SchoultzEncounteringLA1998Pt1

SchoultzEncounteringLA1998Pt1 - Beneath the United States A...

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Unformatted text preview: Beneath the United States A HISTORY OF U.S. POLICY TOWARD LATIN AMERICA Lars Schoultz HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England V1612 Preface In late 1989 President George Bush traveled to Costa Rica to participate in a Central American summit meeting, which came near the end of the most difficult decade in the history of U.S.—Latin American relations. The United States was standing toe—to—toe with the Panamanian government of Manuel Noriega, openly threatening the military invasion that was to come two months later. In just two weeks, the rebel Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front would launch daring attacks on cities throughout El Sal— vador, prompting the retaliatory murder of six Jesuits by the Salvadoran military and revealing how little progress had been made in pacifying that country despite a full decade of U.S. effort. Worst of all, Nicaragua’s Sand— inistas were continuing to thumb their nose at the United States, four years after Mr. Bush’s predecessor had warned that he would stop attempting to overthrow them only “if they’d say ‘Uncle.’” When the surrender was not forthcoming, President Reagan had gone before a prime-time television audience and declared the Sandinistas an outlaw regime.1 As Air Force One was carrying President Bush from Washington, Nica- raguan President Daniel Ortega was also flying to the meeting. Arriving in San Iosé dressed in military fatigues and the black-and-red Sandinista bandanna that so annoyed U.S. officials, Mr. Ortega promptly announced that his government might end its cease—fire with the U.S.-supported rebel Contras. That announcement was enough for President Bush, who took advantage of a news conference to call President Ortega “that unwanted animal at a garden party.” He also twice referred to the Nicaraguan chief of state as a “little man,” giving such obvious emphasis to the term that it prompted a reporter to ask at the very end of the press conference, “Why do you keep calling him a little man?” The President’s final words were “Because he is—that’s why.”2 Today these belittling statements and the policies that triggered them may seem only a reminder of a prior generation’s Cold War conflicts, but Xi xii Preface they also reflect a historical attitude toward Latin Americans. Eighty years earlier, in 1909, Secretary of State Philander Knox had made similar com— ments about one of President Ortega’s predecessors, Iosé Santos zelaya declaring his government “a blot upon the history of Nicaragua,” and Knox’s assistant secretary had called Zelaya “an unspeakable carrion.” These views, in turn, were a continuation of the already established U.S. opinion of Nicaragua, which one mid-nineteenth-century envoy summa— rized as “small in Extent, its Govt feeble and its population inconsiderable in number, though turbulent 8r disorderly.” And this observation was simi— lar to an even earlier description by the U.S. consul in Leon, who reported in 1848 that “the revolutions here, are of so terrible a character, that no good 18 expected from any change of men, as all such changes have proved for the worse, and it is a positive belief, that were it not for the proximity of the Civilizing influence of the United States, this country would by degrees revert to the aboriginal state in which Alvarado the Spaniard found it.”3 This book is an explanation of the logic that underlies these statements. It IS not about Nicaragua, nor is it about the other countries that lie beneath the United States, in a region called Latin America. It is about the policies the United States has used to protect its interests in Latin America It is about the way a powerful nation treats its weaker neighbors. . A realist would explain the U.S.—Latin American relationship with Thucydides’ aphorism that “large nations do what they wish, While small nations accept what they must.” This is the best way to begin—but only begin—any explanation of U.S. policy, with a frank recognition of the enormous disparities between the United States and Latin America. The United States is the world’s commanding power—not omnipotent, per— haps, but significantly more powerful than any rival force that the world W'lll see in our lifetime and, barring a cataclysm, almost infinitely more powerful than any Latin American nation can ever hope to be. This power is deeply rooted in the nation’s wealth. The typical U.S. citizen generates a per capita gross national product ten times that of the average Latin Ameri- can, and this absolute difference in wealth underlies a nearly infinite range of derivative disparities, in everything from mortality measures to fast food franchises. I Perhaps the most obvious indicator of these asymmetries is that the United States continues to spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year to alter the behavior of its neighbors, while Latin Americans do not. Today, for example, the U.S. Agency for International Development is pay— Preface xiii ing to install U.S.-style adversarial criminal procedures in four different Latin American countries, while no Latin American country is attempting to change the procedures used by the U.S. judicial system. Similarly, the government-funded National Endowment for Democracy is prepared to assist any Latin American country to hold a clean election, while no Latin American country has ever offered to help the United States boost its low voter turnout, nor advised the United States on the reform of its campaign financing laws. Today, U.S. law requires the President to report each year on the efforts that Latin American governments are making to stem the supply of narcotics (and to “decertify” those that fail to meet our standards, mak- ing them ineligible for aid), while no Latin American government reports on U.S. efforts to reduce the demand for drugs. Even the Cuban challenge is gone, symbolized by the fact that Washington’s archrival can no longer afford to blanket the shortwave bands with Radio Cuba, while the U.S. Information Agency’s Radio Marti continues to provide Cubans with all the news that’s fit to broadcast. And, of course, U.S. armed forces are still found throughout Latin America—at bases in Cuba and Panama, and as mobile training teams in nearly every other country in the region—while no U.S. citizen believes that we have anything useful to learn from the Latin American military. “Hegemony” is the term