Date Published:Jan 1, 1999
Did the Cold War matter for US–Latin American relations? In many respects, the answer is no. The United States had faced military, political and economic competition for influence in the Americas from extracontinental powers before the Cold War, just as it did during the Cold War. The United States had pursued ideological objectives in its policy towards Latin America before, during, and after the Cold War. And the pattern of US defence of its economic interests in Latin America was not appreciably different during the Cold War than at previous times. From these singular perspectives, it is difficult to assert that the Cold War was a signficantly distinctive period of US–Latin American relations; it looked like 'more of the same'.
Nonetheless, the Cold War emerges as significantly distinctive in U.S. relations with Latin America because ideological considerations acquired a primacy over U.S. policy in the region that they had lacked at earlier moments. From the late 1940s until about 1960, ideology was just one of the important factors in the design of U.S. policy toward Latin America. The victory and consolidation of the Cuban revolutionary government changed that. In its subsequent conduct of the key aspects of its policy toward Latin America, the U.S. government often behaved as if it were under the spell of ideological demons.