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Updated May 2009  

What are the latest developments involving U.S. hemispheric relations?

In a historic development, on December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced the beginning of a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the U.S. and the two countries restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015. The United States, however, continues to maintain its commercial, economic, and financial embargo, which makes it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba. However there has been an easing of travel restrictions and an allowance for trade in some limited items.

There has been unprecedented human development in Latin America in the 21st century. In the year 2000, no Latin American country had a score that classified the country as having "very high human development". In 2013, three countries fall within that classification: Chile, Cuba and Argentina. In 2000, those three countries, together with Uruguay, Panama and Costa Rica were considered "high human development" countries. Today, all Latin American countries excepting Bolivia, Paraguay, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti, meet the "high human development" threshold. Only one Latin American country, Haiti, has a score that classifies it as having "low human development".

Conditions in Venezuela have deteriorated significantly under the Hugo Chavez' successor, Nicolás Maduro. In 2014 hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have protested over high levels of criminal violence, inflation, and chronic scarcity of basic goods due to policies of the federal government and the protests have continued.

What is the best way to characterize the present state of the American hemisphere?

Quite obviously North and South America are strongly affected by the presence of the United States, the world's greatest superpower. Not only is the American economy far greater than those of its neighbors but the United States also is home to more than 35% of the population on the two continents.

Of U.S.'s hemispheric neighbors, only Canada is comparable in terms of development. But the rest of the continent is making progress. According to the U.N. measures of development, the majority of Latin America countries are now considered "high human development" countries.    Just as the U.S. features more income inequality than virtually all developed countries, the developing economies in Latin America feature greater economic inequality than in other developing regions.

As one might expect, the degree of the U.S. relationship with its neighbors is generally relative to the country's proximity. Canada has a significant economic and cultural link to the United States. In the past two decades, the relationship of the U.S. with Mexico has changed dramatically with the creation of NAFTA as well as the massive illegal immigration of Mexican nationals into the U.S. It is estimated that one eighth of the entire Mexican adult male work force is in the United States working. Once primarily confined to Southwestern states, Mexican nationals are now living and working in large numbers throughout the country.

The U.S. has also exercised a significant interest (and at times has intervened) in the affairs of countries in the Caribbean and Central American region. The U.S. interests in certain South American countries are affected by particular considerations. Venezuela is a chief oil exporter to the U.S.. Columbia and Bolivia are heavily involved in growing, manufacturing and exporting illegal drugs.

Aside from the fact that a portion of the country is French-speaking, what distinguishes Canada from the United States?

In many respects, the English-speaking regions of Canada are quite similar culturally and economically to neighboring U.S. states. The creation of NAFTA significantly increased Canada's already high trade level with the U.S..

The recent political and economic histories of the two countries reveal significant differences however. While income inequality has dramatically increased in the U.S., it has stayed the same in Canada. Not coincidentally, Canada has not joined the U.S. in radically changing its progressive taxation policies. Canada's economic growth has not been quite as great as that in the U.S., but it has been dramatic nonetheless.

A number of the issues at the forefront of U.S. domestic controversies have been resolved in Canada. For example, Canada has a public-private health care system which has been completely universal since 1971. The death penalty has been abolished. As in the U.S., immigration has helped fuel much of Canada's economic growth. But unlike the U.S., virtually all of the immigration has been legal. Canadians are permitted to own guns but the rate of gun ownership is much less than in the U.S. and the number of gun-related deaths is low.

With respect to foreign affairs, Canada benefits from its proximity to the U.S. as does its other hemispheric neighbors in that it shares the benefits flowing from U.S. superiority without incurring the wrath of countries adversely affected by the exercise of U.S. global authority.

In 2006, a Conservative was elected Prime Minister for the first time in 18 years. But as the Conservative party's victory was slim and well short of a majority in parliament, the election does not appear to signal a signal a major change in Canada's political system, a European-style system that is far more progressive than that of its southern neighbor.

How did Castro establish a Communist state in Cuba?

The fact that a Communist government could take hold so close to the U.S. is indeed amazing. The Castro experience has had repercussions which extended well beyond the borders of this small country.

