On the Shifting Relations between the US and Latin America (and US Commentators’ Contradictions)

US journalists continue to demonstrate a remarkable inability to reconcile their appreciation of Latin America’s growth and stability with their own jingoistic vision of the United States’ role in the hemisphere. The latest victim is Andres Oppenheimer, who ponders who “lost” Latin America and describes said “loss” as a “tragedy” even while acknowledging that the US is now working with “equals” in the hemisphere. As Greg perfectly puts it:

Aha! The tragedy is more equality.

To put it succinctly: Yep.

I don’t want to understate the role of historical processes like the failure of neoliberalism in the 1990s and Latin American electorates voting for a New Left that moved away from kowtowing to the US’s demands (or the IMF’s or World Bank’s) and instead fought for their own national interests as they perceived them.

However, the US’s diversion with the “war on terror” in Afghanistan and Iraq in the 2000s provided the Latin American New Left some small measure to implement a variety of economic and social policies without heavy-handed interference from the US and its agents (like the IMF or World Bank). This freedom has led to unprecedented growth and development in the region, even if inequalities are still very real and serious. As I said at my old haunt, these changes have happened in no small part because, not in spite of, the US’s relative absence.  Claims that the US has “lost” the region or presumptions among politicians  that the US can still unilaterally dictate the conditions of US-Latin American relations only reveal the cognitive dissonance that still dominates many observers’ and politicians’ understanding of Inter-American relations in the twenty-first century.


About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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