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News > World

Monroe Doctrine's Shadow Outshines the Summit of the Americas

  • President Joe Biden, Washington, D.C., U.S., 2022.

    President Joe Biden, Washington, D.C., U.S., 2022. | Photo: Twitter/ @RobertSeghi

Published 1 June 2022

As Friday June 6 approaches, President Biden's foreign policy is also coming toward a major failure as a result of its refusal to invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

For months now, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Bolivia's President Luis Arce, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and other Latin American leaders have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the 2022 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles if the U.S. insists on excluding Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.


PM Gonsalves Urges CARICOM States Not To Attend US-Led Summit

Their stance reflects regional opposition to keeping those countries out of the summit, but this is not the first time Washington has tried to impose its will on the entire American continent. In the nearly 200 years since the United States adopted the so-called Monroe Doctrine in 1823, U.S. atrocities in Latin America have overshadowed bilateral relations.


The history of the U.S. development is also a story of Latin American resistance marked with blood and tears. After its founding, which entailed dispossessing North American Indians of their own land, the U.S. embarked on a policy of expansion against Mexico.

Through war, the United States appropriated half of Mexico's territory, including all or part of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming. Mexico lost significant mineral resources, impacting its economic development.

At the end of the 19th century, the U.S. launched another offensive, taking possession of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea through the Spanish-American War, and occupying Cuba.

At the turn of the 20th century, frequent U.S. military aggressions in Latin America gradually brought regional countries into its sphere of influence. In 1903, the U.S. forcibly leased Guantanamo, turning it into the first U.S. military base abroad. To this day, Washington refuses to return this port to Cuba.

In 1915, Washington sent troops to occupy Haiti under the guise of "protecting the diaspora" from local unrest. It did not withdraw until 1934. The United States occupied the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924 to collect debts contracted by Dominican governments. U.S. troops again swarmed the island in 1965, when civil war in the Dominican Republic toppled the pro-American government, and Washington sent some 40,000 soldiers to "restore order."

In 1989, the U.S. sent elite troops to invade Panama under the guise of "protecting the lives and property of American citizens," overthrowing the military government and attempting to attain permanent control of the Panama Canal.


In 1904, American writer O. Henry used his experience in Honduras to write his novel "Cabbages and Kings," in which he exposed the ruthless plunder of U.S. monopolies in Central America and the Caribbean, and coined the term "banana republic," referring to countries under the control of Washington, and whose economies invariably depended on a single crop.

By 1930, the United Fruit Company controlled around 1.4 million hectares of land in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama and over 2,400 kilometers of railways, as well as the countries' customs, telecommunications and other essential services.

In 1947 alone, U.S. business accounted for as much as 38 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Honduras, 22.7 percent in Guatemala, 16.5 percent in Costa Rica, and 12.3 percent in Panama. Exploited and looted by Washington, these countries have become its economic vassals as suppliers of raw materials and dumping grounds for U.S.-made basic goods, with economies that lag far behind.

In addition, Washington imposed and continues to impose indiscriminate sanctions and tariffs on several Latin American countries, further restricting the region's economic development. In 1962, the U.S. launched a trade embargo against Cuba that grew into a full-on blockade of the island nation, leading to over US$150 billion in economic losses as of mid-2021.

"The blockade suffocates our economy, causes shortages, hinders development and constitutes the greatest violation of Cubans' rights," said the island's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

Venezuela has also suffered from the impact of over 430 sanctions imposed since 2015 by the United States and its allies, with losses to its economy of more than US$130 billion. The sanctions have caused a 99 percent drop in Venezuela's revenues, and negatively impacted all social, and economic spheres.


Entering the 21st century, as Latin American countries recovered from recurring political and economic crises, their relationship with Washington began to be characterized by contradictions and conflicts.

In 2011, the region's 33 countries established the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the first regional organization in the Americas to forgo the participation of the U.S. and Canada. Faced with the continuing decline of its influence, the United States was forced to adjust its policy towards Latin America.

"The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over," then Secretary of State John Kerry declared in 2013 at the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), announcing the dawn of a new era of "common interests and values" between the United States and the region.

But that doesn't paint a true picture. Uncle Sam's shadow still lurks behind many Latin American political developments, said Adalberto Santana of the Center for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at Mexico's National Autonomous University.

Washington's fingerprints are all over the 2009 military coup in Honduras, the ouster of Paraguay's Fernando Lugo in 2012 and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff in 2016, and the forced resignation of Bolivia's Evo Morales in 2019.

"For the last 200 years our country has operated under the Monroe Doctrine, embracing the premise that as the dominant power in the Western hemisphere, the United States has the right to intervene in any country that might threaten our alleged interests. Under this doctrine we have undermined and overthrown at least a dozen governments," said Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders in February.

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States, then the global epicenter of the pandemic, summarily deported undocumented Central American migrants without the usual safeguards, increasing the risk of spreading disease in countries with fragile healthcare systems.

What's more, in response to Latin American countries' reasonable demands for help to tackle the pandemic, the United States chose to ignore them or even block their cooperation with countries outside the region, falsely alleging "debt traps" or "neocolonialism," politicizing a healthcare issue and forcing them to take sides at the expense of their own development.

The United States fails to see that Latin America and the Caribbean have changed and the Monroe Doctrine can no longer be reinstated, said Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

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