social scientists use to capture the essence of these one-way relationships. Depending on their personal preferences about specific programs, U.S. citizens praise Washington’s hegemonic be— havior, criticize it, or, like Thucydides, treat it as a fact of life. We do some good things, some bad things, and some things that great powers have always done (and presumably will always do) to their weaker neighbors. The question is why. What determines United States policy toward Latin America? Self-interest would be a realist’s answer. Throughout history, hegemons have sought to protect their interests by controlling the behavior of weaker neighbors. This hegemonic oversight is costly, of course, but the expense of a Marine detachment or an AID mission is usually justified with the com- mon—sense logic that it is better to prevent something unpleasant from happening rather than to reverse it once it has happened. For more than a century the United States has rarely waited to let a problem develop. In- stead, it has tried to prevent the emergence of the threat. Driven by self—interest, this hegemonic oversight has reached unprece— dented levels in the late twentieth century. Today it seems unexceptional for xiv Preface Washington to be nudging and nurturing Latin Americans not simply to reform their economies (something we have long encouraged), but to re— vamp their judicial systems and reconstitute their democracies. Woodrow Wilson, whom many consider the most patronizing of all US. Presidents, would not believe his eyes; he would marvel at the mere fact that the United States has created and maintained not only an Agency for Interna— tional Development to assist Latin America’s economic improvement but also a National Endowment for Democracy to help with the region’s politi- cal development. President Wilson may have wanted to teach Latin Ameri— cans to elect good leaders, but he would never have recommended that U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for other peoples’ economic and political devel- opment. The slowly growing belief that self-interest requires ever—increasing ef- forts to influence the behavior of a weaker people—“hegemony creep”—is c0mmon among great powers, but its full significance in U.S.—Latin Ameri- can relations was masked until recently by the Cold War imperative of excluding the Soviet Union from the Western Hemisphere. But when the Soviet Union disappeared and US. security interests no longer required the same level of dominance, Washington identified new problems—every- thing from drug trafficking to dictatorship to financial mismanagement— and moved to increase its control over Latin America. Recent U.S. administrations have justified this preventive hegemony with the argument that today’s problems are every bit as threatening as yesterday’s Soviet adventurism. Reflecting general public opinion, these administrations argue, for example, that illicit drug use underlies a broad array of US. social problems, making our schools unsafe and converting our urban neighborhoods into free-fire zones. It is not difficult to see why many US. officials believe that it is just as important to prevent drug production as it was to stop communism. Equally threatening, say many, is the repression by authoritarian Latin American governments, which sends refugees streaming toward the United States, where they overwhelm state and local governments. California’s 1994 Proposition 187, which denies government services to illegal immigrants, may seem mean-spirited and shortsighted to many of us, but not to the local officials who are struggling to provide legal residents with public education and indigent health care. It is easy to see how these officials (and their constituents) believe that it is as much in their self—interest to put an end to refugee-generating dictator- ships as it was to stop communism. Similarly, if Latin American govern— Preface xv _________.___________~———— ments are so incapable of managing their finances that they require bail- outs by the U.S. Treasury, it is understandable why U.S. officials insist on Latin America’s structural adjustment. Overall, the dominant post—Cold War opinion in Washington is that revolutions in transportation and communication have facilitated closer ties with Latin America, one aspect of which is the export of Latin Ameri— cans’ problems. In response, U.S. officials have claimed the right to respond With ever-increasing attempts to control Latin Americans’ undesirable be- havior. What is consistent over two centuries in Washington’s policies to— ward Latin America is not the behavior of the United States, but the moti- vation. FOI nearly two centuries, US. policy has invariably intended to serve the interests of the United States—interests variously related’to our nation’s security, to our domestic politics, or to our economic develop- ment. As the challenges to these interests ebb and flow, US. policy adjusts to meet them. What remains unchanged are the interests. Although these three interests are central to any explanation of United States policy toward Latin America, there is more to a full explanation. Underlying these three interests is a pervasive belief that Latin Americans constitute an inferior branch of the human species. The precise definition of Latin American inferiority has shifted many times over two hundred years, but for the past half-century it has been summarized by the omnibus term “underdeveloped.” As we begin the twenty-first century, corruption is the political indicator of underdevelop— ment, seen particularly in the bribes that Latin America’s public officials are said to accept from drug traffickers. A few years ago, the indicators were authoritarianism and human rights violations; a few years before that, the indicator was unreasonable radicalism. Some of these indicators of under- development are vague and unqualified, whereas others—especially the economic indicator of persistent poverty—are more obvious to the eye, but they all underscore what one US. envoy reported from Brazil in 1839: “there is a sad defect somewhere either in the institutions of the country, or the temper and habits of the People.”4 A belief in Latin American inferiority is the essential core of United States policy toward Latin America because it determines the precise steps the United States takes to protect its interests in the region. Since this belief has existed from the beginning, one way to understand today’s policy and its underlying assumptions is to return to the eighteenth century and examine how today’s hegemonic thinking began to evolve as the logical xvi Preface ————__——_—_—__'_—______ corollary of beliefs about the character of Latin Americans. Other beliefs would not have changed U.S. interests, but they would have led to different policies for protecting these interests and, in general, to a different relation— ship with the neighbors who lie beneath us. These eighteenth—century beliefs set us off on the path that we still follow. Along the way, a hegemonic attitude developed gradually, so slowly that it went unnoticed until, by the end of the nineteenth century, the notion of controlling the behavior of Latin Americans seemed as natural to U.S. officials as it did to Thucydides. Then Theodore Roosevelt’s Big Stick generation began to in- stitutionalize this control by creating formal organizations to channel the U.S.