United States-South America Relations (4/26/04)
The countries of South America have a peculiar geographic relation to the United States. They are not as close to the United States as are Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, but they are not that far from it either. (Seven capitals (Lim, SCL, EZE, BSB, MON, ASU, LPB) are farther from Miami than LAX).Consequently, South America has not experienced the recurrent and profound U.S. interventionism that is typical of U.S. relations with its closer neighbors, nor has it been as neglected as many countries in Central Asia and Africa have been.
This combination of reluctant attention followed (or accompanied) by semi-neglect is a salient feature of U.S.-South American relations. There have been exceptions, such as the heavy-handed efforts by the United States to change the foreign policy of the first Peronist administration in Argentina in 1946, to undermine the socialist administration of Salvador Allende in Chile between 1970 and 1973, and to block drug trade in the Andes since the mid 1990s. (more on this later). But for the most part, South America has not felt the impact of U.S. interventionism as heavily or consistently as other regions of the world. This is one reason that political regimes in South America have seldom been as intensely pro-American or anti-American as one often finds in the Caribbean Basin. In the jargon of international relations theory, “balancing” and “bandwagoning” vis-à-vis the United States have been less pronounced in South America.
Yet, episodic and inconsistent attention by the United States creates, not only confusion, but also acrimonious polemics in the region. South Americans are often divided between those who feel that the United States is too involved in the region, and those who feel that it is too distant. Positions on this topic depend on one’s own opinion about the desirability of contacts with the U.S. Those who like U.S. involvement tend to regard the United States as too neglectful of South America; those who dislike the United States regard it as too meddlesome, or at least, regrettably uncommitted to the values that the esteem to be important. The range of opinions about the United States among South Americans thus ranges widely.
There is far less variation of opinions in the United States. At least at the level of policy-makers, there seems to be a consensus that, except during moments of exceptional security crises, South America matters little to the United States, certainly not as much as South Americans feel they ought to matter.
Episodic, inconsistent, and mild interventionism until the 1930s
Early in the 19th century the United States made two declarations that gave reason to think that it would take all of the Western Hemisphere seriously. The first was the No Transfer Resolution (1811), in which the United States stipulated that it would not see, “without serious inequitude,” the passing of any territory in the Western Hemisphere to European hands. The second was the Monroe Doctrine (1823), in which the United States declared that any effort by Europeans to extend their system to this hemisphere would be seen as “dangerous to our peace and security.” The few South Americans who noticed the Monroe Doctrine tended to welcome it, thinking that it foretold a close alliance between the United States and the fledgling Hispanic republics.
However, in South America, the United States ignored either principle during most of the 19th century, even when there were explicit European attempts to “extend its system” into the continent. U.S. policy toward South America during most of the 19th century remained exactly as it was during the Wars of Independence: the United States wished them well, but did not wish them to become close partners of the United States.
At the beginning of the 19th century, some South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and possibly Peru might have been able to keep up with the United States, at least in terms of GDP per capita, if only they had achieved rapid economic growth... Like the United States, these countries had fertile lands, links to the international economy, and republican constitutions. But by the 1870s, such hopes were dashed. Most South American nations stagnated or grew less rapidly thandid not grow as fast as the United States. In less than 60 years, South America fell deeply behind the United States, leading to a pronounced economic asymmetry that has lasted to this day. actually gotten worse since then.
This asymmetry gave rise to serious resentments toward the United States from both sides of the political spectrum. For instance, conservatives such as the Brazilian Eduardo Pardo and the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó argued that. Conservatives in. Conservatives the United States had too “shallow” a culture to deserve such wealth and prestige, whereas the left worried about the imperialist appetite of the giant to the north. Like the United States, the largest South American nations pursued territorial expansion in the 19th century, and they often at the expense oftook territory away from their weaker neighbors. But because the United States was by far the hemisphere’s most powerful nation, the title of the new imperialist nation was bestowed ongiven to the United States.
With the rise in the military and economic power of the United States and the expansionrise of commercial opportunities in South America toward the end of the 19th century, the United States could no longer afford to take the region for granted. The United States helped U.S. firms penetratetake advantage of commercial opportunities in South American markets. Nevertheless, the main focus of U.S. nited States incursions was not South America, but Mexico, the Caribbean Basin, and Asia. Between 1898 and 1932, the United States deployed troops 15 times in 8 Caribbean basin countries (including Mexico) and wagedhad a war to subjugate the Philippines. It did not intervene militarily once in unstable South America.