As a young revolutionary born to the privileged class, Fidel Castro led a successful revolution against the corrupt government of Batista in February 1959. Either as a dictator or through surrogate "Presidents", Batista had controlled Cuba for over 20 years. By the late '50's, Batista's rigging of elections and stifling of dissent had placed pressure on the U.S. to stop supporting him.

Thus when Castro was successful, the U.S. welcomed the change in power although there was uncertainty regarding Castro's intentions. At the time of Castro's accession there was no clear indication that he had a Marxist agenda. Indeed, following the toppling of Batista, the first cabinet contained a judge, a lawyer, the head of the Havana Bar Association, a member of the Orthodox Party, and the ex-president of the national bank. The U.S. recognized the new government but was wary of the bearded general who insisted on wearing military fatigues as he conducted an informal 15 day visit to the U.S. in April 1959. President Eisenhower refused to meet with him, leaving the chore to Vice President Nixon who pronounced Castro as being either naïve or "under Communist influence".

Soon Cuba began nationalizing U.S. businesses, providing compensation at an artificially low tax assessment rate. These developments quickly prompted the U.S. to impose a series of economic embargoes in an effort to isolate Cuba and bring down Castro's government. Diplomatic relations were severed in January 1961. In response, Castro began to turn to the Soviet bloc for assistance and in April 1961 announced for the first time that he was establishing a "socialist" government. In the meantime, the CIA had long been secretly funding and planning a potential invasion by exiled Cubans.

The abortive "Bay of Pigs" invasion was launched only one day after the Castro's pronouncement of socialism but it was repulsed. The idea was to help Cuban exiles invade Cuba and achieve enough success so that the U.S. could plausibly recognize a new "government" and then provide immediate military support at the "request" of such government. The wisdom of conducting this type of operation was criticized by Senator Fullbright and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the basis that the benefit to be derived outweighed the international condemnation that would occur once the U.S. involvement in the operation became obvious. The military failure of this operation was largely due to poor planning and intelligence as well as the U.S. withholding of large amounts of military air support which turned out to be necessary to give the invasion a chance. The U.S. withheld such support because American involvement would have been too clear, but as it was the operation was poorly disguised. The whole affair proved to be a major disappointment to the Kennedy Administration. Kennedy provoked an angry response from the international community for supporting the operation and from anti-Communists within the U.S. for failing to provide sufficient American military support to make the operation a success.

As a result of the Bay of Pigs debacle, the Kennedy Administration became obsessed with overtaking Castro. Numerous covert plans, including many schemes to assassinate Castro, were formulated but the CIA's ability to conduct covert operations became increasingly difficult due to in large measure to Castro's firm control of Cuba. And any overt campaign carried the risk of nuclear war as the Soviet alliance with Cuba became solidified. As it happened, the security of Castro's Cuba was assured by the Soviet decision to deploy missiles on the island which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. In exchange for the Soviet agreement to remove the missiles, the U.S. agreed to never again invade the island.

The Cuban Revolution and the events which followed profoundly affected U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Latin America. The U.S. resolved to prevent any possible repetition of the Cuban experience elsewhere in the hemisphere. This led to increased U.S. support of repressive dictators such as Nicaragua's Somoza and a CIA-backed military coup which overturned the democratically established Communist government in Chile. Throughout the remainder of the cold war, U.S. policy toward Latin America was far more concerned with preventing the emergence of leftist governments than with economic development of the hemisphere. The lessons derived from the missile crisis also helped convince U.S. leaders that its vast military superiority could not prevent a nuclear holocaust in the event of a confrontation. This recognition eventually led to the "détente" policy of coexistence with the Soviet bloc and a mutual understanding that any future conflicts would not be escalated to the nuclear level.

How have other countries in the hemisphere responded to Cuba?

With the notable exceptions of Canada and Mexico, the U.S. was able to persuade most countries in the hemisphere to break diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, all have since restored relations and many have substantial trade arrangements with the island.   The more recent challenge to these hemispheric relationships have resulted from U.S.-led efforts in the United Nations to condemn Cuba for human rights violations. In 2002, Uruguay incurred Castro's wrath by voting against Cuba causing a new break in diplomatic relations. Relations were resumed in 2005. In 2004, Mexico withdrew its ambassador in response to similar criticism regarding its vote. .

