Precarious paths to freedom : the United States, the Caribbean Basin, & the new politics of the Latin American Cold War, 1958-1968

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2012-05

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Abstract

At first glance U.S. policy towards Latin America between 1958 and 1968 appears to have been a failure. Initiatives intended to promote democracy and economic development, and to insulate the hemisphere from the ideological and military struggles of the global Cold War, reaped only authoritarian regimes, uneven and sluggish economic growth, and political debates over the global systems of capitalism and communism that distracted attention from the unique and pressing problems of Latin America. A closer examination of the U.S.-Latin American relationship, however, reveals that the policies pursued by Washington succeeded in an unlikely arena, in the nation that seemed to matter most to U.S. policymakers. That nation was Venezuela, which emerged from generations of tyranny in 1958 only to become the focal point first for a right wing counterrevolutionary insurgency sponsored by the Dominican Republic, and then for a leftist guerrilla war that involved the competing ideologies of Cuba, the Soviet Union, and China. From 1958 onward U.S. policymakers identified Venezuela as a crucial bulwark against right-wing and left-wing extremism and as an ideal partner in the creation of a modernized, prosperous, and pro-U.S. Latin America. Venezuelan moderates, meanwhile, dexterously manipulated U.S. support to realize these goals and to eliminate the existential threats posed by domestic and foreign extremists. The study of the Washington-Caracas partnership from 1958 to 1968 illuminates the ways in which U.S. and Latin American policymakers could, under certain circumstances, solve the most vexing political, ideological, and military problems besetting the hemisphere through an innovative blend of democratic, diplomatic, and coercive means.

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Keywords

U.S. foreign relations, Venezuelan foreign relations, U.S-Latin American relations, Cold War

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