Segment descriptions
Regions of the World. Series:
Latin America, Part 2                                    Description: Latin America 5  

Latin America, Part 2    

         :sampler  4-17     (82 lecture)

Although lacking machines or animals to move
materials, why is it believed that pre-Colombian
Mayans from 200-900 A.D. built their pyramids
without knowledge of Egyptian pyramids?

                    play sampler


The 20th Century


U.S. policy.  One aspect is "dollar diplomacy" based on economic needs in the foreign country.  Another aspect is "gunboat diplomacy" helping countries put down uprisings which are deemed against the U.S. interests.  This continues for most of the 20th century, including Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, Columbia (Panama Canal).


Mexico.  Mexico gains independence from Spain in early 19th century.  The land reform issue.  The unpredictability of complex varieties of political factions.  The contentious intervention by the moralistic President Wilson in 1913.  The Revolutionary Party of Mexico comes to power and has long rule.  There is some land reform in the 1930s and 1940s but the Mexican elite remain allied with the American elite. 


Reform and Dictatorship.  Some countries find a balance between dictatorship and reform.  In Argentina, strong-man Juan Peron forms alliance with labor, placates the elite, fosters modern capitalism, yet is an admirer of Nazi Germany.  During FDR's "New Deal," U.S. implements its "Good Neighbor" policy but is more rhetoric than reality, with a continuation of "gunboat diplomacy."


Cuba.  After the 1898 Spanish-American War, Cuba has political not economic independence.  The Batista dictatorship.  Havana becomes an open city.  Revolutionary upheaval.  Castro, a nationalist aiming to overthrow an unpopular dictator, is not a Communist and is not supported by the Cuban Communist Party.  Castro is charismatic, comes to power on January 1, 1959.  His pluses:  land reform, income redistribution, education reform, food distribution, health care achievements.  The initial revolutionary ideals become a dictatorship.  Cuba is seen as threat to business interests.  U.S. attempt to overthrow ends in Bay of Pigs disaster.  U.S. imposes economic boycott and continues efforts to subvert.  Aided by Russia, Cuba becomes an echo of Russia.  Castro identifies himself as Communist.  The Missile Crisis.


Effect of The Cuban Revolution.  It encourages revolutionary activity in Latin America. The U.S. supports most right-wing military dictators.  Military aid by U.S. includes training of torture techniques, known as "interrogation methods" at an army base in Georgia.  The episodes of President Allende's assassination in Chile, and the Contras in Nicaragua, as examples of continued U.S. "gunboat diplomacy."


The Role of the Catholic Church.  Normally expected to be hostile to revolutionary movements, but significant segments of the Catholic Church show support for the underclass, acting on a human view of the message of early Jesus, liberation theology.




The 21st Century.


Left direction of civilian leadership.  Hostility or skepticism of U.S. policy.  More inclined toward democracy, land use reform in Chile and Brazil.  Limitations of debt burden lead to compromises and dissatisfaction.


Nature of Latin American economy.  Export economy in Brazil with 1 or 2 major products has dire consequences.  Peasants are driven from land for the export crops, move to shantytowns around cities.  Depletion of Brazil's rain forest has wide environmental impact.  A more favorable product would be rubber from rubber trees, a renewable product.  The question in economic development is how much, how little; benefit versus environmental impact.  In Venezuela, strong-man Hugo Chavez is using oil revenues to help the poor.  Controlling that oil makes him the enemy of the U.S. and U.S. business interests.


Future of Latin America.  This is an open question.  There is the fall of many dictatorships and increase of democratic rule and reform.  Yet, there remains the military legacy, the role of U.S. policy, and the heavy debt burden.  Latin America has a remarkable and varied history.