The Foreign Policy of Lyndon B. Johnson: The United States and the World, 1963-1969

By Jonathan Colman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Western Hemisphere: The Alliance for
Progress, Cuba and the Dominican Republic

The United States had claimed a special relationship with Latin America since the early nineteenth century, when the Monroe Doctrine warned European powers from interference in the region. Since then Washington had asserted a protective relationship towards the Latin American nations, and by the time Lyndon Johnson came to power in 1964 a connective web of treaties and organisations known as the ‘Inter-American System’ had been woven. The web included the Organization of American States (OAS), the Rio Pact and the Alliance for Progress. Geography, ties of tradition and association, the widespread acceptance of the idea of community, and the formal international arrangements and commitments all meant that the United States was seen as heavily responsible for major developments in the Western Hemisphere.1 There were, moreover, good reasons, from Washington’s perspective, why it was in the interests of the United States to maintain close connections with Latin America. These included the region’s major participation in US foreign trade; the need for diplomatic support; and Latin America’s long-r ange development potential – the region possessed 11 per cent of the world’s land area, major natural resources and a burgeoning population.2 Furthermore, there was a particular concern in the wake of Fidel Castro’s overthrow of the pro-American dictatorship in Cuba in 1959, his cementing of ties with the Soviet Union and his efforts to foster communism in the Western Hemisphere. The fear of communism was a pervasive influence on American policy in the region.

President Johnson, according to Lincoln Gordon, who ran the Alliance for Progress from 1966 to 1967, had ‘a personal interest in Latin America which went way back to his early days in Texas as a young man. That experience gave him this very warm attitude, which was not purely votecatching, directed toward the Chicanos.’3 At the same time, Johnson was, at least in the first year or two in office, concerned not to make what he

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