Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

13
The Influence of the United States on the Course of Colombian and Venezuelan Democracy

David J. Myers

During the early 1960s, the United States became increasingly concerned with threats to its position in Latin America. Not only was Fidel Castro maneuvering Cuba into the Soviet orbit, but revolutionary nationalism in a number of countries assumed an increasingly anti-U.S. flavor. Washington's Latin American policy of the 1950s -- benign neglect coupled with a willingness to support any government that would maintain order and support the United States in the Cold War -- was being interpreted throughout the hemisphere as opposition to democracy and indifference toward economic development. The stronger this perception became, the greater was the probability that revolutionary nationalists might seek out cooperation with Moscow in order to diminish Washington's influence. For the first time since the beginning of World War II, the special position of the United States in Latin America was encountering a strong challenge.

President John F. Kennedy intended that his Latin American policy, the Alliance for Progress, would demonstrate that imitating the Soviet path to modernization, the choice of Fidel Castro, was unnecessarily costly for Latin America and destructive of the human spirit. Under Kennedy's leadership the United States set out to prove that regulated private enterprise, along the lines practiced in North America, offered the best hope for creating a livable future.

Colombia and Venezuela the United States observed fledgling democracies attempting to establish themselves following years of military dictatorship. The Kennedy administration concluded that the democratic elites in these countries represented an attractive alternative to the Cuban revolution. Especially given hemispheric trends during the early 1960s, Venezuela and Colombia's "limited" 1 democracies were viewed as perhaps the only kind of

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