How have Cubans fared under Castro's rule?

Cuba under Castro can be roughly divided into two distinct periods: the Cold War years when Cuba received significant economic benefits from the Soviet Union; and the subsequent years where the economy has had to undergo a significant change due to the absence of Soviet support. During the first period, the economy improved significantly in comparison to the rest of Latin America, but in the second period it has dropped precipitously. After catching up with the rest of Latin America at the beginning of the 21st century, it has not shared in the impressive recent economic growth of the region.

In general, social services are in a better condition than they are in other Latin American countries. Virtually every Cuban under the age of 30 can read and write. Although many medicines are in short supply, due to universal health care, Cubans have a life expectancy which is almost equal to that in the U.S. and exceeds almost all of their Latin American neighbors.

Cuba has attempted to restructure its economy by emphasizing tourism and tourism is now the major economic industry in the country. In 1993 the Cuban Government made it legal for its people to possess and use the U.S. dollar. Since then, the dollar has become the major currency in use. The gap in the standard of living has widened between those with access to dollars and those without. Jobs that can earn dollar salaries or tips from foreign businesses and tourists have become highly desirable. It is common to meet doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals working in restaurants or as taxi drivers. The economy is also somewhat dependent on remittances made by exiled Cubans living in Florida to family in Cuba.

As in the pre-Castro era, there is a racial aspect to the winners and losers in the economy at present. The white population is far more likely to have relatives in the United States and to have employment in the tourist industry. Thus, despite the socialist goals, a racially-tinged "class consciousness" is returning to the country.

Why is the U.S. concerned about Venezuela at present?

Basically because the current President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, is a leftist successor to Hugo Chavez who has aligned himself with Fidel Castro in areas of hemispheric policy. The U.S. is also especially concerned about Venezuela because it has long been an importance source of U.S. oil imports.

How did Chavez emerge as Venezuela's leader?

Chavez came from the Venezuelan military as a leader with a populist agenda. He and his military associates were profoundly affected by a popular uprising in Venezuela in 1989 known as the Caracazo. This was a week-long riot which was instigated by the public in response to a 100% hike in domestic oil prices which had been mandated by the IMF. Chavez came to power through democratic processes in 1998, but he first had attempted to obtain control through an unsuccessful military coup in 1992.

After his election, Chavez immediately began to take steps to act on his progressive promises to ordinary Venezuelans. He tripled the budget allocation for education, sent thousands of teachers into the countryside, and started a massive literacy program that is currently benefiting over 200,000 people. The government has doubled its expenditure on health care, and started a new program for sending doctors into poor barrios, areas previously seriously underserved. Land reform has also been a clear priority. In urban areas, neighborhood committees of 100-200 families have been created to gain collective title to slum land areas and to bargain with utilities providers for better access. Rural land redistribution benefited over 130,000 families in 2003 alone, nearing a total of a million people, a significant percentage of the population in Venezuela. Tax evasion has been reduced over 10 percent (from 60 percent in 2002 to 50 percent in 2003) by a series of measures that include restricting access to hard currency for tax evaders and closing businesses that fall into arrears on their taxes. A major goal of the administration is to obtain greater food self-sufficiency through improvements in agriculture.

Chavez also rewrote agreements with Phillips Petroleum and Exxon/Mobil to give Venezuela a bigger slice of its oil revenues, and appointed new directors to the state-owned oil company to keep prices in line with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies. Venezuela had long been a "ratebuster," pumping more oil and selling it for less that OPEC did, thus denying the country the income from higher prices. This change in policy has obviously adversely affected oil interests closely allied with the Bush Administration.

How did the opposition and the U.S. respond to Chavez?

