The emergence of the “Monroe Doctrine” defined the goal of regional hegemony for the United States’ Western Hemisphere diplomacy to exclude foreign powers and control surrounding countries. Over the past 200 years, although the “Monroe Doctrine” has long transcended the scope of the Americas, the United States’ starting point of seeking hegemony in the Americas has never changed. The “Monroe Doctrine” has also become an eternal theme between the United States and Latin American countries.
However, over the past 200 years, the specific connotation of the “Monroe Doctrine” in Latin America has changed from time to time. At different times, the “Monroe Doctrine” represented isolationism, territorial expansion, anti-colonialism, anti-communism, intervention and other different meanings. This is because the United States continues to adjust its strategy toward Latin America according to the situation while insisting on pursuing regional hegemony. Combining the U.S. intervention in Nicaragua in the early 20th century, the response to the Cuban challenge during the Cold War, and the overthrow of Allende’s regime in Chile in the 1970s, we can see the diversity of U.S. policies toward Latin America under the banner of the “Monroe Doctrine.”
Fighting with an open flame: U.S. power intervention in Nicaragua
For most of the 19th century, although the United States was wary of European powers interfering in the Americas, it was basically unable and unintentional to shake the established power of European powers in the Americas. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the United States, which was becoming increasingly powerful, began to actively challenge the European powers in the Americas. With Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War and Britain’s repeated concessions to the United States in Latin America, the United States finally completely overwhelmed its European opponents and became the only hegemon in the Western Hemisphere.
Overt power policy is the most important hegemonic tool of the United States at this stage. This power policy mainly includes open military intervention and economic control. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the “Roosevelt Corollary” of the “Monroe Doctrine”, stating that the United States would fulfill its role as an “international policeman” in the Western Hemisphere. In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt declared that the policy was to “speak softly and hold a big stick.” The “big stick policy” thus became synonymous with U.S. military intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Unlike Theodore Roosevelt, President Taft proposed “gold dollar diplomacy” and advocated using “gold dollars instead of bullets” to expand economic and trade ties between the United States and Latin American countries. However, at that time, the United States had extremely harsh conditions for loans and investments in Latin American countries, and the United States often took military actions against Latin American countries in the name of protecting economic interests. Therefore, the U.S. policy towards Latin America during this period was mainly an attempt to use overwhelming military and economic power to achieve control over Latin American countries, with little restraint or cover-up.
Nicaragua was one of the biggest victims of US power policies in the first half of the 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, American businessmen and expatriates in Nicaragua had long been hostile to Nicaraguan President Zelaya, who pursued nationalist policies. Driven by them, the U.S. government intervened in the war between President Zelaya and the opposition in 1909. The United States severed ties with Zelaya’s government on the grounds that President Zelaya executed two Americans for helping the rebels, and sent warships to Nicaragua, forcing Zelaya to step down and go into exile. During the civil war between the government forces and the rebels, when the government forces surrounded the rebels at a port, the U.S. Navy intervened and declared the port a neutral zone. With the help of the United States, rebel forces seized power.
After that, the United States adopted a two-pronged policy of military intervention and “gold-dollar diplomacy” to put the chains of a “protectorate” on Nicaragua. Due to the political instability after anti-government forces seized power, the US military continued to intervene in Nicaragua’s affairs. In 1911, Taft sent Marines to Nicaragua to support the pro-American regime and protect U.S. interests here. In the following more than ten years, the U.S. military directly participated in the suppression of Nicaraguan opposition forces, helping the pro-American faction defeat the armed resistance of General Celedon and others of the Nicaraguan Liberal Party, and also severely damaged the guerrillas led by the famous hero Sandinista. By stationing troops in Nicaragua for a long time, the United States obtained the right to lease territory and establish a naval base; it also used “gold-dollar diplomacy” to control Nicaragua’s economic lifeline.
The use of strong-arm policies also comes at a cost. The hegemony implemented by the United States during this period aroused public indignation in Latin American countries. The United States had to gradually change its approach in the late 1920s and withdrew its troops from Nicaragua in 1933.
Since the mid-20th century, the United States has reduced its simple and crude intervention and control over Latin American countries. But power policy is, after all, the most direct tool of hegemony, and the United States has not completely given up on this approach. In the 1980s, the United States still chose to directly send troops to overthrow the governments of Grenada and Panama.
Taking advantage of the situation: The United States uses multilateral mechanisms to contain Cuba
Since the 1930s, the world situation has been undergoing rapid changes. Germany and Japan’s ambitions to establish a new order in Europe and Asia have gradually been exposed, and the shadow of war lingers. Facing the challenges from the Axis powers, the U.S. government has adopted more policies to win over Latin American countries. After World War II, in order to serve the United States’ goal of going global and competing with the Soviet Union for global hegemony, the United States strengthened the construction of multilateral institutions both within and outside the region. Shortly after the end of World War II, the United States pushed American countries to conclude the Inter-American Mutual Assistance Treaty, reorganized the Pan-American Alliance into the Organization of American States, and completed the basic layout of regional multilateral mechanisms. This allows the United States to maintain regional hegemony through multilateral means in addition to its power policy.
After the Cuban revolution, the relationship between the new Cuban government and the Soviet Union posed a huge challenge to the “Monroe Doctrine.” As cooperation between the Soviet Union and Cuba grew closer, U.S.-Cuba relations became increasingly tense. At this time, US President Kennedy once again cited the “Monroe Doctrine” and expressed his “opposition to the extension of power by external powers to the Western Hemisphere.”
