Latin American Politics Term Paper

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Latin American Politics

United States-Latin American relations have under went many changes during the 20th century, a time of intense U.S. involvement in the region. Describe the shifts as evidence by Gunboat Diplomacy, Good Neighbor Policy, Alliance for Progress, and The Reagan Doctrine. Explain the reasons behind each shift and also the underlying consistencies of U.S. Policy.

Because of its geographic proximity to the United States, Latin America has been a key concern for the United States. In the twentieth century, the U.S. intervened in Latin America to keep peace in its countries, build a transcontinental canal, attend to economic interests, and keep communism from invading the world. The United States used its political and economic superiority and its strong military force to work toward these goals.

During the late 19th century, the United States declared victory over the Spanish empire, establishing the nation's status as the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere. When Theodore Roosevelt became president, the U.S. started to intervene more in affairs throughout the Caribbean. Roosevelt did not think that Latin Americans were capable of governing themselves. In 1903, the U.S. helped Panama cut its ties with Cuba and began building the Panama Canal. The president implemented use of a "Big Stick" to insure a climate in the region amiable to American business operations.

In 1905, President Roosevelt announced the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which authorized U.S. military intervention in the affairs of the nations of the Caribbean Basin to suppress revolutions that might threaten the stability of the region or the ability of the area to meet its international financial obligations. The Monroe Doctrine was created to prevent foreign interference in the revolutions of Latin America. The Roosevelt Corollary authorized outside intervention, only if the U.S. did it.

Over the next thirty years, under the pretext of "gunboat diplomacy," "dollar diplomacy," and Wilsonian Progressivism, the United States would intervene militarily and diplomatically in an effort to install allies into power and to quell revolts. The gunboat diplomacy of U.S. military intervention Latin America ensured the financial stability of the region while protecting and extending American commercial and financial interests there.

During the 1920's, the Nicaraguan revolt challenged U.S. policy. The leader of Nicaragua stimulated the poor people of the country to confront the rich, who were backed by the U.S. The U.S. responded to this by sending in American marines to help create a politicized military, which would rule Nicaragua for the next fifty years.

Republican presidents during the 1920s rejected gunboat diplomacy and tried to develop better relations with Latin America. This diplomatic effort toward reconciliation was realized with the announcement of the Good Neighbor Policy by Roosevelt in 1933.

The "Good Neighbor" Policy attempted to replace the use of American troops in Latin America with control of those countries by militaries allied with the U.S. Roosevelt accepted the dictators ruling the Latin American nations and sought to improve the ties between the officer corps in Latin America and the U.S.

Span. Alianza para el Progreso, U.S. assistance program for Latin America begun in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It implemented to counter the appeal of revolutionary politics, such as those adopted in Cuba. This policy created many multilateral programs to relieve the Latin America's poverty and social inequities. Of course, these included U.S. programs of military and police assistance to counter communist subversion.

The charter of the alliance provided an annual increase of 2.5% in per capita income, the establishment of democratic governments, more equitable income distribution, land reform, and economic and social planning. Latin American countries, with the exception of Cuba, pledged a capital investment of $80 billion over 10 years. The United States agreed to supply $20 billion. By the late 1960s, however, the United States had become preoccupied with the Vietnam War, and commitments to Latin America were reduced. Moreover, most Latin American nations were unwilling to implement needed reforms. The Organization of American States disbanded the permanent committee created to implement the alliance in 1973.

After World War II, the U.S. was concerned about communism and revolution by the lower classes. In 1954 the U.S. intervened to overthrow a Guatemalan government that was partially communist and a threat to the U.S. The 1959 overthrow of the Bautista government by Fidel Castro in Cuba increased American fears of communism and led to a re-examination of U.S. Latin American policy.

President Kennedy responded to this with the Alliance for Progress, a commitment of American money and influence to the political and economic development of Latin America. Kennedy believed that fundamental change would protect Latin America against communist revolution. However, this aid built up the power of local militaries, as the aid was distributed mostly to American multinational corporations and established elites. Instead of funding the creation of a Central American middle class, the Alliance increased the alienation of a ruling elite from the majority of the people.

When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he faced two major Cuban problems that were unresolved by previous administrations. Approximately 2,500 criminals and mental patients were in U.S. institutions, after being expelled from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. In addition, the flow of Soviet weapons from Havana to Nicaragua for Central American Marxists guerrillas continued. To meet these challenges, the "Reagan Doctrine," which supported rebellious groups trying to overthrow communist regimes, was never applied to Cuba.

Although the United States gave billions of dollars in weapons to anti-Communist guerrillas in Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia and Afghanistan, members of Cuban exile organizations intent on eliminating Fidel Castro were monitored, prosecuted and jailed by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission prohibited secret expatriate radio and television broadcasts to Cuba.

The Reagan Doctrine succeeded in realigning U.S. strategy in Latin America toward a more assertive position. By supporting freedom fighters in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua, President Reagan alerted the Soviets that their free ride for global subversion was over. The relationship between Latin America and the United States, in turn, became stronger.

2. There is a set of primary actors in Latin American politics from the latifundistas to transnational corporations to the indigenous peoples. There are also four different types of political systems, pluralist, authoritarian, corporatist, and communist. Certain systems may favor or disadvantage one actor or another. Review the primary actors: latifundistas, commercial farmers, business sector, urban workers, rural workers, indigenous people, women, middle sectors, military and transnational corporations and discuss which political systems either work in their favor or against them. (5 pages)

Political parties formed very early in Latin America, but challenges between liberal and conservative elites many times excluded the needs of individuals and groups in society. Throughout history, Latin America's political scene has changed in many ways.

In areas where strong political parties did not evolve, it was easy for leaders to develop authoritarian regimes based around an individual leader and his supporters. In other areas, corporatism systems evolved. In some countries, pluralist systems developed. Even communism prevails in Latin America.

There are a number of primary actors in Latin American politics that are influenced by the different types of political systems, including latifundistas, commercial farmers, business sector, urban workers, rural workers, indigenous people, women, middle sectors, military and transnational corporations.

Latin America's politics roots lie in corporatism, which is a system of governing where various socioeconomic groups or corporations surround the central authority, competing amongst themselves for power and for a place in the government. In the past, the corporations were the landed aristocracy, the Catholic Church and the military conquerors. During this time, a democratic process did not exist, Instead the Spanish Crown was authoritarian.

This system was a closed, exclusive structure, with political and economic inequalities. It has evolved with the times. Today, the conflict between the traditional elitist corporations and new power contenders such as labor unions, student associations, peasant movements, political parties, leftist revolutionaries and drug cartels continued, creates great political instability.

Even though Latin American politics have become more pluralist than before, the number of interest groups in Latin America is still relatively low. Interest groups are organized under the state in Latin America, rather than being organized independent of government. This is an example of corporatism.

The latifundistas are a relatively small class of landowners that has long controlled vast territories in Latin America. Distinct from but also similar to the latifundistas are the rancheros, a relatively new group that has taken control of huge tracts of land with the encouragement of state subsidies. Both groups have managed to withstand federal attempts at political reform and land redistribution and have retained control of state politics.

The latifundistas flourish under a corporatist system, as they have been in control for so long and have a good chance at remaining in control. If interest groups create a more pluralistic society, the latifundistas will lose some of their power, so it is in their best interests to prevent this from happening.

In agriculturally-based economies, commercial farmers expand and…[continue]

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