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One of the first acts of the new administration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 was to promote an ‘Alliance for Progress’ throughout Latin America. JFK's stated goal was ‘to transform the American continent’ by improving the often desperate living conditions of its peoples; advancing industrialization; diversifying and increasing exports (especially away from heavy dependence on single items such as coffee); encouraging interstate trade and communications; and—above all—strengthening democracy: a term to inspire but one rarely, if ever, defined. The primary means for achieving these ends would be the extension of loans by the United States and others, thereby building up capital for industrial production while increasing food and raw material supplies to maximize foreign exchange—all with the aim of reversing the ‘dependency’ of ‘underdeveloped’ Latin America upon the more ‘advanced’ economies of the north Atlantic area. Kennedy's expressed fear was that Latin America, its impoverished peoples ripe for revolution, would follow the path of Cuba under the new regime of Fidel Castro. In the first part of a two-part analysis the historical and political origins of the Alliance are traced to both US and Latin American sources, including schemes within the Organization of American States and ‘Operation Pan America’; in the second part the economic failures and the strategic successes of the Alliance during the presidencies of Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon will be evaluated as another, if varied, stage in the evolving ‘hegemonic presumption’ of the US towards its southern neighbours.