During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the United States periodically intervened militarily in Latin America nations to protect its interests, particularly the commercial interests of the American business community. Whenever a nation felt its debts were not being repaid in a prompt fashion, its citizens’ business interests were being threatened, or its access to natural resources were being impeded, military intervention or threats were often used to coerce the respective government into compliance.
Such interventions became increasingly unpopular in the United States. Many felt it was too imperialistic for the United States to conduct foreign affairs solely on behalf of American commercial interests. These groups felt that American intervention in Latin America had bred a culture of resentment and anti-Americanism in the region, which was beginning to manifest itself in the form of ultra-nationalist and protectionist measures by those countries’ governments. Others objected to the financial cost of military intervention.
During the 1930s, U.S. relations with Latin America and the Caribbean changed dramatically. Growing war clouds in Europe and Asia predicated the need for securing resources and allies in the Western Hemisphere. Giving up unpopular military intervention, the U.S. shifted to other methods to maintain its influence in Latin America: Pan-Americanism, support for strong local leaders, the training of national guards, economic and cultural penetration, Export-Import Bank loans, financial supervision, and political subversion.
On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt stated during his inaugural address that: "In the field of world policy I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor-the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others." This position was affirmed by Cordell Hull, Roosevelt’s Secretary of State at a conference of American states in Montevideo in December 1933. Hull said: "No country has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another". This is apparent when in December of the same year Roosevelt again gave verbal evidence of a shift in U.S. policy in the region when he stated: "The definite policy of the United States from now on is one opposed to armed intervention."
Newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, working with a number of advisers, both personal and administration-wide, developed the "Good Neighbor" new policy towards Latin America. Its main principle was that of non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of Latin America. It also reinforced the idea that the United States would be a "good neighbor" and engage in reciprocal exchanges with Latin American countries. Overall, the Roosevelt administration expected that this new policy would create new economic opportunities in the form of reciprocal trade agreements and reassert the influence of the United States in Latin America, however many Latin American governments were not convinced.
The Good Neighbor Policy resulted in the withdrawal of U.S. Marines from Haiti and Nicaragua in 1934, the annulment of the Platt Amendment, and the negotiation of compensation for Mexico’s nationalization of foreign assets in the oil industry in 1938. The policy’s cultural impact included the initiation of the radio program Viva America and the 1942 Walt Disney film Saludos Amigos. By the end of World War II, Latin America was considered the region of the world most supportive of American foreign policy.
Dates of Coverage: 1930-1944
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