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US Intervention in Latin America. US intervention in 20th century Latin America typically explained by “containment doctrine” of Cold War (Reactive, defensive posture against Soviet expansion) This limits our understanding because makes period appear unique; obscures continuities.

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US Intervention in Latin America

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Us intervention in latin america l.jpg

US Intervention in Latin America

  • US intervention in 20th century Latin America typically explained by “containment doctrine” of Cold War

    (Reactive, defensive posture against Soviet expansion)

  • This limits our understanding because makes period appear unique; obscures continuities


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The Soviet threat?

  • Everyone agrees it was vastly overstated

  • Were people deluded, or was this propaganda?

    • Divergence between internal record and publicly stated policy (Soviet containment)

    • internal record suggests concerns triggered by domestic policy in countries

      • Twofold preoccupation:

        1)US economic interests threatened by domestic policies, and

        2) US hegemony threatened if “socialist” policies succeeded


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Motivations for intervention

  • Guatemala: United Fruit

  • Chile: Nixon: US’ main concern "is the prospect that he [Allende] can consolidate himself and the picture projected to the world will be his success...If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble”

    Divergence between publicly stated aims and internal discussions suggests that the 'Soviet expansionism' rationale was a propaganda device used to rally a fearful public behind US policy


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • US’ fundamental interest in Latin America is and has always been protecting its position of power, privilege

  • Policies have shifted, but not purpose of policies

  • During Cold War, “Communist threat” was not the driving force behind US foreign policy

  • Motive for US interventions= protect budding system of international capitalism under US domination


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • In early post WW2 years, democracy itself not of much interest to USA=> US propped up dictatorships as way of ensuring stability for capital

  • 1970s=> crisis in many dictatorships; system no longer stable

  • 1980s=>US turned to ‘democracy promotion’ as cornerstone of foreign policy

    • Policies justified in different language, but purposes unchanged


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • Gramscian argument: ‘democracy promotion’ is a hegemonic project of global capitalist elite

    • when dominant class achieves hegemony, subordinate classes consent to own domination because buy into value system, ideology

    • Therefore, ideas matter: they either support the system or challenge it

    • The site of struggle for change is terrain of ideas


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • Robinson distinguishes between polyarchy and popular democracy

  • Polyarchy=political system of representative gov’t, separate from social or economic spheres

    • Hallmarks: free and fair elections

    • Citizen participation limited to choosing between competing elites for office

    • Equality of procedures, not outcomes

    • In claiming to set up a neutral system of gov’t in which any party or sector can take power, yet in a world where certain actors have vastly more power than otehrs, polyarchy ‘locks in’ a system of inequalities while securing consent


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • Popular democracy = democracy as a tool for social justice

    • Political power dispersed

    • Wealth distributed

    • Majorities participate in governance

    • Judge democratization by outcomes, not process: are most people better off?


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • Robinson says US’ ‘democracy promotion’ is all about promoting polyarchy, not promoting ‘real’ or popular democracy

  • Furthermore, in doing so, it actually prevents popular democracy from ever happening

  • How does US promote polyarchy?

    • 3 way marriage between elites in target country, state (military) in target country, and transnational capitalist elites

    • Globalization is the process of forging these alliances across the globe


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William Robinson, “Promoting Polyarchy”

  • Democracy promotion aims to secure elite-based polyarchic systems by penetrating civil society and from therein assuring control over popular mobilization and mass movements (rather than controlling state and suppressing such movements through violence)


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What are the implications of this for human rights?

  • In terms of civil and political rights, this system is less violent & repressive (better), but may stand in the way of states’ addressing social and economic rights

  • Questions the benevolence of economic development programs


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Perdóneme Tío Juan

pero se ve que no sabe nada

las cosas que yo le digo

se sienten en carne propia

que en tierra venezolana

el imperialismo yanqui

hace lo que le da la gana

¿es que usted no se ha paseado

por un campo petrolero?

¿usted no ve que se llevan

lo que es de nuestra tierra?

y solo nos van dejando

miseria y sudor de obrero

y solo nos van dejando

miseria y sudor de obrero

Forgive me Uncle Juan

But it´s clear you don´t know anything

The things that I´m telling you about

Can be felt in our own experience

In Venezuela, Yankee imperialism

Does whatever it pleases

Haven´t you passed by

The petroleum fields?

Haven’t you seen how they take

What is ours?

They only leave behind

Misery and workers’ sweat

They only leave behind

Misery and workers’ sweat

Los Guaraguao, “Perdóneme Tío Juan/ Forgive me Uncle Juan”


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Los niñitos macilentos

que habitan allá en los cerros

mas que vivir agonizan

entreteniendo sus sueños

mas que vivir agonizan

entreteniendo sus sueños.

Contésteme Tío Juan

no se me quede callado.

Conteste si no hay razón

en que sigamos luchando

por echar de nuestra Patria al yanqui que nos la quita

y al lacayo que lo tapa

¿es que usted no se ha fijado

lo que pasa con el hierro?

nos pagan la tonelada

por menos de tres centavos

¡vamos a luchar, caramba!

o nos quedamos sin cerro

¡vamos a luchar, caramba!

o nos quedamos sin cerro

The malnourished children

That live there in the hills

More than living, they’re agonizing

As they entertain their dreams

More than living, they’re agonizing

As they entertain their dreams

Answer me Uncle Juan

Don’t just stay silent

Answer me, isn’t there a reason

For us to keep struggling

To throw out of our country

the yankee that takes it from us

And the lackey that covers it up

Haven’t you noticed

What happens with the iron?

They pay less than three cents

For the ton

Let’s fight, damn it!

Or we’ll be left without our land

Let’s fight, damn it!

Or we’ll be left without our land


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No te dejes engañar

cuando te hablen de progreso

por que tú te quedas flaco

y ellos aumentan de peso

por que tú te quedas flaco

y ellos aumentan de peso.

Contésteme Tío Juan

no se me quede callado

conteste si no hay razón

en que sigamos luchando

por echar de nuestra Patria

al yanqui que nos la quita

y al lacayo que lo tapa

Don’t be fooled

When they talk about progress

Because you’ll stay skinny

While they gain weight

Because you’ll stay skinny

While they gain weight.

Answer me, Uncle Juan,

Don’t just stay silent

Answer me, isn’t there a reason

For us to keep struggling

To throw out of our country

the yankee that takes it from us

And the lackey that covers it up


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¿Es que usted no se ha paseado

por un campo petrolero?

¿Usted no ve que se llevan

lo que es de nuestra tierra?

y solo nos van dejando

miseria y sudor de obrero

y solo nos van dejando

miseria y sudor de obrero.

Los niñitos macilentos

que habitan allá en los cerros

mas que vivir agonizan

entreteniendo sus sueños

mas que vivir agonizan

entreteniendo sus sueños

Haven´t you passed by

The petroleum fields?

Haven’t you seen how they take

What is ours?

They only leave behind

Misery and workers’ sweat

They only leave behind Misery and workers’ sweat.

The malnourished children

That live there in the hills

More than living, they’re agonizing

As they entertain their dreams

More than living, they’re agonizing

As they entertain their dreams.


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