U.S.-Latin relations: What does the past mean?

Let’s try and pick up this series which is begging to be concluded. What’s the point of all of the Latin American history? What does it have to do with any of the topics normally discussed on this blog?

The United States became the dominant player in the Americas during the 19th century. This position has been challenged a time or two, but no outside power has been able to exert real influence in the region for almost two hundred years. (The Soviet Union’s toehold in the region, Cuba, cost them far more than they ever got in return. One of my professors used to say, “People say the U.S. can’t afford another Cuba. Trust me, the Soviet Union can’t afford another Cuba.”)

During this period of dominance, the United States has seen fit to involve itself in the internal affairs of other countries in various ways. There has been outright occupation. There have been U.S.-supported political campaigns and U.S.-supported coups. There have been wars financed by U.S. businesses, and “filibusters” from the U.S. who waged war in Latin America. In myriad ways, the U.S has shaped the fortunes, and the economies, of Latin American countries.

It is therefore quite disingenuous for any U.S. policy makers to pretend that we bear no responsibility for the current state of affairs south of our border. While it may be in the best interests of the United States to let Latinos clean up the mess in their own countries, there is nothing right nor just about it.

We need to be aware of this past in order to understand what’s going on today. We need to be aware of this past in order to comprehend the general animosity that exists in Latin America (and much of the world) toward the U.S. government. We need this awareness to understand why countries distrust offers of aid and even look suspiciously at evangelistic efforts originating in the U.S.

As I repeated last week, trying to whitewash the past does none of us any good. It’s better to accept what’s happened and use that understanding to try and make the world a more just place going forward.

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