Fighting Totalitarianism (1939-1989)
This complacency with South American politics came to an end with a major structural change in world politics starting in the 1930s: the rise of two great powers embracing totalitarian, anti-liberal ideologies—Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. These powers posed the most serious security threat to the United States since perhaps England in the early 19th century, prompting the. The United States to deploydeployed a worldwide policy to contain Germany in the early 1940s and the Soviet Union after 1948. This forced the United States to pay a bit more attention to South America.
To contain fascism, the United States invested diplomatic efforts to obtain South American cooperation with the Allies during World War II. As during World War I, Brazil closely cooperated. But most South American nations remained neutral until 1945, in contrast to Mexico and the Caribbean Basin nations,, all of which declared war on the Axis by 1941. Reticence to go along with the United States was clear.
As some Realist theories of international relations would predict, the most difficult country proved to be the richest and most up-and-coming nation—Argentina. In 1946, unrepentant about Argentina’s long delay to join the War, newly-elected President Juan D. Perón entered into a high-profile political fight with the U.S. ambassador, Spruille Braden, who exaggerated the fascist threat emanating from Argentina. This conflict was both an ideological dispute as well as an effort by a South American nation with bigger aspirations to assert its independence vis-à-vis the United States.
Once fascism receded as a global security threat to the United States, the focus shifted toward fighting Communism. The first U.S. policy instrument to fight communism in South America was a series of military pacts against external aggression, which most South American nations signed gladly. Then, in the early 1960s, the United States experimented with another tool—expanding economic aid, which many South American had been longing for. , which had never been too substantial in South America.The idea came from SouthLatin American leaders themselves. They proposed offering more aid to democratic regimes in return for agrarian and social reforms. The John F. Kennedy administration quickly signed on to the idea.
The Alliance for Progress, as this program came to be known, only lasted “1,000 days,” as per the count of Arthur Schlesinger, one of its promoters in the United States [Kennedy administration].. The Alliance proved to be too controversial in South America. Conservatives in South America resented the conditionalities, and radicals were unimpressed by the extent of social change expected. Participating governments thus faced formidable domestic detractors from both sides of the both political spectrumleft and the right, and this weakened them.
Inspired by the radicalization of the Cuban Revolution between 1959 and 1961 or Mao’s peasant-based revolution in China in the 1940s, radicals in South America intensified their pressure against these weak, U.S.-supported democracies, often turning to violence.. Conservatives panicked, and contributed to a rash of coups followed that established so-called “bureaucratic-replaced the existing democracies with authoritarian” regimes throughout South America, except in Venezuela and Colombia.. The United States was shockedsurprised. The antidote to Communism that worked so brilliantly in postwar Europe—cash disbursements in return for reform—turned out to be served asdestabilizing in South America [in the context of polarized, inequality, heavy-handed states]the region.
The Alliance for Progress was quickly replaced bywith the Mann doctrine, named after Thomas Mann, main advisor to Latin America under U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Mann advocated called for granting U.S. aid to Latin America while remaining neutral on questions of social reform, in effect jettisoning the Alliance’s principle of aid-for-socialdemocracy. tied to democracy of the Alliance for Progress. The Alliance inaugurated one of the darkest periods in U.S.-South American relations. The United States unabashedly came to prefer authoritarian regimes to any other regime, whether democratic or not, that seemed pro-Soviet. The United States often adopted a policy of complacency toward, and some would even argue, promotion of human rights abuses.
The Mann doctrine inaugurated one of the darkest periods in U.S.-South American relations. The United States came to tolerate, sometimes prefer, authoritarian regimes. They were considered preferable to unstable democracies because the latter were deemed too vulnerable to communist influence.
Based on recently declassified documents, Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archives, has revealed in the early 2000s that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was more involved in destabilizing the leftist government of Salvador Allende (1970-73) in Chile, and more collaborative with Augusto Pinochet and other South American dictators, than originally thought. At the same time, research in the 1990s by Robert Pastor showed that the U.S. Congress often acted as a counterweight, demanding the Executive branch to pay more attention to human rights and blocking some counterinsurgency initiatives. U.S. policy toward the region during the Cold War had two contradictory faces, each stemming from different branches of government.