Chavez's policies were popular with ordinary Venezuelans but were opposed by wealthy interests within the country, which include many media interests which were vitriolically anti-Chavez. The opposition engaged in various anti-Chavez tactics, which have included several business shutdowns. In April 2002, the opposition led an unsuccessful two day coup which was clearly supported by the U.S.. The resulting turmoil has created an economic crisis and there was a sharp economic downturn. Venezuela rebounded economically in part due to the spike in oil prices but the surge was temporary and now Venezuela has dropped behind the continent as a whole despite its oil resources.   Price controls, expropriation, and other government policies have caused severe shortages in Venezuela and other goods, including medical supplies. In 2015, Venezuela had the world's highest inflation rate with the rate surpassing 100%, becoming the highest in the country's history

In 2004, the U.S. sent troops to Haiti. Why?

The situation in Haiti had deteriorated into prolonged lawlessness in the wake of an uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The degree to which U.S. policies created the chaotic situation in Haiti is unclear, but the Bush Administration had opposed the Aristide regime, and at least some of this opposition was based on his populist economic views.

Unlike most of Latin America, Haiti is a former French sugar-producing colony which is inhabited almost entirely by the descendants of black slaves. It has a long history of poverty and misrule and is one of the poorest, least developed countries in the entire world. In many respects, the modern history of Haiti much more closely resembles the modern history of most sub-Saharan African countries than it does the other countries in Latin America.

After decades of rule by the notorious Duvalier family, elections were held in 1990 and resulted in the surprise election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a poor Roman Catholic priest. Aristide campaigned on a platform of economic fairness to the country's poor. These views provoked the opposition of the nation's economic interests and these interests engineered a successful military coup which ousted Aristide from power in 1991. After Aristide took refuge in the United States, Haiti quickly fell into civil violence as the country's new military leaders massacred potential opponents in the streets. For the next three years, Haiti's new leaders wreaked havoc on the country's population, forcing many Haitians to flee the country as refugees, a development that turned Haiti into a problem for the United States.

Recognizing this problem, the Clinton Administration intervened militarily to restore Aristide to power. Although Aristide had little support in the U.S., the refugee problem was the primary motivation for the 1994 intervention. At the time, Clinton's action was criticized by many anti-Aristide Congressional Republicans who accused Clinton of "nation building" and misusing U.S. military power.

After resuming power, Aristide disbanded the military, which was the chief source of his opposition. Many such displaced soldiers took exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Others took refuge in the countryside, plotting a renewed effort to overthrow Aristide.

Despite his rhetoric, there is little indication that Aristide was effective in instituting programs to benefit ordinary Haitians. He did not work effectively with business interests within the country in the nation's economic planning. In addition, Aristide incurred the condemnation of the international community both for his suppression of opposition and because of allegations of electoral fraud in his overwhelming victory in 2000. The ineffectiveness of his regime caused conditions in Haiti to continue to deteriorate to the point in which effective governance became minimal. The Bush Administration took no effort to assist Aristide in restoring order to the country. Instead, it appears that American interests were aligned with ending Aristide's regime and awaiting the installation of a more effective government. The U.S. took steps to economically weaken Haiti so that the downfall of the government became imminent. When Aristide was finally overthrown in April 2004, the U.S. sent troops to the island to help restore order and support a new government.

Since then, an elected leadership has taken over from an interim government and a UN stabilisation force has been deployed. But Haiti is still plagued by violent confrontations between rival gangs and political groups and the UN has described the human rights situation as "catastrophic". Meanwhile, Haiti's most serious underlying social problem, the huge wealth gap between the impoverished Creole-speaking black majority and the French-speaking minority, 1% of whom own nearly half the country's wealth, remains unaddressed.

Why is there a civil war in Colombia?

Columbia is a beautiful country which has been long beset by internal problems, many of which are associated with the illegal production and distribution of cocaine. Since the U.S. is the primary market for this drug, the U.S. bears a substantial responsibility for the problems besetting this country. The drug problem has fueled a civil war in the sparsely populated cocaine-producing areas and created significant law enforcement problems in the populated portions of the country. Despite its problems, Columbia's economic development has generally kept pace with the rest of the hemisphere in the past two decades as it has transitioned from a primarily agricultural country into a more diversified economy

Guerrilla groups have been active in Colombia since the mid-1960s and are most active in rural areas south and east of the Andes. In some of these areas the guerilla groups are in full control and constitute the local civil authority. The two main groups that are active are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN). Despite their leftist ideological origins, these organizations presently owe their legitimacy and support to the international demand for drugs and remain powerful because the government cannot sanction this type of economic activity. The drug trade has also caused significant corruption in the official government. Any long term resolution of the Colombian guerilla problem would have to include more effective controls over the demand and transport of cocaine, which are matters beyond the sole control of Colombia.