—Latin American relationship, a process that continued through the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, when a panoply of perma- nent bureaucracies was created to promote U.S. economic interests and to protect U.S. security. It is true, as a realist would argue, that today’s hegem— ony is the natural product of efforts to protect these interests, but it is also the product of solicitude for neighbors who, we have kept telling ourselves, will probably remain underdeveloped unless we provide them with our assistance. » To understand contemporary United States policy toward Latin Amer— ica, then, either we can accept Thucydides’ rendering of the law of the jungle and let it go at that, or we can sift through the peculiar evolution of the U.S.—Latin American relationship, searching for evidence of a subtle but powerful mindset that has precluded a policy based on mutual respect. There, in the minds of U.S. officials, we will find the explanation of U.S. policy in a process that blends self—interest with what the Victorian British called their White Man’s Burden and the French their mission civilisatrice, a process by which a superior people help a weaker civilization overcome the pernicious effects of its sad defect. The sifting process requires us to analyze how U.S. officials process the information that they receive about Latin America. Stripped of nuance, the actual process is fairly simple. For example, when a State Department official begins a meeting with the comment “we have a problem with the government of Peru,” in less than a second the other participants instinc- tively turn to a mental picture of a foreign state that is quite different from the one that Would have been evoked if the convening official had said, in contrast, “we have a problem with the government of France.” What exactly is the difference? To begin, Peru is in Latin America, the “other” America; France is in northwestern Europe, the cradle of the domi- Preface xvii /——’—‘ nant North American culture. Peru is poor; France is rich. Peru is weak; France has nuclear weapons. Peru has lncan ruins, which many consider the peak of cultural development in that part of the world; France has ancient ruins, too, but it also has the Louvre. Peru makes pisco; France makes claret. Peru is not so firmly democratic; France is. Peru is a Rio Treaty ally, which, as alliances go, is something of a Charade; France is a NATO ally, which is a very serious alliance. In most of our history, Peru hasn’t mattered much in international relations; France has mattered a lot. These differences can be listed almost forever, and each policy maker will have a slightly (but only slightly) different list. The list may or may not be accurate; it may or may not be fair. But the point is that such a list emstsin the mind of virtually every U.S. official, and that it explains why U.S. policy toward Peru is fimdamentally unlike U.S. policy toward France, despite the fact that both policies are driven by self-interest. . I Today’s public opinion polls indicate that the rough outllnes of this “Latin American” mind—set are shared by a broad spectrum of the U.S. public. The initiation of new officials into the policy—making environment is largely a process of (refining this unpolished collection of beliefs by incorporating additional information about the region and,-at the same time, by organizing, weighing, and interpreting this informatlon so that it fits with the pursuit of U.S. interests. The result is a distinctive mental orientation that officials use to interpret the bewildering array of incidents and problems that constitute the raw data of international relations. This is the mind-set that led President Monroe to announce his Doctrine, that pushed President Polk to declare war against Mexico, that inspired Presi~ dent Roosevelt to wield a Big Stick, that induced President Taft to imple— ' ment Dollar Diplomacy, that encouraged President Wilson to teach the Latin Americans to elect good leaders, that prompted President Kennedy to establish the Agency for International Development, that influenced Presi- dent Reagan to create the National Endowment for Democracy, and that led President Bush to call Nicaragua’s President an unwelcome dog at a garden party. Chapter 1 N Encounterlng Latin America ___________’______————————— They are lazy, dirty, nasty and in short I can compare them to nothing but a parcel of hogs. N john Quincy Adams, age 12 It took a direct order from President Monroe to make Secretary of State John Quincy Adams recognize the newly independent countries of Latin America. In 1820, when Henry Clay had urged recognition, Adams had scoffed at the idea of developing a cooperative relationship with the people of the region, writing in his diary that “there is no community of interests or of principles between North and South America.”1 But Adams and his generation were acutely aware that the United States and Latin America shared, at a minimum, an interest in evicting Europe from the Western Hemisphere. When the Latin American wars of independence had erupted a decade earlier, this interest had prompted President Madison to treat the rebels with what he called a spirit of “enlarged philanthropy,” meaning that he would permit U.S. merchants to sell them arms. Always less oblique, Congress simply blurted out its “friendly interest” in Latin American inde- pendence, and soon Secretary of State James Monroe notified the Euro- pean powers that the United States had “an interest in the independence of the Spanish provinces.”2 V Since it made little sense to suggest that the United States shared no interests with its neighbors, Iohn Quincy Adams’s comment probably re— flected the belief, common among his