The Historical Setting
FROM THE END OF THE LAST CENTURY, when the idea of Latin American economic cooperation emerged, to about 1960, when the idea began to be implemented, U.S. economic policy toward Latin America underwent remarkably few changes. The United States viewed Latin American countries as export economies dedicated to the sale of their natural resources overseas. The economic interest of the United States lay principally in promoting private investment and enterprise and serving the business interests of its citizens in the area. Even the great alterations in the economic environment and in Latin America's development needs during the 1930s did not change this posture. The United States continued to see the Latin American republics as simple agrarian countries and producers of raw materials for export even while Latin America turned toward industrialization.
Politically the United States has been guided by a sense of special responsibility toward Latin America. As the senior member of the inter-American system the United States has established a rule of dealing separately with each republic in pursuit of its interests. This bilateralism did not disappear even during periods of close hemispheric cooperation such as the First World War, the Good Neighbor era, and the early years of the Alliance for Progress. Cooperation among Latin American countries could never prosper within the bilateral framework.