Maintaining US Interests in Latin America
by Casey Edgington
O’Toole writes, “Latin American foreign policies have been shaped by the reality of power and have adapted in response to changing US priorities” (259). The reality of power regarding the relationship between Latin America and the United States is that the United States is an established and therefore powerful entity, or a “core country” while Latin America has always been less established, and has always been weaker due to the exploitation by “core countries” in its history (Emens). The United States, being powerful, economically, politically, and socially, and being well-institutionalized has given the US the ability to act as a hegemon or to exercise a great amount of power beyond its boundaries—often in order to maintain the US empire. Established power, in this sense, is essentially the idea of stability within the government, and the economy. The United States has both political and economic stability which makes it able to act as a hegemonic power; in addition Latin America has always been behind in their development since the beginning due to a lack of institutionalization, again, due to the exploitation by other nations. The United States interest in Latin America has changed based on United States priorities (Smith, 259). The main focus of the United States presence in Latin America has largely been one of United States corporate, and strategic interests. Furthermore, Latin America has needed to bend to the will of the United States regarding their policy because the United States has acted imperialistically towards Latin American countries. Latin American policy has not only been shaped by US intervention, but has been changed, controlled, and halted in the name of US economic, political, strategic, and ideological interests.
Furthermore, when US interests changed from mainly economic to social and strategic interests during the Cold War, the US became even more interested in controlling Latin American countries. O’Toole says “the cold War had a profound influence on the character of inter-American relations, placing the concept of ‘national security’ at the top of the US agenda” (294). Essentially, interests had changed, therefore US prioritized Latin America, even allowing anti democratic authoritarian governments” (O’Toole, 294). In addition to supporting military and vicious regimes, these regimes often resulted in proxy wars on Latin American soil, adding to the bloodshed caused by US intervention in Latin American politics (Hubbard). US presidents often acted quickly in response to Latin American countries choosing Soviet Union support i.e. Cuba and Nicaragua, which provoked US hostility, which ultimately would prove counterproductive (O’Toole, 263). Ultimately, Cold War ideology, with all its intentions to win the hearts and minds of Latin American peoples, would prove more conducive to fueling the flames of ‘anti-Americanism’ and a further development of solidarity against US interests (O’Toole, 264). It is no wonder US social and political interference was at an all time high during the Cold War, it was because the US priority was countering the spread of Communism, this meant exercising hegemonic control in Latin America that focused an ideological war in the area until the 1990s.
The United States acted as a control to Latin American policies rather than actively pursuing diplomacy in Latin America (Emens). The reality is that the United States has for a long time relied on strength rather than diplomatic relations. Noam Chomsky refers to Henry Kissinger who contributed in no small way to foreign policy between the US in Latin America. Kissinger, states that the United States needed to use Latin America as an example to other countries, in that, US policy should effectively control Latin America in order to inspire fear of the US (Hubbard). When the US policies often used decidedly militant attitudes toward management of Latin American governments, anti-American sentiment rose exponentially, as many of these policies resulted in bloodshed by various regimes supported and enacted by US presidents (O’Toole 264) (Hubbard). Often foreign policy changed with the priorities of the United States. The US acted quickly and decidedly as long as this was necessary for US interests; Noam Chomsky describes this attitude towards Latin America as interfering in Latin American politics in order to “conform [Latin America] to US strategic and economic interests” (Hubbard). The Unit
The unilateral practice and military interference of the US resulted in many Latin American countries seeking to employ the “protection of international organizations as a strategic alternative to US domination, on the assumption that the principles of international law can protect weaker countries from arbitrary actions by stronger ones” (O’Toole, 261). The United States since the beginning of relations with Latin America have acted in their own economic interests, by supporting brutal regimes, in order to secure corporate, political and strategic interests. If it were not so, then Latin America would not seek to protect themselves and resist United States control (O’Toole, 290). The key factor in to understand here is the fact that the US definitely changed their practices towards Latin America, and policies enacted between the US and Latin America directly correlate and impact how Latin America maintains its own policies. Recently this idea of US hegemonic influence on Latin America has given rise to a resistance of US control in the “region” (O’Toole, Politics Latin America). According to O’Toole, currently, “the main themes shaping Latin American international relations are sovereignty, multilateralism, regionalism, security and democracy. Some Latin American governments have redefined a traditional understanding of sovereignty that rejected outside interference in domestic affairs” (290). This means that the Latin American countries have actively started to resist outside intervention in their development. This has a lot to do with the establishment of relations with the European Union, and Asian countries (Emens). This also means that even though the US is not directly able to control the region as it once did—it’s policies still have a substantial impact on Latin America. Even though the US is not directly able to handle Latin American Politics, it still acts as the example of how Latin America exercises its power; such as its seeking out other countries to do business with, other than the US; furthermore despite any negative feeling towards the US, the US, still acts as an example of democracy—if not with its foreign policy, with its success within its borders.
Even though the US power has been countered by the developing relations between Latin America and other countries “…is still accused of intervening in the regions affairs” (O’Toole, 331). Latin America has actively sought out relationships to aid development away from US domination. Essentially, the reality of power as it is understood by historical US conduct between the US and Latin America, is that the US was more powerful than Latin America, and was predominantly interested in maintaining the US interests, whilst neglecting humanitarian practices. The continuing development of the region, in spite of the overall lack of global interest in its initial development as a self sufficient country, has endured, this is directly correlated with the “reality of US power” and how the region has responded to the changing implementations of the US (O’Toole, 259). Indeed, the priorities of the US have always been clearly reflected in its political, social, economic, and hegemonic conduct towards Latin American countries. The United States has continually acted in direct contradiction of it’s supposed own values towards human beings so that it may pursue US interests and priorities. This has resulted in a lot of bloodshed in Latin America, and has arguably continued to this day with the continuation of the unstable Latin American governments.
Emens, Jack. “Class Notes.” 15 October 2013.
Noam Chomsky – History of US Rule in Latin America. Dir. Paul Hubbard. Perf. Noam Chomsky. 2009. YouTube.
O’Toole. Politics Latin America. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2011.
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