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U.S Foreign Policy Impact on Latin America During Cold War

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    Carolina Recchi History of the Americas November 14th 2012 U. S foreign policy impact on Latin America’s Cold War The mid 20th century was characterized by years of conflict and political tumult in most of Latin America. As countries within this hemisphere were striving to gain independence and global recognition, the U. S and USSR both competed to gain influence in Latin America by engaging in what one could define a “precipitous escalation of superpower competition” (Brands 3).

    Washington’s effort to prevent the spread of extra-hemispheric penetration in Latin America indeed resulted in their attempt to concretize their ideals of modernization and democracy by “remaking the region in their own images”. (Brands 38) The U. S’s implementation of modernization through the Alliance for progress, counterinsurgencies and military intervention however, did not succeed in democratizing Latin countries. Contrarily, the U.

    S’s effort to export what it considered to be the only socio-political model suitable to a country increased internal political turbulence in Latin America, by radicalizing its political polarization and ultimately proving the U. S’s continuous interference with the rest of the hemisphere. The Cuban revolution (1953-1959) was a major turning point that triggered the political uprising in Latin American countries. Castro’s revolt in Cuba was the ultimate eruption of Cuba’s history of U. S influence and control and “crystallized dissatisfaction with the status quo” (Brands 25).

    Consequently, Castro’s spread of the “foco” was partially a response to the anti-imperialism and “yankeephobia” that characterized Catro’s public discourse. The ideals that pervaded Cuba rapidly spread to Cuba’s neighboring countries, eventually making of Cuba an example for Latin America: “we Costa Rican campesinos also want a Revolution like Cuba’s”. (Brands 25) Castro and Guevara’s visits to Latin American universities in 1959 and 1960 also resulted in a successful spread of the revolution amongst the rising student class, influencing university students in both Argentina and Mexico.

    Cuba’s revolution also played a crucial role in fractioning regional politics of several countries including Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Whilst both right and left parties were present in such countries, political parties in decline or marginalized by the main local ideologies were now tempted by the uprising “foco” that Cuba was promoting. (Brands 26) The advancing revolutions that took place in Latin America in the 50s and 60s represented a significant threat for the U. S; they indeed undermined not only their national security but also their wish to limit the spread of the communism and implement modernization in Third World regions.

    Although most of the U. S’s foreign policies towards Latin America were framed by the ideal of modernization, one can distinguish three main policies Washington adopted: The Alliance for progress, counterinsurgencies and military intervention. The Alliance for Progress was an attempt to “encourage economic and social reform” (Brands 36) and consisted in a 10-year program aiming to stimulate economic development and decrease inequality by providing $20 billion in loans, grant and investment.

    The alliance begun under Eisenhower and was meant to ultimately decrease the tensions between the U. S and Latin America that were thought to be driven by the socio-economic problems addressed. As previously mentioned the Alliance for Progress was centered around the modernization theory, therefore the “notion that there was a single, linear path to economic development. ” (Brands 46) Counterinsurgency also had the scope of controlling and moderating the tensions in Latin America.

    Kennedy and Johnson indeed made sure to rapidly increase American training and supply programs and encouraging Latin American officers to graduate from institutions like the School of the Americas. U. S funding was also donated to U. S friendly parties such as El Salvador’s National Democratic Organization (ORDEN). (Brands 59) As both these strategies seemed to create little positive response in the region, Washington at times had to adopt more direct forms of intervention; an example was the defeat of the pro-Bosch population in the Dominican Republic.

    When Trujillo was indeed murdered in the May of 1961, and Bosch came to power, the U. S was surprised in Bosch friendlier attitude towards the left. Consequently, fearing Bosch’s return in 1961, Johnson sent in 23,000 troops to help defeat pro-Bosch forces performing what Johnson defined “a very good job”. (Brands 58) In Cuba the U. S further sponsored sabotage and espionage programs launched by the CIA (Operation Mongoose) in order to sabotage and create a general disorder, which was supposed to verthrow the regime and eventually murder Castro. (Brands 49) The stands the U. S took in order to alleviate the internal tumult in Latin America often proved to reinforce polarization “exacerbating the very turmoil these programs were meant to control” (Brands 57). The U. S indeed soon realized that the model it was trying to implement in Latin America required a base and society similar to the country it came from and the forced adaptation of such programs “poorly fitted their cultural or economic settings”. Brands 57) The Alliance for progress proved to produce a mediocre result with a Per capita income increase of less than 2 percent annually and an increase in inequality in many Latin countries. The struggle to find suitable skilled employees proficient in the language and the obstacles the U. S encountered when trying to involve the campesinos significantly slowed down the program’s success. Counterinsurgency and direct intervention in the same way had a “chilling effect on Latin American democracy” (Brands 61) due to the violence and torture they rapidly started incorporating.

    Polarization seemed to be the most tangible result U. S foreign policies involving Latin America had on the region. The policies released by Washington, driven by its power competition against the Soviet Union, indeed radicalized both the right and the left in Latin countries. Those who previously adhered to either right or left were now bound to choose between the more distanced views of the U. S and Soviet Union, and parties that were marginalized by both left and right were also pressured to choose one of the two trending political systems. Brands 263) Washingtons’s attempt to shape Latin American economies and social reforms “via the Alliance for Progress, and combat the Left through counterinsurgency, covert operations and military intervention” (Brands 37) had a limited effect on Latin America. The U. S and USSR’s were involved in a parallel race to shape the new Third World according to their individual ideals. The measures taken by the U. S however were mainly only temporarily successful, and on the long run proved to only polarize political division in Latin American countries. Bibliography Brands, Hal. Latin America’s Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2010. Print.

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