But even here, the policy of the United States was not entirely consistent. While the United States made enormous efforts to destabilize the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile between 1970 and 1973, to give one example, it proved quite willing to reach an entente with the socialist military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru, which nationalized firms, nationalized U.S. multinationals, and purchased tanks, supersonic fighter bombers, and weapsons from the USSR. The U.S. also showed little hysteria when the military regime in Brazil established close contacts with Marxist regimes and movements in lusophone Africa. And after defending military regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States suddenly began to support pro-democracy opposition forces against many former U.S. authoritarian allies in the early and mid 1980s, including Chile. Variation in the degree of U.S. interventionism against “communist threats”—or tolerance for risk—in South America has been far greater than is often recognized.
But even at the peak of the Cold War, actions by the U.S. Executive branch were not consistent. While the Richard Nixon administration became obsessed with destabilizing Allende, it reached an entente with the socialist military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru, which committed “sins” that the United States presumably would have found unforgivable (e.g., agrarian reform, nationalizations of U.S. multinationals, purchases of tanks and supersonic fighter bombers from the Soviet Union). The United States also avoided hysteria when the Brazilian military junta established close contacts with Marxist regimes and movements in lusophone Africa. And after condoning military regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, the United States in the 1980s suddenly began to support pro-democracy opposition forces against authoritarian rulers, including Pinochet in Chile. Variation in U.S. interventionism against “communist threats”—or tolerance for risk, if you will—has been far greater in All the while, South America than is often recognized.
South American governments learned to take advantage of U.S. inconsistency. They figured that as long as they could demonstrate commitment to fighting communism at home (something that was not difficult to do), the United States would tolerate greater latitude in their policies. And so, South American governments, both democratic and authoritarian, began to diversify their international contacts and domestic economic policies (e.g., increasing trade with the Soviet Bloc, reestablishing relations with Cuba, joining the Non-Aligned Movement, supporting efforts to create a New International Economic Order, voting against the United States in international fora, nationalizing firms, tightening trade restrictions). South American governments were trying to balance U.S. hegemony in the free world, not through fruitless confrontation, but through the diversification of its foreign relations, and in some cases (e.g., Venezuela 1970s), through friendly criticism. In the words of political scientist Peter Smith, they were trying to find “a third way” between extreme pro-Americanism and anti-Americanism.
The turn to authoritarianism in South America fueled a change in society-to-society relations between the United States and South America. Progressives in the United States, shocked by human rights abuses in South America, became more attentive to the region and pressed the U.S. government to change policies. Progressive intellectuals from South America, facing repression at home, sought asylum in the until-then vilified United States. Many found jobs teaching at U.S. universities.
The influx of South American intellectuals into the U.S. university system in the 1960s and 1970s had a symbiotic effect. U.S. universities began to offer more courses on the region. Simultaneously, South American exiles became more appreciative of the U.S. political system. A good example is Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a Marxist Brazilian sociologist who was forced to leave his native Brazil in 1964. After spending time in exile, which included teaching positions at U.S. universities, Cardoso underwent an intellectual evolution, softening his anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism. In 1994 and again in 1998, Cardoso was elected president of Brazil, and became a leading promoter of market reforms and good relations with the United States.
From Democracy Promotion to Assuring Governance (1980s to the present)
Since the 1980s, U.S. political relations with South America have focused on promoting and consolidating democracy. The only experience that the United States had with successful democracy promotion was postwar Europe. But compared to Europe, South America had many disadvantages in its struggle to democratize in the 1980s: very high levels of economic underdevelopment and inequality, a very entrenched tradition of military involvement in politics, very weak civil society, and a very recent history of U.S. support of non-democratic right-wing forces. In many ways, the task of promoting democracy seemed harder in South America than it ever was in Western Europe.
