Pan-Americanism - Pan-americanism since 1945

Toward the close of the war, the American states met in the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace at Mexico City in February 1945. Uninvited Argentina was conspicuously absent. The diplomats focused their attention upon the place that Pan-American regionalism would have in the plans for the proposed United Nations. Prodded by the United States, the Latin Americans insisted upon their right to protect themselves without having to seek the approval of the UN Security Council. Ultimately this demand was approved in the UN Charter. The conference also recommended that Argentina, after declaring war on the Axis, be permitted to participate in the San Francisco sessions that formalized the United Nations. The delegates drafted the Act of Chapultepec, which required the states to conclude a treaty of reciprocal assistance, a treaty on the settlement of disputes, and a new regional arrangement that would substitute a permanent treaty for the various informal agreements underlying the inter-American association in the past. These objectives were concluded in 1947 at a special conference in Rio de Janeiro and in 1948 at Bogota, Colombia, when the next regular International Conference of American States (the ninth) convened. Significantly, these meetings came at a time when the Truman administration was fashioning a Latin American policy that reflected its larger global strategy of containing Soviet aggression.

The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed at Rio de Janeiro on 2 September 1947, committed the signatories to the solidarity sought against external aggression since Bolívar's days. An armed attack by a state against any American state was henceforth considered an attack against all, and each contracting party agreed to assist in meeting the attack. The assistance would be rendered collectively, following a consultation of the inter-American system and in accordance with the constitutional process of each nation, a recognition that not all countries were practicing democracies. The same obligations also applied should an armed attack occur within the region. In 1947, however, influenced by the World War II experience, policymakers focused upon potential external aggression.

The 1948 Bogota conference was nearly destroyed when the assassination of a popular Liberal Party leader was followed by citywide rioting. Nevertheless, the sessions were completed. The treaty for the pacific settlement of disputes was signed, but with so many additions and amendments that several states failed to ratify it. The major achievement was the reorganization of the entire inter-American system by the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), the first permanent treaty basis for the old structure. The charter declares the principles upon which the organization is based and the necessity for such machinery to be welded into the UN framework. Briefly, the OAS accomplishes its purposes by means of the following:

  1. The Inter-American Conference, the supreme organ of the OAS, meeting every five years to decide general policy and action.
  2. The Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, called to discuss urgent matters and to serve as the organ of consultation.
  3. The Council of the Organization of American States, meeting in permanent session and composed of one delegate from each member state. The council takes cognizance of matters referred to it by the agencies listed above and supervises the Pan-American Union.
  4. The Pan-American Union is the general secretariat of the OAS, with a wide variety of functions. In addition there are several organs of the Council, specialized organizations, and special agencies and commissions.

In the 1960s several amendments were made to the OAS charter, the most fundamental being the replacement of the Inter-American Conference with an annual general assembly.

The final measure that incorporated Pan-Americanism into the U.S. global strategies came with U.S. congressional approval of the Military Assistance Program (MAP) in 1951. Since the end of World War II in 1945, the Truman administration had pushed Congress to approve MAP, designed to harmonize military equipment, training, and strategy throughout the hemisphere. Congress consistently resisted, on the grounds that the United States would be blamed for securing the positions of Latin American dictators. But with a global cold war, Congress relented. From 1951 through 1960, the U.S. materiel supplied to Latin America focused upon the need to resist external aggression in general, and to protect the Panama Canal and Venezuelan and Mexican oil supplies, in particular. In addition, Latin American military officers received training at U.S. military bases and institutions, most notably the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone.

During the period 1945–1951, administration spokesmen continued to espouse traditional Pan-American ideals, such as the need for political stability, faith in democracy, and promises of nonintervention. While preaching these ideals, the United States ignored Latin American demands for an end to dictatorships and an improvement in the quality of life for the less fortunate. Until the mid-1950s, communism in Europe and Asia appeared more important.

In Latin America the tendency to indict social and political reformers as communists intensified as the cold war took root. Fearing the personal consequences of changes to the established order, Latin America's political leadership and socioeconomic elites came to accept the U.S. view that these reformers were Moscow-directed communists and that they were part of the Soviet scheme for world domination. The test case became Guatemala, where reformers Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Arbenz introduced social programs that challenged the local elite's privileges. Arbenz's nationalization of United Fruit Company lands convinced Secretary of State John Foster Dulles of the need for action. In 1954 he took his case to the tenth inter-American conference at Caracas, where he sought a multinational blessing for a unilateral action. Dulles denied the existence of indigenous communist movements and asserted that every nation in the hemisphere had been penetrated by international communists under Moscow's direction. He called for decisive action, presumably under the terms of the Rio treaty, to eliminate subversive activities in the hemisphere. In effect, Dulles sought to Pan-Americanize the Monroe Doctrine in order to prevent what he alleged was Soviet penetration of the Western Hemisphere. Dulles did not single out Guatemala, but all present understood it was the target. Following the vote, Dulles left Caracas just as the conference began its discussion of Latin America's social and economic distress.