contemporaries, that any relation— ship with Latin Americans would be difficult, because differing principles governed their behavior. He meant them no insult; he simply was pointing out that Latin Americans were Hispanics, and that his people were Anglos. To Adams and his generation, that made all the difference in the world. Anglo-America was expanding rapidly at the beginning of the nine— 1 2 Encountering Latin America teenth century, when Adams embarked upon a half century of public service. The united states now numbered sixteen, and their five million citizens were pushing vigorously into land claimed by others. To the south and southwest, they shared a border with the colonies of Spain, one that only moved further west after Spain’s transfer of the continent’s midsec- tion to France and Napoleon’s quick resale to the United States in 1803. The Louisiana Purchase was but the first of several major nineteenth— century land transactions in North America, virtually all of them favorable to the United States, and by mid-century the nation spanned the continent, thirty-one states with over twenty—three million citizens. Eighteen new nations were created in Latin America during this same half century. In much of the region the bloody struggle for independence was significantly more disruptive than that of the United States, and, once free of colonial control, Latin American republicans were clearly unable to weave effective states from the war—weakened threads of fragmented civil societies. Visitors to these new republics, including an early U.S. chargé in Colombia, were dismayed by the challenge of forging nations out of “twenty millions of people spread over a pathless continent, separated from each other by immense tracts of uninhabited region, without concert, without resources, and totally ignorant of civil government.” Many agreed with Bolivar’s deathbed lament when, looking back at his life’s labor, the Liberator concluded that republican Latin America had reverted to"‘pri— meval chaos.”3 It was during this half century that officials in Washington began to create the mind-set that continues to influence US. policy toward Latin America. Initially it was shaped by an urgent security interest: as the War of 1812 approached, officials in Washington worried that England might take possession of Spanish Florida, an ideal base for harassing U.S. commerce and for launching military attacks.4 Since 1808 the British had been fight- ing alongside the Spanish to oust Napoleon from Iberia in the vicious Peninsular War—the conflict in which Spanish irregulars perfected a new form of combat and, in the process, added the term guerrilla warfare to our vocabulary. As the struggle dragged on, the Spanish became increasingly reliant upon British aid, and the English probably could have obtained Florida for the asking. In mid—1810 Secretary of State Robert Smith warned the British to stay out of Florida; then, in September, Congress passed its first formal statement of US. policy toward Latin America, the No-Transfer Resolution: “the United States, under the peculiar circumstances of the Encountering Latin America 3 ________—____________—.—_————————— existing crisis, cannot, without serious inquietude, see any part of [East Florida] pass into the hands of any foreign power; and that a due regard to their own safety compels them to provide, under certain contingencies, for the temporary Occupation of the said territory.”5 Officials in Washington continued to worry about Spanish Florida when US. expansion resumed after the War of 1812. “East Florida in itself is comparatively nothing,” argued Secretary of State Monroe in 1815, “but as a post, in the hands of Great-Britain, it is of the highest importance. Commanding the Gulph of Mexico, and all its waters, including the Missis— sippi with its branches, and the streams emptyng into the Mobile, a vast proportion of the most fertile and productive parts of this Union, on which the navigation and commerce so essentially depend, would be subject to its annoyance.” 6 Florida was seen by Monroe exactly as many of his successors would see other parts of Latin America—as pieces of unattractive land that nonhemispheric adversaries might use as a base to attack the United States. A policy of excluding these adversaries seemed increasingly appropriate as the third decade of the nineteenth century unfolded. Under the leader— ship of Austrian Prince Metternich, in 1821 the Holy Alliance approved the principle of counterrevolutionary intervention to stifle republicanism: “States which have undergone a change in Government due to revolution, the results of which threaten other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance,” reads the Troppau Protocol. “If, owing to such alteration, immediate danger threatens other states, the Powers bind them- selves, by peaceful means, or if need be by arms, to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the Great Alliance.” Shortly thereafter, the Austrian army was used to squelch republican revolutions in Naples and the Italian Piedmont, and at Verona in 1822 the Alliance authorized France to de— stroy Spanish constitutionalism and restore Ferdinand’s absolute monar- chy. With Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and his colleagues worried that Spain’s rebellious New Worldcolonies were next in line to be brought back into the bosom of the Great Alliance, in late 1823 President Monroe announced his seminal doctrine in a message to Congress; and for nearly two centuries that doctrine has remained the bedrock principle of US. foreign policy. But national security was not the only Latin American interest of John Quincy Adams’s generation, for the region also contained products for US. consumers and markets for U.S. producers. Despite restrictive Spanish mercantile policies, trade between colonial Latin America and the United 4 Encountering Latin America States had blossomed in the second half of the eighteenth century, and in 1781 the Continental Congress had appointed Robert Smith as its first special agent in Latin America “to reside at Havanna, to managexthe occa- sional concerns of Congress, to assist the American traders with his advice, and to solicit their affairs with the Spanish Government.”7 At the same time, New England and mid-Atlantic merchants were developing markets at the farthest reaches of the hemisphere, especially after the Napoleonic wars swept European traders out of Latin American markets. By the turn of the nineteenth century, nearly one—third of all US. exports went to Europe’s colonies in Latin America and the Caribbean; then, when the wars of Latin American independence erupted, this trade mushroomed. It did not take long for Yankee merchants from politically powerful port cities to become accustomed to serving markets that had often been closed by Spain’s restrictive trade policies, and they turned to their government for help in keeping the markets open. “The situation of these Countries has thrown them open to commercial intercourse with other nations, and among the rest with these United—States,” wrote John Quincy Adams in 1818; shortly thereafter, he informed the counterrevolutionary Holy Allie ance that “we can neither accede to nor approve of any interference to restore any part of the Spanish supremacy, in any of the South-American Provinces.” 