Faced with the “strong challenges” from Cuba and the Soviet Union, the United States largely chose tit-for-tat. Long before Cuba fell to the Soviet Union, the United States supported Cuban exiles in an armed invasion of Cuba in April 1961, but the operation failed miserably. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States exerted maximum pressure on Cuba and the Soviet Union after obtaining photos of the Soviet Union deploying medium-range missiles in Cuba. The United States dispatched its navy and air force to implement an armed blockade against Cuba, and used economic means to coerce Cuba, gradually cutting off economic ties with Cuba, and finally imposed an embargo on Cuba. At the most tense moment of the crisis, the U.S. Navy even dropped depth charges to intimidate Soviet submarines carrying nuclear torpedoes and require them to surface, which almost led to the outbreak of nuclear war. Maximum pressure from the United States eventually forced the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles from Cuba.
Before and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, many of the United States’ hostile policies toward Cuba were carried out within multilateral frameworks, which greatly amplified the effectiveness of forceful measures. The United States mobilized conservative forces in Latin America through multilateral organizations to jointly promote diplomatic isolation against Cuba. In January 1962, the United States passed a resolution excluding Cuba from the “Pan-American System” at the Consultative Conference of Foreign Ministers of the American Countries; during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Organization of American States passed a resolution proposed by the United States to impose an armed blockade on the United States. Cuba supports the initiative. As a result, the United States’ armed blockade of Cuba has also been under the banner of maintaining regional common security. In 1964, the Organization of American States passed a resolution proposed by Venezuela, requiring American governments to sever diplomatic relations with Cuba on the grounds that Cuba interfered in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, further satisfying the United States’ desire to isolate Cuba. Through the Organization of American States, the United States once turned its trade embargo against Cuba into a collective trade embargo against Cuba by American countries.
During the Cold War, the United States’ use of regional multilateral mechanisms not only reduced its diplomatic costs of communicating with regional countries, but also helped lock in its vested hegemonic interests and conferred a certain legitimacy on the practice of hegemonic policies. To this day, the United States still uses regional organizations such as the Organization of American States to attack regional dissident forces and hype up “democracy” and “human rights” issues in order to isolate left-wing governments in Latin America. However, as the autonomy of Latin American countries increases, multilateral mechanisms have gradually become a platform for Latin American countries to express their own positions and a tool to restrain US hegemony. Driven by Latin American countries, the Organization of American States lifted restrictions on member states’ interactions with Cuba in the middle and late Cold War. Currently, the United Nations has also become the diplomatic stage for countries around the world to demand that the United States end unilateral sanctions against Cuba.
Secretly plotting against Chen Cang: The United States subverts the Chilean Allende government
In addition to the high-profile power policy and the insidious multilateral approach, the United States’ pursuit of hegemony in Latin America and its support methods also have a more hidden side. As Latin American people’s awareness of political and economic rights further awakens, left-wing forces in Latin American countries continue to grow and come to power through elections. And because the Latin American left often has a political background of pursuing national independence and even being anti-American, the rise of left-wing power has posed new challenges to the United States. In the context of the Cold War, the United States associated all Latin American leftists with the Soviet Union and adopted a hostile attitude towards it. However, due to the lack of an excuse to interfere with the democratically elected government, the United States had to “secretly” adopt some unconventional means to subvert the democratically elected left-wing government.
The United States’ covert support for Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973 was a typical example of covert subversion of political power in Latin American countries by the United States. In 1970, Chilean left-wing politician Allende won the election and became president, triggering the United States’ concerns that Chile would become the “second Cuba” in the Americas. In order to contain and overthrow the Allende government, on the one hand, the United States adopted a relatively open economic war, including refusing to purchase Chilean copper mines, lowering copper prices in the international market, cutting off aid and investment to Chile, and influencing the attitude of international organizations and allies towards Chile. loans; on the other hand, the U.S. State Department, the CIA, and the Embassy in Chile were involved in secretly subverting the Allende regime.
Even before Allende was elected, the CIA had been providing large amounts of financial assistance to Allende’s political opponents for a long time, and even planned to bribe members of Congress to prevent Allende from being elected. After President Allende came to power, the United States intensified its efforts and continued to provide substantial financial support to right-wing parties, media, and anti-government business organizations. Even some political allies within the Allende government accepted U.S. funds in an effort to shake Allende’s leadership. The basis of governance. At the same time, the United States has maintained close secret communication with Chilean right-wing soldier Pinochet and supported his coup. Before the coup, Pinochet also sent his family members to a U.S. military base in Panama, which shows the deep ties between the two sides. On September 11, 1973, with the instigation of the United States, Pinochet successfully carried out a bloody coup, and thus began his nearly 20 years of autocratic rule in Chile.
During the Cold War, covert subversive activities in the United States were extremely frequent. In addition to Chile, the United States is also behind the coups in Guatemala, Brazil and other countries. In the 21st century, left-wing governments such as Venezuela and Bolivia often accuse the United States of engaging in behind-the-scenes activities in their countries. Like overt power policies, the United States’ subversive activities are notorious and cause great harm to the credibility and image of the United States itself. Therefore, after the 1973 coup in Chile, for a long time, senior U.S. officials involved, including Nixon and Kissinger, kept silent about their country’s involvement.
Over the past 200 years, although the United States’ policy towards Latin America has been developing and adjusting, and strategies and means have emerged one after another, the United States’ hegemonic goal has continued to encounter challenges. The term “Monroe Doctrine” is now universally hated by Latin American countries and has also been questioned by some political factions in the United States. The reason for such a result may not be that the U.S. strategy of implementing the “Monroe Doctrine” in Latin America is not clever enough, but rather that the goals of the “Monroe Doctrine” are inappropriate. The goal of completely excluding external powers and controlling the internal affairs of Latin American countries is inherently immoral. No matter how the United States adjusts its policies according to the situation, the “Monroe Doctrine” is destined to fail.