At Caracas, the U.S.-sponsored resolution was approved by a 17–1 vote, with Guatemala dissenting and Argentina and Mexico abstaining. A month later the Central Intelligence Agency sponsored an "invasion" of Guatemala by loyalist forces that ousted Arbenz and restored the traditional order. The United States manipulated events at the United Nations to prevent international scrutiny of its actions. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, regional organizations were permitted to deal with regional problems before the United Nations intervened. In this case, the United States convinced the Security Council that the OAS had the Guatemalan situation under control.

The U.S. actions fueled anti-American sentiment across Latin America. Coupled with its failure to address the region's socioeconomic problems, the intervention in Guatemala reaffirmed Latin America's view that the United States did not intend to treat its southern neighbors as equals. Security from foreign intervention remained at the heart of Pan-Americanism, but since the late 1930s only the United States had determined the parameters of the threat.

The rise of communism as a threat in Latin America unquestionably provoked the feeling among many Americans, both North and South, that the Pan-American movement needed a long-range program to improve the economy and quality of life across South America. The first organized economic assistance to Latin America had been a part of the Good Neighbor program of the 1930s. Other precedents rested with the Point Four and mutual security programs during the Truman administration. Still, these programs did not address the disparities that characterized Latin America's socioeconomic landscape. In 1958, when Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek suggested some kind of "Economic Pan America," he unknowingly forewarned of Latin America's impending social revolutions. In response to Kubitschek's appeal, the OAS and the United Nations developed financial assistance programs for the hemisphere, and the Eisenhower administration initiated the Social Progress Trust Fund, but little was accomplished until the success of Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba, which by 1961 destroyed Cuba's traditional political, social, and economic orders.

To meet the challenge, in 1961 President John F. Kennedy implemented the Alliance for Progress, which pledged a U.S. contribution of $1 billion per year over a ten-year period to modernize Latin America's economic and political systems. In effect the alliance was an admission that previous private and public investment and technical assistance programs alone were insufficient for the steady development of the region. The Latin Americans were to raise a total of $80 billion in investment capital over that ten-year period. Machinery for the alliance was established in 1961 at Punta del Este, Uruguay. The aim was to increase the per capita wealth of participating Latin American states by 2.5 percent each year for ten years. The revolutionary elements of the alliance, the vast amount of cooperative spending, and the strict requirements—such as tax reform, a commitment to land distribution, and broadening the democratic process—in order to qualify for alliance assistance raised the expectations of many Latin Americans.

For the most part, expectations were not realized. Despite advances in gross national products and progress in land tenure patterns, education, and health care, the same people who were in power in 1960 remained the most privileged in the 1970s, and the socioeconomic gap between them and the poor had not narrowed. There was sufficient blame to go around. Latin American elites refused to accept economic and political reforms. Latin Americans wanted a larger share in the decision making; the U.S. government wanted to give them less. As the fear of Castroism diminished by the late 1960s, owing to the bankruptcy of the Cuban economy and the emergence of military governments throughout Latin America, so did regional interest in socioeconomic reform. U.S. administrators and members of Congress became frustrated with Latin America's graft and corruption. Latin America's blip on the U.S. radar screen disappeared with the continuing crises in the Middle East and in Vietnam. Subsequently, the Watergate scandal preoccupied the Nixon administration until its downfall in 1973 and marred the brief presidency of Gerald Ford. Although aid to Latin America continued in reduced form after 1970, the U.S. Congress continually asked questions about the validity of any foreign aid program. In the vacuum created by the U.S. absence, the Latin American governments either turned inward or looked beyond the Western Hemisphere for economic assistance.

If the spirit of mutual respect projected in the early days of the alliance was jeopardized by the program's inadequacies, it was destroyed by unilateral U.S. political decisions: the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961; the Cuban missile crisis in 1962; the landing of U.S. marines in the Dominican Republic in 1965; and the sale of U.S. arms to Latin America's military governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For all intents and purposes, a Pan-American consciousness did not exist by the mid-1970s.

