Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dean Acheson on Latin America

Here is Dean Acheson discussing Latin America in his memoir Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department (1969). I will have to use some of this in my U.S. and Latin American Relations revisions:

In that area of special American worry, the Good Neighborhood, there was plenty to worry about. Here Hispano-Indian culture--or lack of it--had been piling up its problems for centuries. An explosive population, stagnant economy, archaic society, primitive politics, massive ignorance, illiteracy, and poverty--all had contributed generously to the creation of many local crises, tending to merge into a continental one. Added to this was a further factor. The foreign investment that the whole continent needed as much as it needed population control caused an ambivalent response in Latin America. On the one hand, it promised escape from the peonage of centuries; on the other, it appeared to threaten United States exploitation--especially in the extractive industries--and the perpetuation of domestic control by the small, reactionary elite that had dominated Latin America since Columbus and the Conquistadores (pp. 257-258).

So, Mr. Secretary, tell us what you really think. The racist contempt flies off the page in waves.

What I also sense is convenient blame. Why is the U.S. exploiting Latin America? Solely because its elites have chosen that situation. It's a nice shift of the causal arrow by removing the U.S. government entirely from the question of why some elites are in power and others are not, at least in those countries--like Central America and the Caribbean--where the U.S. was extracting like mad. The U.S. just wants to help but these uncultured cretins won't do the right thing!


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