What issues involve the U.S. and Mexico?

The relationship between the U.S. and Mexico has been solidified by Mexico's 1993 entrance into the NAFTA agreement with Canada and the U.S.. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Mexico's trade has been one of the main engines of its economic growth. Export activity currently accounts for half of Mexico's GDP growth and almost one third of its overall GDP. Mexico has become the 13th largest trading nation in the world and the first in Latin America. The bulk of these exports are manufactured products, which represent more than 85% of Mexico's total exports. Exports of goods and services jumped from 19.4% of GDP in 1985 to 32.8% in 2000. Employment in manufacturing, not having grown for 15 years before NAFTA, grew 2.5% per year afterwards, until it was interrupted in 2001 by the US recession. Since the implementation of NAFTA, two-way trade between Mexico and the U.S. has boomed at an average annual growth rate of 17 percent, tripling between 1993 and 2002, rising from $85.5 billion to $240.7 billion, and growing from 34 percent of Mexican GDP to 63 percent. Mexican products increased their share in the U.S. import market from less than 7 percent in 1993 to 11.2 percent in 2000, and Mexico displaced Japan as the second largest export market for the United States.

NAFTA has not brought universal prosperity to Mexico. Mexico experienced a significant economic collapse shortly after the enactment of NAFTA from 1994-1995 but its recovery from this economic crisis has been remarkable and has been driven by the opportunities provided through the trade agreement. Between August 1995 and August 2001, the Mexican economy generated 2 million new jobs. Around a million of these were related directly or indirectly to export activity. But in terms of wages, while export growth has exerted a positive impact, the majority of Mexican workers have not seen an increase in real wages in over a decade although the reduction in tariffs has provided Mexicans with access to a wider variety of imported products.

Another aspect of trade between the two countries is less official. Despite the increase in employment opportunities, an estimated one eighth of the male Mexican work force is present in the United States working illegally. These workers are remitting hard currency into Mexico which provides substantial support to the Mexican economy. The Bush Administration at the urging of the Mexican government has proposed legitimizing this labor force through the issuance of renewable temporary permits but as of 2009 there has been no resolution of the issue and the economic downturn in the U.S. resulting in high unemployment numbers has further complicated the situation. The Obama Administration has indicated that it will address this issue but there is no timetable.

Internally, Mexico is undergoing a significant transition. Since the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th Century, the PRI party had completely controlled Mexican politics but, in 2000, the country elected its first President from the opposition PAN party but his reform efforts were frequently frustrated by a Congress dominated by the PRI. In 2006, the demise of PRI became more complete as the party now only has a minority of Congressional seats. Crime and corruption have surfaced as major problems but there is a broad national consensus toward addressing these problems effectively and conclusively.

What is the present relationship between the U.S. and Central America?

Central America constitutes a diverse group of small countries with differing demographics and stages of development. Guatemala, with its large indigenous Indian population, remains controlled by an elite oligarchy reminiscent of Latin American governments of the ‘60’s. Honduras has largely shared the same recent history. The economic and political climate is better in El Salvador and Nicaragua where there has been consistent economic growth following the internal conflicts of the 80’s. The southern countries of Costa Rica and Panama are also developing, in part because of an influx of U.S. immigrants.

In 2005, the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) was narrowly approved by Congress. The pact was supported by the Administration, U.S. agricultural interests, and free trade advocates but it had encountered significant opposition from labor and environmental groups as well as the U.S. sugar industry.

Over the past four decades, the U.S. has engaged in numerous official and unofficial interventions in Latin America. What was done and what have been the outcomes?