On the other hand, the United States acted.S.was smarter this time. around. The U.S. government did not try to monopolize the process by restricting efforts exclusively totoe state-to-state initiatives. Instead, the U.S. government encouraged pluralistic and multi-channel transnational contacts between the United States and South America. Legislators, academics, labor leaders, pollsters, party leaders, military officials, U.S.AID staff with more diverse training and sensibility to social issues, state department officials, journalists, religious groups, in addition to White House staff, worked with their counterparts in South America to bolster democratic institutions. They helped allay apprehensions about the United States and their political adversaries.
U.S. efforts to promote democracy in South America in the 1980s American were more diplomatic than economic, considering how little economic aid was earmarked foroffered. But this purpose. However, this tradeoff was not entirely unfortunate.lamentable. One positive result of U.S. attention to diplomacy was to U.S. diplomatic efforts convince South American South American leaders that the defense of democracy required relaxing absolute notions of sovereignty. To prevent electoral fraud, it helps to have international observers [however injurious this might seem to traditional notions of sovereignty]. AndIn order to deter potential coup-plotters, democracy-promoters argued that it helpswas necessary to create a mechanism of automaticthe conditions for an immediate international condemnation, and maybe even international intervention, in the event that of a coup gets underway.. But accepting these prescriptionsthis mechanism essentially meant abandoning traditional conceptionsthe absolute version of sovereignty that ban interventions under any circumstances, a well entrenched notion in international law that actually was widely promulgated by other nations should19th-century South American jurists themselves (Chilean Andrés Bello and Argentine Carlos Calvo). By the lateearly 1980s, with the help of the United States, Latin American leaders were persuaded to embrace the notion of collective defense of democracy. this notion and accept a system of international condemnation. This paved the way for the historic Resolution 1080 of June 1991, which instructs the Secretary General of the Organization of American States to call for an immediate meeting of the Permanent Council in the event of any interruption of democracy among member nations. In December 1992, the General Assembly of the OAS agreed to amend the Charter and insert a new article giving the Assembly the power to suspend from membership by a two-thirds vote any government that overthrows a democratic regime. All South American nations approved it. In September 2001, the OAS approved a historica Democratic Charter, which authorizes the OAS to undertake diplomatic initiatives in countries where there is a constitutional crisis. Furthermore, “When the special session of the General Assembly determines that there has been an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order of a member state, and that diplomatic initiatives have failed, the special session shall take the decision to suspend said member state from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS by an affirmative vote of two thirds of the member states in accordance with the Charter of the OAS. The suspension shall take effect immediately.The policy of defending democracy became multilaterilized and institutionalized.
This diplomatic breakthrough paved the way for the historic 1991 Resolution 1080 of the Organization of American States (OAS), which instructs the Secretary General to call for an immediate meeting of the Permanent Council in the event of any interruption of democracy among member nations. More consequentially, in September 2001 the OAS approved a historical ), and in all four, which Resolution 1080 or the Democratic Charter, which authorizes the OAS to was invoked, took place in South America: a self-coup in Peru 1992, a coup attempt in Paraguay in 199“suspend” a member if the constitutional order is interrupted, a far departure from the traditional notion of sovereignty.a constitutional crisis in Venezuela in 2002.
There have been coup attempts in South America in the 1990s, but no government has come to power by way of a coup since 1976. This is an unquestionable democratic victory. Methodologically, it is difficult to identify the cause of non-events, so it is hard to establish what exactly has caused this decline in the incidence and success of coups in Latin America. But there is reason to believe that this diplomatic, multi-channel and multilateral approach to democracy promotion may have had something to do with it.
Nevertheless, there have been constitutional crises in South America in the 1990s. In at least five of them, either Resolution 1080 or the Democratic Charter of the OAS was invoked. Examples include the self-coup in Peru 1992, the coup attempts in Paraguay in 1996 and Ecuador in 2000, the rigged elections in Peru in 2000 (which included two coup attempts), and the constitutional crisis of Venezuela in 2002. Except in the Peruvian 2000 crisis, international condemnation played a role in disactivating the constitutional usurpers. And except in the Venezuelan crisis of 2002, the United States was a major actor in these instances of international condemnation.