8‘ Seeking, then, to protect the nation’s security and to promote its eco— nomic interests, officials in Washington set out to establish relations with newly independent Latin America. They knew (or thought they knew) much about the basic character of the people who inhabited the region, and no one was more confident of his knowledge than the most influential US. foreign policy official of the era of Latin American independence, John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825 and President from 1825 to 1829. Just before initiating the process of diplomatic recognition, Adams told Henry Clay that Latin Americans “have not the first elements of good or free government. Arbitrary power, military and ecclesiastical, was stamped upon their education, upon their habits, and upon all their institutions. Civil dissension was infused into all their seminal principles. War and mutual destruction was in every member of their organization, moral, political, and physical.”9 Adams’s opinions had their origin in his eighteenth-century New Eng— land upbringing and, in particular, in the views of his father, who felt nothing but disdain for all Hispanics. At almost the exact time that his son Encountering Latin America 5 was talking with Clay, the senior Adams, now eighty-five years old, wrote Jefferson that “a free government and the Roman Catholick religion can never exist together in any nation or Country, and consequently that all projects for reconciling them in old Spain or new are Eutopian, Platonick, and Chimerical. I have seen such a prostration and- prostitution of Human Nature to the Priesthood in old Spain as settled my judgment long ago, and I understand that in new Spain it is still worse, if that is possible.”10 Adams’s reference to “long ago” was a midwinter trip across northern Spain in 1779—1780—a trip so trying that, upon crossing the border into France, he wrote, “never was a Captive escaped from Prison more delighted than I was, for every Thing here was clean, sweet and comfortable in Comparison of any Thing We had found in any part of Spain.” In combination with his anti-Catholic upbringing, John Adams’s singularly unpleasant experience in Spain clearly influenced his attitude toward Latin America. Thereafter he met few Hispanics and virtually no residents of Latin America, but the die was cast: three decades after his unfortunate trip, the senior Adams wrote that “the people of South America are the most ignorant, the most bigoted, the most superstitious of all the Roman Catholics in Christendom”; as a result, attempts to establish democratic governments in the newly inde- pendent region were “as absurd as similar plans would be to establish democracies among the birds, beasts, and fishes.”11 Young John Quincy Adams accompanied his father on the ill—starred trip across northern Spain. The twelve-year—old John Quincy’s diary empha- sizes that country’s brutish population (“they are lazy, dirty, nasty and in short I can compare them to nothing but a parcel of hogs”); its grinding poverty; its filthy lodgings (“they never wash nor sweep their floors”); and especially its repressive Catholicism. “Poor creatures, they are eat up by their priests. Near three quarters of what they earn goes to the Priests and with the other quarter they must live as they can. Thus is the whole of this kingdom deceived and deluded by their religion. I thank Almighty God that I was born in a country where anybody may get a good living if they please.” 12 John Quincy was also influenced by another towering figure of his fa— ther’s generation, Thomas Jefferson, with whom he developed a friendship in Paris in 1784 and 1785. One day’s diary entry notes, “spent the evening with Mr. Jefferson whom I love to be with, because he is a man of very extensive learning, and pleasing manners.”13 Jefferson’s exceptionally in- quisitive mind regularly included the exploration of subjects related to 6 Encountering Latin America Latin America-—he told the younger Adams that he had learned Spanish during a nineteen—day sea voyage; he met with revolutionaries from Brazil and Mexico while in Europe during the 17805; and in 1787 he commis- sioned the U.S. chargé in Madrid to purchase books for his library, indicat— ing his interest in Spanish volumes about the New World and, if possible, information about the idea of a canal across Panama. These early contacts led Jefferson to a pessimistic evaluation in the late 17805: “The glimmer- ings which reach us from South America enable us only to see that its inhabitants are held under the accumulated pressure of slavery, supersti- tion, and ignorance.”14 Jefferson’s knowledge about Latin America was subsequently enlarged by contact with others who had firsthand knowledge of the region. The Amer— ican Philosophical Society (of which Jefferson was the presiding officer from 1797 to 1814) established relations with intellectuals in Mexico and Cuba, and Jefferson was on familiar terms with the Abbé José Francisco Correia da Serra, a Portuguese naturalist who was named the Portuguese- Brazilian minister to Washington in 1816. The Abbe was such a regular visitor to Monticello that Jefferson’s granddaughter referred to one first- floor bedroom as “the Abbé Correa’s room”; and although Jefferson did not meet Francisco de Miranda when the Venezuelan patriot spent nine- teen months in the United States from mid—1783 until late 1784, the two men did talk when Miranda stopped in Washington on his way home from Europe in late 1805. Perhaps the acquaintance who most influenced Jeffer— son’s view of Latin America was the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who passed through the United States on his return to Europe after five years of exploring Spanish America. The two men quickly formed an easy