  • Panama 1989
  • The U.S. invasion into Panama in 1989 was the one intervention undertaken by the U.S. for reasons other than opposition to a leftist regime. Instead, in "Operation Just Cause", the U.S. took military action against General Manuel Noriega most ostensibly because of his connection to drug trafficking. General Noriega was captured, flown to the U.S., and was subsequently convicted on drug charges. He is still serving a prison sentence in a federal penitentiary. The Noriega episode is murky however as there is also evidence that Noriega had once been once a CIA informant who then sold U.S. secrets to Cuba. He also had ties to Israeli intelligence operatives.

    Because of the U.S. participation in the construction of the Panama canal, Panama has long had a special relationship with the United States, but the country has a long history of poverty. Its class structure has consisted of a small oligarchy descended from the original Spanish rulers, a mestizo class of mainly agricultural workers, and a sizeable impoverished underclass of African-American descendants of slaves. Until 1968, the oligarchy controlled the country but a military dictator, Omar Torrijos, emerged in 1969 and controlled the country until his death in a mysterious airplane crash in 1981. Torrijos was a populist who negotiated the return of the canal zone to Panama and instituted significant social and educational reforms. Although he formed a working relationship with Cuba, he was careful to avoid any contention that he was leftist or communist. Upon Torrijo's death, Noriega assumed power under continued military rule but his administration of the country was far more corrupt by all accounts.

    Subsequent to the removal of Noriega, Panama has had a civil government but it remains one of the poorer regions in Latin America.

  • Grenada 1983
  • This small Caribbean island of less than 100,000 came under control of an avowed Marxist intellectual named Bernard Coard, through a military coup on October 19, 1983. The Reagan Administration swiftly reacted by invading the country on October 25, 1983 and installing a friendly government. While there was considerable international condemnation of the U.S. unilateral action, there were no lasting repercussions to the U.S. action.

  • El Salvador 1980-1992
  • This very small overpopulated country underwent a prolonged civil war during the `80's which left nearly 80,000 dead and one million displaced out of a population of just over five million. The conflict was an outgrowth of long-standing tensions between El Salvador's capital-owning elite and its impoverished masses. But the conflict was also related to the ascendancy of the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua. Rebel groups in El Salvador received funding and assistance from Cuba, Nicaragua and the Soviet Union while the repressive Salvadoran government received extensive military funding from the U.S..

    The military and government-sponsored paramilitary groups linked to the state were responsible for massive human rights violations as death squad killings, forced disappearances and torture became routine. In February 1980, the Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero, sent a letter to President Carter begging him not to send military aid to the junta that ran the country. He said such aid would be used to "sharpen injustice and repression against the people's organizations" which were struggling "for respect for their most basic human rights". The letter went unheeded, and in March 1980, Archbishop Romero was murdered while saying mass. Government sympathizers were largely assumed to be responsible. In November 1989, six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter, were murdered by an elite army unit. In turn, the rebel groups routinely assassinated key public officials, kidnapped business leaders and foreigners, and attacked the country's infrastructure.

    By the late 1980s, the conditions for peace were in place in that there was a stalemate militarily. Moreover, with the end of the cold war, the U.S. was less interested in stopping all leftist movements. When talks between the two sides began, the United Nations was asked to mediate. Going well beyond traditionally limited peacekeeping operations in other countries, the UN's strategy in El Salvador marked an increased role for the international community in promoting democratic reforms.

    Although El Salvador has economically recovered somewhat from the devastation of the civil war , it remains one of the hemisphere's poorest countries with a per capita GDP of less than $2000 per person. Crime is a major problem and although the economy has stabilized, the strict fiscal policies have kept social spending below the levels contemplated in the peace accords.

  • Nicaragua 1979-1990
  • The leftist Sandanista National Liberation Front (FSLN) toppled the notorious Somoza regime in 1979. Nicaragua's new leaders inherited a country with widespread unemployment, high rates of homelessness and illiteracy, and poor health infrastructure. The government redistributed the Somoza family's lands, and established farming cooperatives. Massive literacy and immunization campaigns also followed.

    Fearing the movement would spread to other countries in the region, the US reacted. In 1981, US President Ronald Reagan announced that it was suspending aid to Nicaragua, and was allocating $10 million to funding counter-revolutionary groups, or Contras, based in Honduras or Costa Rica. A general election in 1984 legitimized the Sandanista government, but the U.S. refused to acknowledge the government, instead imposing a trade embargo in 1985 that would strangle the country for the next five years.