President Jimmy Carter came to Washington in January 1977 determined to repair the damage done to Pan-Americanism during the previous fifteen years. He set the tone by negotiating treaties with Panama that returned the canal to that country in 2000. He made friendly gestures toward Cuba, which had been ousted from the inter-American system and had been experiencing a U.S. trade embargo since 1961. His human rights policy gave credence to the ideals of Pan-Americanism, but prompted the military governments in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile to produce their own armaments, and forced the besieged Central Americans to purchase their equipment on the world market.

If Carter had nudged toward closer cooperation with Latin America, President Ronald Reagan took several steps backward. His insistence that the Central American civil wars of the 1980s were yet another Soviet effort to extend communism in the Western Hemisphere fell on deaf ears in Latin America. Not only did Reagan fail to gain the support of the OAS, but his position was openly challenged by the Contadora Group—Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela—which received encouragement from the "support group" of Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay. The Latin Americans perceived the Central American crisis as a local one, caused by the socioeconomic and political disparities that characterized the region, not Soviet interventionism. These nations were determined to bring peace to the embattled region at the expense of the United States. Their efforts led eventually to the successful peace initiative by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sánchez, who received the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Other U.S. unilateral actions that damaged inter-American relations included its invasions of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) and the threatened invasion of Haiti (1993). In tightening its embargo against Cuba in the early 1990s, the United States placed itself outside the hemispheric trend, which included the opening of trade relations between Cuba and several Latin American countries and Canada.

While U.S. Cold War policies gave credence to the charges of U.S. hegemonic influence over hemispheric affairs, they also severely damaged the spirit of Pan-Americanism. And the political purpose of Pan-Americanism, hemispheric security from a European threat that dated to the days of Simón Bolívar, disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

As the twentieth century came to a close, three issues dominated the hemispheric agenda: illegal drugs, migration, and commerce. Because these problems are multinational, each provides the opportunity for reviving the intention of Pan-Americanism: cooperation among the nations of the Western Hemisphere. While drugs have corrupted governments and terrified society in such places as Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, and Peru, all hemispheric nations pay a heavy social and economic price for drug use. Rather than find a common ground for cooperation, the United States and Latin America place responsibility at one another's doorstep. Washington policymakers appear determined to eradicate drugs at the source—the remote areas of Colombia and the Andean countries—and to punish those nations that serve as transit points for the entry of drugs into the United States. In contrast, the Latin Americans charge that if U.S. residents cut their demand, there would be a concomitant decrease in the production of illegal drugs.

Migration, particularly of Latin Americans to the United States, is a most vexing problem. Given the fact that since the mid-1980s democratic governments have taken root across the region, save Cuba, immigrants can no longer claim to be escaping political persecution, the most valid reason for seeking asylum in the United States. Instead the new migrants are seen as economic refugees, and therefore are not admissible under current U.S. law. The United States also focuses its attention on the poor and unskilled immigrants, not the skilled or professional workers who are absorbed quickly into the North American economy and society. The unskilled workers are viewed as a threat to U.S. workers and a drain upon state and federal social programs that sustain them. On the other hand, Latin American nations fret at the loss of skilled and professional workers, but not the loss of the unskilled (because of limited economic opportunities for them at home). Furthermore, these workers remit badly needed U.S. currency to their relatives at home, and these monies become an important part of smaller nations' gross domestic product.

One way to address the drug and migration problems in Latin America is economic development, and since the 1980s these nations have become increasingly involved in the global economy. At first, regional cooperation appeared to be the best route. Toward that end several regional economic organizations were formed. The Central American Common Market (CACM) dates to 1959. Others include the Andean Pact (1969) and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) of 1972. Each took on new significance with the globalization process that began in the 1980s. The most promising organization appears to be the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR). Established in 1991, it brought together Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay for the purpose of establishing a customs union similar to the European Union. By 2000 Chile and Bolivia had become associate members in anticipation of full membership at some point in the future. The United States joined the parade in 1993 when Congress finally approved the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), linking it with Mexico and Canada in what is to be a free market by 2005. But the United States would go no farther. Congress denied President Bill Clinton "fast track" negotiating privileges to reach an accord with Chile that would bring the latter into the NAFTA accord. The latter congressional action may be symptomatic of the basic problem that has plagued the Pan-American movement since its inception in the early nineteenth century: national interest.