friendship, and in mid—1808 von Humboldt sent Jefferson a copy of his Essai politique sur le royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne.15 The information gained from these acquaintances led Jefferson to con— clude that partial independence would be best for Latin America—“an accord With Spain, under the guarantee of France, Russia, Holland, and the United States, allowing to Spain a nominal supremacy, with authority only to keep the peace among them, leaving them otherwise all the powers of self—government until their experience in them, their emancipation from their priests, and advancement in information, shall prepare them for com— plete independence.”16 In addition to Jefferson’s views of Latin America, John Quincy Adams was influenced by reports from early U.S. agents in Latin America, the most Encountering Latin America 7 ___________—________—-—————-—— interesting of whom was Joel Roberts Poinsett, a remarkably cosmopolitan Southerner who is best remembered for bringing the Mexican Christmas flower, nochebuena, to the United States, where he renamed it the poinset- tia. In early 1811, a decade before his assignment to Mexico, Poinsett was sent by President Madison to Buenos Aires and then to Chile, where his deep involvement in revolutionary politics led local authorities to declare him persona non grata. Six years later, when Secretary of State Adams .asked Poinsett to write up his observations about the Southern Cone, he seemed optimistic about the distant future but skeptical about the immedi- ate prospects: “The spirit of litigation pervades all classes,” he reported; “the lawyers are a numerous body; and the practice is not, as in the United States, an open appeal to impartial justice, but the art of multiplying acts and of procrastinating decisions until the favor of the judge is secured by influence and bribery.” Poinsett found the Creole political leaders of Bue— nos Aires to be especially unprincipled (“nothing but low cunning, trick, and artifice”), and so revolutions were frequent.‘7 _ Another observer of Latin America was Alexander Scott, the first U.S. foreign aid official, who was sent to Venezuela in 1812 with six boatloads of flour to relieve the suffering caused by one of history’s most devastating earthquakes, in which thirty thousand people perished. At the time, the Venezuelans were in open rebellion against Spain, but Scott quickly con— cluded that neither the revolutionary war nor the natural calamity was responsible for the conditions he observed. The problem, he reported, was that the residents of Venezuela were “timid, indolent, ignorant, supersti- tious, and incapable of enterprise or exertion. From the present moral and intellectual habits of all classes, I fear they have not arrived at that point of human dignity which fits man for the enjoyment of free and rational government.” 13 Sensing the need for fresh information, in 1817 President Monroe ap- pointed John Graham and Caesar Augustus Rodney as commissioners to visit Latin America. Secretary of State Adams added a third member, Theo— dorick Bland, a Baltimore judge, and together with their secretary they set out for Argentina. The commission arrived in Buenos Aires in early 1818, observed conditions for two months, then returned to the United States and filed three separate reports. Rodney held the most positive view. He noted that Argentines “appear to be an amiable and interesting people. They are considered brave and humane; possessing intelligence, capable of great exertions and perseverance, and manifesting a cheerful devotion to 8 Encountering Latin America / the cause of freedom and independence.” The revolution against Spain had “awakened the genius of the country which had so long slumbered,” and “the spirit of improvement may be seen in every thing.” Graham was somewhat less favorable, observing a “character of indolence” among the Argentine lower classes, but finding the middle and upper classes “more industrious and active. Their manners are social, friendly, and polite. In native talents,‘they are said to be inferior to no people; and they have given proofs that they are capable of great and persevering efforts, that they are ardently attached to their country, and warme enlisted in the cause of its independence.” Bland (who had also traveled to Chile) was highly critical. He complained about almost everything, especially “the hebetating politi- cal and ecclesiastical institutions” of Buenos Aires.19 John Quincy Adams read all three reports with great care, dismissed Rodney’s positive views (“an enthusiastic partisan of the South Ameri— can cause, but communicating scarcely any information additional to that which was already known”) and accepted Bland’s critical report (“more solid information, and more deep and comprehensive reflection, than all the rest put together”).20 Adams’s choice was not based solely upon predis- position, however, for at the time Bland’s analysis of Buenos Aires was being reinforced by despatches from other US. agents. A US. commercial agent, Thomas Lloyd Halsey, who for several years had been sending over- whelmingly negative assessments to Washington, was particularly critical of Argentine leaders, noting the absence of “those able and disinterested patriots who led and pushed on the people of the United States to the happy Independence they acquired.”21 Equally negative reports came from Chile, where Consul Iohn Prevost characterized the nation’s constitution as a “crude, complicated and indefinite instrument”; and where the US. com- mercial agent in Valparaiso noted that “Integrity, Honor, truth, or Justice, is as little understood as the word Patriotism which is hacknied only to cover acts of Despotism and injustice.”22 Occasional positive evaluations crossed Adams’s desk, such as those from William G. D. Worthington in Buenos Aires and Santiago, but just as he ignored Rodney, the Secretary of State summarily dismissed Worth- ington,23 accepting instead the opinions of envoys such as Consul Robert Lowry, who wrote from Venezuela that “this people is ill prepared for the rights of civil liberty, and the leaven of Spanish Despotism, has infected their present rulers, as much as it ever did their former masters.” Even the Portuguese monarchy in Brazil had “degenerated to complete effeminacy Encountering Latin America 9 / and voluptuousness,” reported the US. consul in Rio. “Hardly a worse state of society can be supposed to exist any where, than in this Country; where the climate also excites to every sort of depravation and delinquency?”1 