Taking Latin America Seriously - U.S. and Latin America since World War II

By Ratliff, William | The World and I, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Taking Latin America Seriously - U.S. and Latin America since World War II


Ratliff, William, The World and I


Over the past century, U.S. relations with Latin America have ranged from seriously troubled to cautiously friendly. Hostility early in the century because of U.S. interventions in several countries largely disappeared during the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations because of their "good neighbor" policies. Tensions increased again after World War II, however, because the United States, looking to Europe and Asia, showed little interest in supporting political or economic development down south.

As the Cold War emerged, Washington seemed content to live with any democrat or dictator who proclaimed himself anticommunist. Pushed by the Marxists, anti-Americanism erupted when the United States engineered a coup in Guatemala in 1954, and riots exploded in 1958 when Vice President Richard Nixon visited the region.

Fidel Castro took power in January 1959 and quickly aligned Cuba with the Soviet bloc. For the next three decades the primary U.S. concerns in the region were the many faces of Castro- and Soviet-supported revolution and anti-Americanism. These prompted the United States to organize (and then abandon) the Bay of Pigs and inspired President Kennedy to launch the Alliance for Progress in 1961, the year Castro formally declared himself a communist.

The Soviet effort to install missiles in Cuba in 1962 failed, though the United States agreed not to invade Cuba again despite Castro's ongoing efforts to topple governments around the world. By 1964, Castro's blatant support for guerrillas attacking the democratically elected Betancourt government in Venezuela enabled the United States to get the Organization of American States (except Mexico) to impose economic and political sanctions on Cuba. (Almost all other member nations have long since dropped those sanctions.

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