Courtesy Reuters

Alliance Rhetoric versus Latin American Reality

More than ten years have passed since Fidel Castro entered Havana in triumph. It is almost as long since the Alliance for Progress was proclaimed. A great deal has changed in this period, both in Latin America and in the United States. Much has happened in the hemisphere; more has failed to happen.

Whatever its motivations and results, President Nixon's attempt to revise policies of the United States toward Latin America is timely. Many of their premises had been exposed as faulty or actively undermined by the events of the decade. Slogans without much substance and programs without clear purpose had come to characterize the approach. Contradictions and confusion abounded; the gap between the Alliance's rhetoric and inter-American reality had become painful and embarrassing.

One purpose of this essay is to contribute to current redefinition of U.S. policy toward Latin America by showing that many of the basic premises of the Alliance for Progress must now be discarded. Many of the Alliance's programs were based on unwarranted assumptions, challenged by the past decade's experience. There is a danger, however, that new clichés may arise to replace those of the 1960s, and that the easy optimism and excessive ardor of the Kennedy administration's initial approach may be displaced now by exaggerated pessimism and detachment. The second aim, therefore, is to counter the current tendency to discredit entirely all aspects of the Alliance, and to focus instead on conclusions relevant for improving U.S. policy in the 1970s.


Overall U.S. policy toward Latin America in the early 1960s can be conveniently discussed in terms of the key premises of the Alliance for Progress. Not all of these tenets were accepted by every architect of the Alliance, but taken together they represent a fair summary of the opinions shared by those who shaped Washington's pronouncements and practices during the Kennedy years.

It was widely believed that Castro's Cuba represented the advance base of a Soviet (or even a "Sino-Soviet") threat

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