The task of preventing coups has proven to be easier to accomplish than the task of promoting good governance in South America. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines good governance as a “government's ability to maintain social peace, guarantee law and order, promote or create conditions necessary for economic growth, and ensure a minimum level of social security.” Poor governance has been the plague of South American democracies. These regimes seem to be institutionally strong enough to survive coups, but not [strong] enough to achieve the rule of law. Many South American presidents in the 1990s have faced accusations of manipulating institutions, committing corruption or looking the other way.
These institutional irregularities, which are serious enough to raise questions about the quality of democracy but do not reach the level of a constitutional crisis, have left the United States at a loss for policies. In contrast to situations of coup attempts, where the United States has an official policy of condemnation, there is simply no consensus in the United States as to what to do in the event of governance crises—that is, how far to sanction the incumbents and how far to support the opposition. U.S. reaction will likely be erratic, inconsistent, and occasionally timid. The United States will repeat the pattern of semi-neglect and semi-intervention that has always characterized its policies toward South America.
The Debt Crisis and the Brady Plan
In addition to democratization, the other turning point in U.S.-South American relations was the debt crisis of the 1980s. The debt problem was a mostly South American (and Mexican) phenomenon. In 1983, five South American nations and Mexico were in the top 10 debtor nations of the world (in terms of debt as a percent of merchandise exports), threatening to default, and possibly bringing down the international financial system.
With this crisis, both South American nations and the United States realized that they could not continue to do business as usual. South Americans came to understand that they could not afford to neglect distortions in their economy, and the United States, that it could not afford to ignore the financial problems of the region.
After some initial hesitation, most South American nations began to reform their economies in earnest by the late 1980s, going farther than many other nations in the world. The typical reform package included reducing state investments in non-profitable areas, raising fiscal revenues, cutting inefficient spending, and injecting stronger market forces in the domestic private sector. This set of prescriptions became known as the Washington Consensus, a phrase coined by economist John Williamson. The term proved to be catchy, but infelicitous. It gave the impression that there was a consensus in Washington, when in reality there was none, and worse, that the reforms were being imposed from Washington-based actors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the U.S. Treasury.
The truth was subtler. South American politicians themselves, after experiencing or coming close to experiencing hyperinflation, realized that heavy state intervention in the economy was no longer viable. And after watching the relative success of East Asia with export-oriented economies, of Chile and Spain with market reforms, and the unquestionable disaster of Peru trying to avoid them in the 1980s, they became convinced of the need for change.
Likewise, the United States also realized that debt-relief was indispensable to create incentives for countries to reform and for foreign investors to invest in the region. Previously, the approach of the United States was to rely on the IMF to press countries to raise savings and generate trade surpluses so as to stay current on interest payments. Recognizing that this approach was failing, U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady offered a different plan in 1989. Countries could reduce the face value of their debt, extend the time period of their obligation, and receive new infusion of cash, in return for some domestic reform. One novel feature of this “Brady Plan” was to allow countries to reduce the face value of their debt through buybacks in secondary markets, and to swap old loans for 30-year bonds with a 30-35 discount. Everyone gained. Debtor countries had the chance to reduce their debts, and lenders obtained different, realistic plans for converting bad debt into good debt that could also serve as a vehicle for investment. Mexico (1990, 1996), Venezuela (1990), Uruguay (1991), Bolivia (1992), Argentina (1993), Ecuador (1995), Peru (1996) all signed Brady Deals.
The early 1990s was thus a period of great political convergence between South America and the United States. Each country was committed to market economics, democratic development, and greater trade with each other. Many South American nations became convinced that soon after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the United States would extend similar agreements to South American nations.
But the turn toward cooperation was not as complete as first imagined. Except for Chile, South American nations did not prove to be as thorough economic reformers as originally believed, and some countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay hardly reformed at all. And the United States proved less committed to closer cooperation with South America. The best sign of this is to compare U.S. relations with Argentina and Mexico. While the United States gave Argentina some nontrivial rewards for its economic reforms in the 1990s (e.g., it eliminated the visa requirement for Argentine tourists), it never offered Argentina a free trade agreement or lowered tariffs on Argentine main exports. And when Argentina faced financial troubles in 2000-2001, the United States did not offer financial help (and reintroduced the visa requirement). In contrast, Mexico not only obtained NAFTA, but when it faced an exchange-rate crisis in 1994-95, it received a handsome rescue package assembled by the White House.
