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(The US in HAWAII, the PHILIPPINES and LATIN AMERICA in the 1920s – continued)

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The US in HAWAII, the PHILIPPINES and LATIN AMERICA in the 1920s (6 of 6)

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Good American Neighbors

In the 1920s the US was not interested in controlling any country in Latin America the way that Britain and France were controlling portions of Africa and Asia. In the 1920s, belief in a United States "manifest destiny" was not what it had been in the late 1800s, and in no Latin American country were people from the US exercising the kind of power that the descendants of missionaries had managed in Hawaii. In the twenties, the United States wanted good relations with the whole of Latin America, and it wanted to protect US business interests and the lives and property of US citizens.

The US had withdrawn its Marines from the Dominican Republic, but it believed it was necessary to keep its contingent of Marines in Haiti. In Guatemala, capital from the United States had been pouring in, as it did over much of Latin America. But there was to be no intervention there – for the time being – as Guatemala remained politically stable and its currency sound. The same could be said for El Salvador, and especially the most stable of Central American nations, Costa Rica.

During the twenties the United States moved to patch up its differences with Mexico, with much of Latin America looking at US policy towards Mexico as a measure of US attitude toward the whole of Latin America. Mexico responded favorably to the US move, and the two powers began discussions on the status of property in Mexico owned by US citizens – largely oil and mining concerns that had been confiscated during Mexico's revolution.

A conference of American nations assembled in Havana in 1928 – attended by President Calvin Coolidge – a conference seen by some as a showdown between Latin American nations and the United States. The expressed aim of the conference was to prevent the Americas from repeating the conflicts that had marked Europe and Africa. The first order of business at the conference was settling the long-lasting border war between Chile and Peru. The conference established new treaties that demanded arbitration in disputes between American nations. And an agreement was reached that led to a formal end to the war between Chile and Peru.

In February 1929, the US moved to counter "misunderstandings" with Latin American nations that had arisen from its intervention in Nicaragua. It revoked the Theodore Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine – Roosevelt having assumed for the United States the right to intervene in Latin American nations in order to forestall the possibility of a European intervention. The February 1929 announcement included a claim that the Monroe Doctrine was not originally intended as an instrument of aggression against Latin American nations and was not to be used as such.

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.