Academic Paper

Changing US Power Values and Latin America as a Political Wildcard

by Casey Edgington
Since the US still acts beyond it’s borders it is safe to say the United States is indeed still a hegemonic power. This is incredibly relevant to the US and the global chessboard. Overall, the playing field of politics is currently still drawn around US influence as an economic and political actor. Although, it is true that other countries have become more established and organized in the contemporary state of world affairs, it would take a cataclysmic event to remove the US from being a big player anytime soon. Today the US is less of a political hegemon, exercising more cautious control and relations between itself and Latin American nations, the US is still very much an economic hegemon. Continuing diplomatic developments have helped to balance what O’Toole calls the asymmetry of power between the US and Latin America (331). Also, Latin American countries are still seeking connections between itself and other international groups like the European Union, and Asian allies, especially regarding economic support, this in turn helps balance the “equilibrium” between US hegemonic power and the globe (O’Toole, 290-331). Regarding the importance of the United States as a hegemonic power, in relation to Latin America, it is important to be aware of the US influence in the “region” because there have been issues with US conduct regarding humanitarian infractions towards Latin American citizens (O’Toole). Issues with unfair foreign mandate and sanctions towards the region cannot be properly acknowledged unless one is aware of the fact that the US has acted, and continues in some respects to act as a hegemonic power. The exploitation of Latin America by the “core countries” as early as the 1800s, created a mudslide of militant insurrections and mistrust between the people and the governing bodies by stunting the institutional growth of the regions institutional stability. The current state of affairs in Latin America at best, seem uncertain, as Latin America has established itself as a political wildcard, and the US, without the luxury of unquestionable hegemony, stumbles around the global chessboard in the dark.
Institutional roles are clearly monumental in the role of any countries establishment. The US has a constitution which regulates the rights of its citizens, and protects it from the government taking too many liberties with human rights. Latin America on the other hand has historically had weak institutions, and rarely has it had stable and enduring constitutions, if any at all. Unlike the United States, Latin America has not had balanced power between the government and societal institutions such as the church, schools, hospitals. A balance between government and institutions where society organizes and solidifies itself, simultaneously aiding in the cementation of order in society, is important to stable governments. The US was founded on the idea of the power of institutions to exercise power over it’s citizens. Furthermore, the United States is a developed power because of its institutional fortitude, versus Latin America which is institutionally weak—meaning institutions are the basis of a countries stability and consequently the key to a countries power. This means the US ability to act as a hegemon is rooted in its institutional development and institutional solidarity, and Latin America’s inability to act in retaliation is because of it’s institutional weakness. Basically, regarding US hegemony in Latin America it’s a domination game, the US kept dominating Latin America, forcing them to bend to US mandate, and punishing them with policies that would further impoverish these regions.
Recently the game has changed. The US has been preoccupied with issues in the Middle East, and Latin America has started to branch out to find other options to US economic dependency by fostering economic ties with Asia and Europe (O’Toole 260-265). International institutions on the other hand according to “institutionalist theory suggests that international institutions benefit less powerful states in two ways: they offer a more equal forum for the expression and pursuit of their interests; and the commitment of powerful countries to these institutions restrains these from acting unilaterally and gives them incentives to pursue their interests through multilateral initiatives” (O’Toole, 269). This means that the US is to a certain extent now kept in check by other institutions outside of Latin America and the US; although, the US has ignored the vote by the United Nations condemning the embargo on Cuba for the 22nd time (Spielman).The idea that the US is not seeking to foster a political friendship with Latin American countries seems to be largely out of a desire to not appear weak. This is in itself an insistence on still living in a global arena where the US can act with great disregard to the rulings of the United Nations. It seems that the US has dug it’s feet in regarding ancient policy, and perhaps still considers itself a hegemonic power, despite signs to the contrary.
Unfortunately, since the US is preoccupied with extra international issues such as terrorism in the Middle East, it does not seem aware that a mounting problem is developing in its own back yard. According to the “U.S.-Latin American Relations Report” the US would be sorely mistaken to continue to act above their southern neighbors and would be wise to acknowledge Latin America diplomatically (Barshefsky and Hill T.). Dr. Luis Fleischman speaking at the second Annual Capitol Hill National Security briefing Latin America warns that there is great danger in leaving Hugo Chavez and his allies unchecked (Gaffeny). Dr. Fleischman warns that Chavez will not wait for grassroots movements to give him legitimacy, Fleischman warns, “Hugo Chavez is a true revolutionary and therefore the use of violence is crucial for every revolutionary movement…” (Gaffeny). This means that there are big plays being made in Latin America which has increasingly become a spread of insurgency across the region. Although, “Latin America has made substantial progress…democracy has spread, economies have opened, and populations have grown more mobile” the game has been greatly changed regarding the United States and relations with Latin America (Barshefsky and Hill T.). The US can no longer act as a ruler of Latin America, the US must enact diplomacy, and deal with Latin America as an equal in order for relations to move smoothly because “Latin America is not Washington’s to lose; nor is it Washington’s to save”; this means the US no longer owns hegemonic power over Latin America (Barshefsky and Hill T.). There has been a great amount of change regarding the US as a hegemonic power in Latin America it is “clear that the era of the United States as a dominant influence in Latin America is over” (Barshefsky and Hill T.). Although, not as big of a player as it was in recent history the US is still a powerful actor on the economic and political world stage. Currently, the United States is presented with a new Latin America, but also with a lot of old problems. The difference now is that the US cannot play the fool. The US is all too aware of the problems with callous and hegemonic behavior towards the region, and now needs to hear out Latin America to pursue a more well rounded or multilateral approach to maintaining relations with Latin America. The US may still be a hegemonic power…it may not be as powerful a hegemonic power as it once was, but this does not have to be a negative factor regarding the world stage.
Overall, it is very important to acknowledge how the US has conducted itself in the past towards Latin American countries, in order that it may improve on how it conducts itself in the future. It does matter. It matters a great deal to a global economy, no one is a separate entity anymore, all are interconnected. Institutions play a large role in the current political atmosphere because it is these international institutions such as the United Nations that will play a pivotal role in creating order between these interlocking nations. O’Toole notes that there are different trajectories for US hegemony in Latin America, one where US influence grows and the other where it dissipates. Most likely neither are correct. The US is clearly no longer a hegemonic power in Latin America, but that just means its position of power and influence in Latin America has changed, it is hard to imagine a complete removal of US influence in Latin America considering how interwoven these two nations are. The big concept that needs to be understood here, and now, is the fact that Latin America has become somewhat of a wild card on the table. The focus should be less on US hegemony and more on Latin American political developments. The US may no longer be a hegemon as it once was, but that hopefully will lead to opportunity for improvement and development in Latin America, as well as improved US tactics regarding diplomacy with Latin America.

Works Cited
Barshefsky, Charlene and James et al Hill T. U.S.-Latin America Relations: A New Directions For a New Reality. Independent Task Force. New York: Councel on Foreign Relations, 2008. Document .
Challenges to Democracy, Human Rights & Regional Stability in Latin America. Dir. Frank Gaffeny. Perf. Coronel Gustavo and Luis et al. Fleischman. 2010. YouTube.
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.
Spielman, James Peter. UN General Assembly Votes Against US Cuba Embargo. 29 October 2013. .

Permanent Link: Here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.