Even when the economic and domestic politics of South America were in sync with those of the United States, there were limits to the extent to which the United States was prepared to treat the region as a close ally. Except perhaps Brazil, the countries in the region ought not expect much financial support from the United States when their next financial crises occur. The pattern of tepid support will recur.
Can Brazil fill the hole?
In the 1990s, Brazil has tried to take advantage of U.S. relative inattention to the region and become the champion of South America. During the Cold War, Brazil’s foreign policy—always one of the most professional in the region—focused on two goals: maintain a friendly independence vis-à-vis the United States and engage in an economic (and arms) race against Argentina. These goals changed in the 1990s. The new goals are: acting as a friendly counterweigh to the United States, and convincing its South American neighbors to accept Brazilian leadership.
Brazil has taken constructive steps toward its new goals. It curtailed its nuclear program in the 1980s. It enthusiastically endorsed the creation of the South American Common Market (Mercosur/Mercosul), a trading agreement with Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It has invited other countries such as Chile (which is more interested in joining NAFTA), Venezuela (which has closer trade with Mexico and the Caribbean basin) and Peru (which has a small economy) to trade more with Mercosur. It has taken impressive steps to stabilize and modernize its economy. It has begun to promote Spanish language teaching in schools. It played a constructive role in the democratic crises of neighboring Paraguay (1996). It has tried to serve as the mediator in the Venezuelan and Colombian domestic strife. It has even created a new top position in the foreign ministry—under-secretary for South America in 2003. Brazil hopes to become the soft, benign hegemon in South America that the United States has failed to be.
Yet, there are obstacles to Brazil’s new goals. Brazil cannot easily compete with the allure of the United States because it has very few tangible resources to offer. Furthermore, the rise in assertiveness of Brazil is likely to provoke resistance, not just from the United States, but from nations that feel they deserve the same stature, such as Mexico, Chile, and Andean nations.
Brazil may be in a trap. The best it can offer South American nations is leadership in coordinating regional positions, thereby granting South American nations stronger bargaining power in its dealings with the United States, the European Union, and international organizations. But for Brazil to have international leverage, it must show that it has the support of South American nations. Yet, for South American nations to support Brazil, they want evidence that Brazil has leverage in international fora. It’s a hard-to-escape Catch-22 situation.
High in the Andes
The most noticeable exception to the pattern of episodic and mild interventionism in South America is in the area of counternarcotics. In 1986, facing a nationwide epidemic of cocaine and crack consumption, U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared the drug trade a national security threat. This paved the way for two developments. First, efforts by the United States to fight drug would be heavy-handed. Second, they would involve the military. Because the Andean region (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia) is one of the world’s largest suppliers of drugs, it instantly became a principal battleground of the U.S. “war on drugs.”
Colombia is a global leader in the production of cocaine and the number-one source of counterfeit U.S. dollars in the world. The drug trade has fueled three political cancers in Colombia: drug cartels, guerrillas that stay alive by extorting resources from the drug economy, and paramilitary groups that are in high demand because they offer protection against both groups. Colombia has become a kidnapping fantasyland, with almost 3,000 reported cases annually. Drugs pose a grave security threat to Colombia, and increasingly, its five neighbors.
Colombian president Andrés Pastrana approached U.S. president Bill Clinton for help, and in 1998, they launched “Plan Colombia,” a program of aid aimed to help Colombia defeat both the drug dealers and the guerrillas. This program leaned more toward military spending than Colombia had asked, but Colombia accepted it because it was better than nothing. Between 2000 and mid 2003, the United States injected more the $2.4 billion into Plan Colombia, making Colombia the largest recipient of U.S. aid outside of the Middle East.
U.S. counternarcotics efforts in the Andes—heavy-handed and militaristic—have been criticized from all angles. One criticism focuses on the war’s effects on democracy: the United States is inflating the budgets and operations of military institutions in countries where civilian control of the military is fragile, to say the least. Another criticism focuses on the futility of the effort: drug interdiction results in relocation, rather than reduction, of drug production. Yet another criticism focuses on the irrationality of the political economy of the drug war. Drug production is cheap and profitable (despite U.S. efforts to make drug trafficking costly), but the War on Drug offers weak economic incentives for actors to move away from the drug business. Yet another criticism focuses on the hypocrisy of the effort: the United States is the world’s largest consumer of illicit drugs and has ineffective policies to restrain this demand.