Self—described as “a man of reserved, cold, austere, and forbidding man- ners,” Iohn Quincy Adams was not one to be hurried into association with either the depraved or the delinquent.25 Until 1821 he had a perfect excuse to keep his distance: recognition of Latin America’s independence, he ar- gued, would jeopardize Spanish ratification of the pivotal boundary treaty of the nineteenth century, which ceded East Florida to the United States, accepted US. claims to West Florida, and defined not only the southwest— ern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase but also its northwesterly course to the forty—second parallel and then to the Pacific Ocean. The Senate ratified the Adams—dc Onis treaty unanimously in early 1819, but the Spanish, convulsed by domestic and European intrigues, delayed ratifica- tion until February 1821. Once that occurred, Adams had no good argu- ment to counter President Monroe and others who considered it unwise to ignore the fact of Latin America’s independence, and in mid-1822 the recognition process began when a reluctant secretary of state presented the aging Colombian patriot, Manuel Torres, to President Monroe. In Decem— ber the United States established diplomatic relations with Mexico, then Chile, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata, and the Brazilian empire. By the end of Adams’s tenure as secretary of state in early 1825, five of the thirteen U.S. legations were in Latin America. ‘ Each of the new envoys needed instructions, and that undertaking pro- vided Monroe and Adams with the first formal opportunity to outline US. policy toward independent Latin America. The diplomats were told to encourage republicanism, discourage piracy, and obtain freedom of relig— ious expression for US. citizens. Although they were instructed to obtain commercial equality with other trading states, a task that eventually con- sumed most of their time, the envoys were not expected to develop new markets. Adams told Caesar Augustus Rodney, the first minister to Argen- tina, that “our commercial intercourse itself with Buenos Ayres cannot for ages, if ever, be very considerable,” and so he could “perceive no necessity and have no desire for the negotiation of a treaty of commerce.” Similarly, be instructed Richard Anderson, the first minister to Gran Colombia (to- ' day’s Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador), that “as producing and navigat— ing nations, the United States and Colombia will be rather competitors and rivals than customers to each other.” Both envoys were warned about the 10 Encountering Latin America unsettled political situation. Rodney was cautioned that Argentines had “a hankering after Monarchy” which “produced its natural harvest of un- appeasable dissentions, sanguinary civil Wars, and loathsome executions, with the appropriate attendance of arbitrary imprisonments, a subdued and perverted press, and a total annihilation of all civil liberty and personal security.” Seeking to reacquaint Rodney with events in Buenos Aires since his South American commission five years earlier, Monroe and Adams emphasized that Argentina “has undergone many changes of Government, violent usurpations of authority, and forcible dispossessions from it; with— out having so far as we know to this day settled down into any lawful estab- lishment of power by the only mode in which it could be effected—a con- stitution formed and sanctioned by the voice of the people.”26 . Nested between the lines of these instructions were clear statements of the foreign policy beliefs of John Quincy Adams and his generation. One statement focused on the desirability of geographic isolation, especially once the War of 1812 had convinced US officials of their vulnerability. In the years immediately ahead, everyone expected the British to protect and, if possible, to expand their colonial possessions that surrounded so much of the United States. At the same time, US. officials were acutely aware that the war-weakened states of Latin America offered the Holy Alliance a tempting target—an awareness made all the more worrisome by the corollary belief that Latin Americans were unable to defend themselves, and that many of them, monarchists at heart, did not recognize the need to do so. As a result, each new minister was instructed to guard against Euro— pean chicanery.27 Alongside these beliefs about European intentions and Latin Americans’ inability or unwillingness to defend themselves was the belief that a deep gulf separated Anglo and Hispanic American character—the absence of shared principles that John Quincy Adams had mentioned to Henry Clay in 1820. In Adams’s case, the basic raw material for this belief came from several sources: from his early socialization in Protestant New England, from his brief travels as a child in northern Spain, from his contact with the nation’s principal intellectual and political leaders, and from the reports of initial U.S. envoys. Together, these influences led Adams to conclude that the United States should have as little as possible to do with the people of Latin America; he ridiculed the Abbé Correia’s suggestion that the United States and Portugal create an “American system” to halt privateering: “As to an American system, we have it; we constitute the whole of it.” On another Encountering Latin America 11 occasion Adams wrote that he “had little expectation of any beneficial result to this country from any future connection with them, political or commercial. We should derive no improvement to our own institutions by any communion with theirs.”28 With little hope for Latin America’s future, with recognition complete, and with the Monroe Doctrine announced and (for the moment) unchal— lenged, in 1824 Adams shifted his focus to US. politics and his candidacy for the presidency. It was a contest among four aspirants, none of whom could muster an absolute majority in the electoral college. With responsi- bility for selecting the President thereby transferred to the House of Repre— sentatives, one of the four, Henry Clay, threw his support to Adams in order to stymie the ambitions of Andrew Jackson, who held a plurality of both the popular and the electoral college vote. In turn, Adams named Clay his secretary of state, which, at the time, was the position of heir—apparent to the presidency. Eight years earlier, Clay had sought the position as secretary of state while he was serving as Speaker of the House, and his disappointment over Monroe’s choice of Adams was reflected in a general bitterness toward the administration.” A principal bone of contention was Clay’s insistence on prompt recognition of the new Latin American republics, a dispute which came to a head in 1818, shortly after Monroe asked Congress to pay the expenses of the three—member commission to South America. Clay coun- tered with a motion to appropriate funds for the establishment of a lega— tion in Buenos Aires, which would be the equivalent of recognition, of course, and in Adams’s view, a damaging blow to his delicate negotiations with Spain. The four-day speech that Clay offered in support of this appro- priation ranged far beyond U.S.