Almost Jeffersonian: U.S. Recognition Policy toward Latin America



    1. Assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has published in Hemisphere, Journal of Third World Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, and Third World Quarterly.
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  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: The author would like to thank Thomas M. Davies, David Johns, Lyman Johnson, and Brian Loveman as well as two anonymous reviewers.


Since Latin American independence, U.S. presidents have consistently faced the issue of how to respond to domestic political conflict in the region. The purpose of this article is to examine U.S. recognition policy toward Latin American governments, to identify patterns in that policy, and to explain its decline. It might appear that the United States has come full circle and that we are currently seeing a return to Thomas Jefferson's de facto principle of recognition, wherein governments are recognized automatically regardless of their nature. Jefferson's policy was to avoid making political judgment on foreign governments. The current evolution (or devolution) of recognition policy, however, does not follow the tenet of nonjudgment.