Neighbor Policy would be largely discarded, replaced by the exigencies of the Cold War.
The third edition of U.S. and Latin American Relations offers detailed theoretical and historical analyses essential for understanding contemporary US-Latin American relations. Utilizing four different theories (realism, liberal institutionalism, dependency, and autonomy) as a framework, the text provides a succinct history of relations from Latin American independence through the Covid-19 era before then examining critical contemporary issues such as immigration, human rights, and challenges to US hegemony. Engaging pedagogical features such as timelines, research questions, and annotated resources appear throughout the text, along with relevant excerpts from primary source documents. The third edition features a new chapter on the role of extrahemispheric actors such as China and Russia, as well as a significantly revised chapter on citizen insecurity that examines crime, drug trafficking, and climate change. Instructor resources include a test bank, lecture slides, and discussion questions.
U.S. security interests intensified with the early Cold War. The high ideals of the Good Neighbor Policy rapidly disappeared and after the 1954 invasion of Guatemala, U.S. policy makers could not credibly claim to reject armed intervention. The United States became more openly supportive of dictatorships and authoritarian governance in order to fight against Communist infiltration. Power was once again central. The predominance of security over all else bred dissatisfaction in Latin America. In part to counter U.S. influence, Latin American governments supported the creation of hemispheric pacts and organizations. Latin American citizens protested against poverty and U.S. domination. U.S. policy makers targeted reformist movements because they assumed that they were too weak to resist Communist domination and they threatened business interests. Revolutionary fervor with a distinctly anti-U.S. bent was developing during the early Cold War, though it would not fully flower until the Cuban revolution. This chapter examines how the early Cold War brought national security and self-interest once again squarely to the fore.
In the first half of the twentieth century, Latin America was a region of immigration, where people moved from one country to another and/or people came from other continents, mostly from Europe. But by the 1960s, when many Latin American countries were suffering economic downturns, and the 1970s and 1980s, when state repression intensified, immigration turned to emigration, and many began making their way to the United States. Today, Latin Americans continue to migrate to the United States; people from all over the globe migrate to Latin America; and people move within the region. It is one of the most complex challenges confronting the United States and Latin America, and remains a very divisive issue in most countries of the region, especially the United States. This chapter looks at the push and pull factors that lead people to move from their home countries to resettle elsewhere.
The Cold War heightened the perception of threat in the United States and among Latin American elites, from the Soviet Union but also other socialist states. When the Cold War ended, Latin America began expanding and deepening its economic and political connections with more parts of the world than it ever had before. Economic restructuring after the debt crisis had already oriented Latin American economies to export globally, and the number and variety of trading partners multiplied. The Cold War had been a “bipolar” international environment, where two large powers (the United States and the Soviet Union) were locked in ideological conflict, which in turn pulled in other countries, voluntarily or not. As seen in previous chapters, the U.S. judged Latin American governments by their response to that ideological struggle. The end of the Cold War meant a return to a “multipolar” environment with no major single conflict, which opened up the world to Latin American governments. This chapter explores contemporary relations between Latin America and China, Russia, Japan, Europe, and Iran.
With the rise of Hugo Chávez and other presidents around the turn of the century, a new breed of leftist leaders challenged the postwar political and economic rules promoted by the United States. Many Latin American left-leaning governments openly used the language of dependency theory to depict their strategy. Joining together within both economic and political institutions that excluded the United States, they hoped that they could break the stranglehold of international capitalism and imperial designs. Strategies along these lines include trade agreements, the creation of international institutions, discussions of common currencies, and mutual aid. The ultimate goal of these various efforts is to establish political and economic autonomy from the United States. That would mean being freed from political interference, economic pressure, violations of sovereignty, or any other type of imposition from the hegemonic power. This chapter takes stock of the Latin American left’s ability to chart a course distinct from that preferred by the United States in the twenty-first century.