    The U.S. measures eventually succeeded in toppling the Sandanista regime as the country's economy was decimated by the combination of civil war and economic boycott. Elections were held in 1990 and the Sandanistas were defeated. The Nicaragua situation is unique in that the defeated Sandanista party remains active in Nicaragua and their leader, Daniel Ortega, was again elected President and assumed office in January 2007. However unlike during the 1980's, he is now committed to continuing Nicaraguas commitment to an open economy and free markets. Still the combination of years of war and the devastation caused by a disatrous hurricane have left the country in dire economic straits and recovery has been slow.

  • Chile 1973
  • The U.S. provided substantial assistance to a successful military coup which overturned the Communist Allende government. Unlike any other communist regime, Allende's election was indisputably the result of a fair democratic decision of the Chilean people in a country which had a very long tradition of democracy. The new leader, General Augusto Pinochet, was one of the most repressive leaders in Latin American history. During his 17 year rule, he presided over the most extensive human rights violations including documented instances of torture, rape and murder. With considerable justification, many have observed that the U.S. participation in the Chilean episode makes a complete mockery of the supposed U.S. belief in democracy. The Pinochet rule ended in 1990 and a democratic tradition has returned to Chile.

    Chileans have been forced to live with the legacy of the Pinochet years. From an economic standpoint, Chile has progressed far more than its hemispheric neighbors. Pinochet recruited American economic experts to help plan a successful transition into a global economy. These measures succeeded although there was little attention paid to problems associated with unemployment and income inequality. The economic and social record of democratic governments in recent years is superior.

  • Dominican Republic 1965
  • The Johnson Administration invaded the Dominican Republic because of fears that a Communist regime was taking hold in the country. The evidence indicates that these fears were unjustified. Instead, the political unrest in the country had arisen in opposition to a military government which had replaced a validly elected President whose government had been recognized by the U.S. as the first democratically elected government in the Dominican Republic in many years. The Dominican Republic, which occupies the same Caribbean island as Haiti, had undergone a long and disastrous rule by a corrupt dictator, Juan Trujillo.

    The Dominican intervention, which occurred at the same time that the Johnson Administration was escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam, ultimately caused embarrassment to the Johnson Administration. The Organization of American States assisted in the aftermath of the invasion. A new strongman, Joaquin Balaguer, became President and controlled the country for 30 years until 1996. Since his departure, true democracy has finally resulted and the country has experienced significant recent economic growth although the country remains poor and there is considerable income inequality.

Latin American Links

Wikipedia - Fidel Castro

Wikipedia - Cuba

Wikipedia - Hugo Chavez

Wikipedia - Venezuela

Wikipedia - Salvador Allende

Wikipedia - Interventions of the United States in Latin America

Wikipedia - United States intervention in Chile

Wikipedia - Latin America–United States relations

Wikipedia - Haiti

Wikipedia - Mexico

Wikipedia - Mexican Drug War

Open Directory - Latin America

Latin American Network Information Center
The most comprehensive source for Latin America on the internet with well organized subject and country links. From the University of Texas at Austin.

Canadian Foundation for the Americas
This web site has many publications on current Latin American topics. Particularly helpful is a monthly newsletter with timely articles regarding a range of issues facing the hemisphere.

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Human Development Index of Hemespheric Countries

Economic Inequality in Developing Regions

GDP Per Capita in United States and Canada 1970-2007

Percentage of Americans Favoring Ending Cuban Trade Embargo 1998-2009

Latin American Resumption of Diplomatic Relations With Cuba

Human Rights Vote Against Cuba, April 19, 2002

Vote Deploring Human Rights Situation in Cuba

Per Capita GDP in Cuba and Latin America 1985-2008

Life Expectancy in Major Hemispheric Countries

Source of U.S. Imported Oil March 2009

GDP in Venezuela and Latin America

GDP Per Capita in Columbia and Latin America

GDP Per Capita in El Salvador and Latin America

GDP Per Capita in Nicaragua and Latin America

Income Per Capita in Chile and Latin America