The criticisms are numerous and devastating, but alternative solutions are scarce and flawed. This will mean that U.S. military involvement in the Andes will continue. It is the one exception to the historical U.S. attitude of relative detachment toward South America.
The New Latinos
Traditionally, latinos in the United States have comprised mostly Mexican, Caribbean and Central American descendants. The turn toward authoritarianism in South America began to change this, expanding the number of South American exiles in the United States. But the real massive influx of South Americans started with the debt and drug crises. Arrivals of South American immigrants went from 257,940 in the 1961-70 decade to 461,847 in 1981-90. The proportion of foreign-born residents of the United States from South America is still small (6.2 of the total foreign born population, compared with Central Americans, who represent 36.4). But the number is likely to continue to increase.
The majority of South American immigrants are not economic elites, obviously. But the proportion coming from middle- and upper-income sectors and enjoying higher levels of education is larger among South American immigrants than among immigrants from Mexico and the Caribbean Basin. A study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 14.2 percent of South American-born residents live below the poverty line, compared to 22.6 percent of Central American. Further, 80.9 percent of South Americans have a high school education compared to only 37.3 of Central Americans.
There are two reasons for the higher socioeconomic profile of the South American cohort. First, many of the people-exporting countries in South America are far more economically developed, with larger middle classes, than many countries in the Caribbean basin. Second, the debt crisis and subsequent financial turmoil affected all income groups, generating outflows from each of them.
South Americans settling in the United States thus include a diverse profile: economic elites who lost investment opportunities back home, middle-class citizens who lost salaried jobs, and low-income workers whose lot simply turned more desperate. In terms of socioeconomic profile, the new South American cohort in the United States resembles more the Cuban cohort of the 1960s and the Puerto Rican cohort that has settled in Orlando, Florida since the 1980s.
How this new South American cohort will shape U.S. domestic and foreign policy, if at all, remains an open question. South American latinos are unlikely to compel the United States government to alter the tendency, discussed in this essay, to treat South America cavalierly. But because of their numbers and socioeconomic background, they stand a good chance of penetrating U.S. society easily, not just U.S. universities, but also the corporate world, the entertainment industry, and middle class suburbs. Like the first generation of South American immigrants of the 1960s, this may mean that they stand a better chance of making U.S. society more attentive to political, cultural, and economic developments in South America, even if their impact on the U.S. government is minimal.
Note: Works that focus exclusively on U.S.-South American relations are rare. Most focus on U.S. relations with Latin America in general, with the Caribbean basin, with individual countries, or on general themes.
Atkins, G. Pope. 1989. Latin America in the International Political System.
Corrales, Javier and Richard E. Feinberg. 1999. “Regimes of Cooperation in the Western Hemisphere: Power, Interests, and Intellectual Traditions. International Studies Quarterly 43, 1-36.
Baily, Samuel L. The United States and the Development of South America Farer, Thomas. Beyond Sovereignty. Gil, Francisco. 1971. Latin America-United States Relations.
Kornbluh, Peter. 2003 The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability (A National Security Archive Book). New Press.
Pastor, Robert. Exiting the Whirlpool.
Pike, Frederick B. Hispanismo , 1898-1936. Spanish Conservatives and Liberals and their Relations with Spanish America. Roett, Riordan. 1999. Mercosur: Regional Integration, World Markets. Lynne Rienners, Inc.
Schoultz, Lars. Beneath the United States.
Smith, Peter. Talons of the Eagle Tulchin, Joseph S. Argentina and the United States.
See review in LARR (2003, 38, 2, pp. 167)
See Williamson, John on Lula (Foreign Affairs 2003) on Trade. Lula campaigned against FTAA as US annexation of LA. It prefers Mercosur. But economically, if the US liberalizes agriculture, Bra could export a lot more. The US would need to liberalize agri markets in Europe, in order to offset US imports from Bra and Arg. The problem is that the EU won’t do it, making the US hesitant, making Bra uninterested in FTAA.
After 9/11: the return of security could mean: lower commitment to other goals: governance, coup preventions,