—Argentine relations. He demanded that the administration act not only to seize East Florida but also to recognize immediately the independence of all Spain’s rebellious colonies, calling neutrality “an act for the benefit of his majesty the king of Spain.” After bitter debate, the Speaker’s proposal was rejected by a humiliating margin of 45 t0115.3° Clay’s term as Adams’s secretary of state was not conspicuously more successful; indeed, the Jacksonians’ outrage over what they considered a corrupt bargain was sufficient to hamstring Adams’s presidency. When the nineteenth Congress that was elected in 1824 along with Adams finally convened on December 5, 1825, the opposition was lying in wait for any issue that would give them an opportunity to attack their two enemies 12 Encountering Latin America simultaneously. The chance came in early 1826 when, in its first foreign policy initiative of the session, the administration asked Congress for authority to participate in Bolivar’s inter-American conference at Panama. The House began considering the request on February 1 and continued its deliberations until April 25, devoting nineteen days to the issue. The Senate began in mid-February with four days of executive proceedings, followed by four days of public debate, with the final day’s discussion occupying an extraordinary 195 pages of the Congressional Globe.31 The proceedings were anything but civil, and at one point Virginia Senator John Randolph over— stepped the bounds of propriety by characterizing President Adams and his secretary of state as “the Puritan and the blackleg.” Incensed by this allega- tion that he had cheated by exchanging his electoral votes for the secretary’s job, Clay challenged Randolph to a duel. Tempers had cooled when the moment came on April 8, 1826, and Randolph fired into the air. Clay also fired over his adversary’s head, and then, still peeved, he reloaded and shot a hole in Randolph’s overcoat. Boys will be boys, of course, and everyone recognized that neither this Yankee machismo nor the heated Congressional debate had much to do with the wisdom of attending an international conference. Rather, the de— bate was an early example of a now-common aspect of United States policy toward Latin America: the tendency of unconnected U.S. domestic political disputes to spill over into inter—American relations. This had already been seen in the Clay-Adams dispute over recognition, which was in large meas- ure a struggle for leadership of the Whigs, and which featured both Clay’s May 1821 prorecognition speech in Lexington, Kentucky, and Adams’s scorching 4th of July response. In the case of the Panama conference, the disputes were over two domestic issues: slavery (the Panama agenda in- cluded consideration of the recognition of Haiti) and the Adams—Clay “theft” of the White House. In the end, neither the advocates of slavery nor the angry Iacksonians could prevent U.S. participation, but they made Adams and Clay regret ever proposing to send a delegation.32 The Panama Congress convenedless than two months after Congress granted its approval. One of the two U.S. delegates, Richard Anderson (the U.S. minister to Colombia), became ill on the Magdalena River and died in Cartagena; fearing the same tropical fever, the other never left the United States. That was probably a wise decision, for at the time Panama was a public health horror, with delegates succumbing to the black vomit, which was both fatal to the victim and disagreeable to behold. The Congress met Encountering Latin America 13 _____—____—____,______f——-——’—— only briefly, then adjourned to resume deliberations in early 1827 in Tacu- baya, outside Mexico City.33 Two U.S. envoys were present, but unstable political conditions in other participant nations kept the Congress from assembling. By this time, Secretary of State Clay exhibited little of his early enthusi- asm for Latin America, his ardor tempered by the reports he received from the region. Typical were the despatches of Heman Allen, the first U.S. minister to Chile, all of which stressed a single theme: “in her advance towards civilization, she is thought by many, to have actually retrograded in her march.”34 Other descriptions were equally bleak. Beaufort Watts lik- ened the typical Colombian to “an obedient animal that fawns when chas— tised”; and from Lima, Consul William Tudor evaluated the Liberator, Simén Bolivar, as “ardent, vehement, arrogant; his passions uncontrollable 8r restrained by no principle public or private: 8r with frequent sallies of frankness or rather indiscretion, he is capable of the most profound, sol- emn hypocrisy. He considers words as conveying no obligation, but wholly subordinate in whatever shape or profession to promoting his designs.” One 1827 despatch from Heman Allen’s successor in Chile captured per— fectly the general picture reaching Washington: “the situation of the new States is much less promising than it was some years back . . . freedom will, I fear, be, for a season, merged in anarchy, despotism and military rules.”35 Confronted by these assessments from every corner of the region, Henry Clay’s early enthusiasm for Latin American independence did more than decline; it vanished. The Spanish had been expelled, the threatened en- croachment by other European powers had subsided, and U.S. commercial interests were as secure as could be expected. Since there seemed little to be gained by giving much attention to the region, Clay simply notified U.S. representatives that “all expressions of contempt for their habits, civil or religious, all intimations of incompetency on the part of their population, for self Government, should be sedulously avoided,”36 and with that he closed the first chapter in the history of United States policy toward Latin America. ...
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SchoultzEncounteringLA1998Pt1 - Beneath the United States A...

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