In June 1990, President George H. W. Bush launched the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, its ultimate goal being a free trade zone "stretching from the port of Anchorage to the Tierra del Fuego." Shortly thereafter the NAFTA agreement was concluded, prompting many analysts to predict that it would become the vehicle to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere. President Bill Clinton kept the initiative alive when he convened a meeting of thirty-four heads of state (only Cuba's Fidel Castro was not invited) in Miami in December 1994. This was the first such gathering since 1967. In the end, the signatories designated 2005 as a deadline for the conclusion of negotiating a Free Trade Association of the Americas (FTAA), with implementation to follow in subsequent years. Advocates hailed the agreement for its high-minded principles and ambitious goals. Critics lamented its vagueness and its drawn-out timetable. The pledge of free trade was repeated when the heads of state gathered again in Santiago, Chile, in 1998 and Quebec City, Canada, in April 2001. In between, technical committees have been working on the details of a free trade pact. Still, national interests stand in the way. Given the history of inter-American relations, Latin Americans question the sincerity of the U.S. commitment to hemispheric free trade. Brazil has made clear its intention to unite all of South America into one trading bloc before dealing with the FTAA. Mexico has signed a trade agreement with the European Union, and the MERCOSUR partnership is seeking agreements with Europe and South Africa. Chile, the unabashed example of free market reforms, pursues its own global strategies.

The world has changed drastically since the Latin Americans sought security from European intervention in the nineteenth century. It also has changed from the early twentieth century through the end of the cold war, when the United States single-handedly worked to keep the Europeans out of the Western Hemisphere. With the end of the Cold War, the need for hemispheric political security disappeared, at least momentarily, and with it, the original reason for the Pan-American movement. But the realities of the new world—drugs, migration, and commerce—provide the opportunity to revive the Pan-American spirit. The challenge before the nations of the Western Hemisphere is great: Can they overcome the national interests that have plagued the relationship in the past?

Other articles you might like:

Follow Founder
on our Forum or Twitter

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 1, 2012 @ 3:03 am
Let me start off by saying that I am one of the ppeloe that saw Avatar multiple times in theaters and loved it. The CGI , as well as the 3D technology infused, were by far the best I have ever seen. James Cameron and all of the ppeloe who participated in the making of this movie did a tremendous job. Weta workshop is taking its place at the top of the mountain, as far as visual effects companies go. Watching this movie was like being transported to a different universe. I was completely immersed throughout the almost three hours I was in the theater.As for the story and acting for the film, I am probably in the minority on most of these reviews. The story for me, while predictable and reminiscent of other movies I'd seen previously (What movie isn't nowadays?), was extremely enjoyable. Watching this made me feel young again. It made me forget about all the worries that an adult life brings, and just enjoy myself in the moment. Many ppeloe argue that the acting in this movie was subpar. These ppeloe say that the portrayals of the characters were downright cartoonish. I would argue strongly against that. For the type of movie that this is, the good versus evil portrayals given by the actors works in the movie's favor. Sam Worthington especially does well. If you haven't seen him in Terminator: Salvation, do so. He made the movie worth watching.Now, to get to the actual product at hand. I ordered the Blu Ray / DVD combo pack from Amazon. From the moment the menu came onto my screen, I knew this was going to be something special. When I pressed play, there was no turning back. Over the next three hours, my senses were completely assaulted and my mind was dumbstruck. Simply put, James Cameron's Avatar on the Blu Ray format is the best picture and audio we have seen or heard to date. I have a feeling it will be years before anything better is brought to the table. Watching the visuals was more stimulating than looking at a real life forest. Every detail could be seen from far and away. The walls of my house shook, and I just hope the neighbors did hear. I would tell them to buy the movie themselves and experience it. With this release comes certain issues. While I don't have any of them myself, I will still talk about them as it would be uninformative of me to not. This release of Avatar is not in 3D. Many ppeloe complain about this, and a large percentage of those ppeloe do not even have the right equipment to properly experience 3D yet. The technology for home theater 3D is very new and very pricey. Next year, after all the quirks have been worked out, is when we will likely see Avatar in a home release 3D format. Another gripe is the complete lack of special features. This again has a good reason. In the Special Edition coming later this year, there will be scenes incorporated into the movie not even visually completed yet. Documentaries in high definition have to be put together. A commentary track needs to be recorded. No one is being forced to buy this stripped edition, however. I am one of the ppeloe who will knowingly double or triple dip on this. The reason for that is because I love it so much.Now to the biggest complaint. During the initial release, many ppeloe were complaining that Avatar would not play in their Blu Ray players. The reason for that seems to be some new copy protection put on the disc. While I was not one of the ppeloe with this problem, I can certainly sympathize with those who did. A new firmware update is all it will take to fix the issue. My PS3, which serves as my Blu Ray player, had a firmware update ready for me before I watched the movie.So if you are one of the millions who loved Avatar when you saw it in theaters, or one of the ppeloe who didn't get around to seeing it, now is your time. Pick this movie up right away without hesitation. Keep an open mind, and let yourself become immersed. You do not want to miss what many ppeloe believe is one of (...)

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: