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Alliance for Progress

ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESS

ALLIANCE FOR PROGRESS. Early in John F. Kennedy's presidential term—but not sufficiently early for critics worried by the specter of communism in Latin America, Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution in Cuba, and the growing popularity among Brazil's landless of the Peasant Leagues movement headed by Francisco Julião—the president, at a White House reception for the Latin American diplomatic corps on 13 March 1961, proposed an alliance for progress in the Western Hemisphere. Based in principle on the successful Marshall Plan that rescued western Europe after World War II, Kennedy's proposal called for a concentrated joint effort to accelerate the economic and social development of Latin America within a democratic political framework. "Those who make democracy impossible," Kennedy said, "will make revolution inevitable."

The alliance speech was a powerful political statement marking a definite shift in U.S. policy that began in the late 1950s, at least partially in response to the growing revolutionary activity epitomized by Castro's overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. The speech, the Kennedy personality, and the positive response of popular Latin American leaders combined to produce a remarkable mass psychological impact throughout the hemisphere. Its immediate effect was to improve dramatically the political relations between the United States and Latin America, especially with the "democratic left." The speech electrified the masses and gave encouragement to progressive political and intellectual forces within Latin America, but it also engendered bitterness and obdurate opposition among those who, for selfish or ideological reasons, resisted strongly if not always publicly the fundamental changes called for.

Between 1961 and 1969, public economic assistance to the Latin American countries in the form of grants and loans from all external sources was about $18 billion, of which about $10 billion came directly from official U.S. sources. However, on a net basis, that is, after taking account of loan repayments and interest, official U.S. direct aid is estimated to have been about $4.8 billion in the same period. This relatively small net transfer of official capital is explained by the fact that public indebtedness in Latin America in 1960 was more than $10 billion, the servicing of which diverted resources away from new investment.

Although profound changes in the economic, social, and political structures in Latin America began to take place in 1961 under the impetus of the alliance, a variety of forces within Latin America and a major shift in U.S. energies and resources associated with the Vietnam War drained the alliance effort of its vitality. These factors, combined with the intrinsic difficulty of bringing about radical social change within a free and democratic framework, resulted in a failure to meet early expectations concerning performance. Depending on the site, some or most of the food supplies from the United States, for example, surplus powdered milk and eggs, cheese, tinned beef, and flour, found their way into private hands and were sold for profit.

Some Alliance for Progress projects were seen as arrogant, impractical, or both. Latin American educators, who traditionally preferred European models, resented being told by well-meaning American advisers that the U.S. system of middle and high schools should replace the more rigorous but less democratic Latin American school system. The Alliance for Progress spent millions of dollars to build communities of tract houses so working-class families could take out mortgages on the little houses and therefore become property owners. But the project overlooked the fact that these housing tracts were located so far from the city center, where the heads of families worked, that most residents abandoned the new housing as soon as they could to move closer to their work.

President Lyndon B. Johnson kept the Alliance for Progress alive, but President Richard M. Nixon ended it, substituting a new agency, Action for Progress. Like the dollar diplomacy advocates of the 1920s and 1930s, Nixon's approach argued that "prosperity makes contentment and contentment means repose." But all of these programs, including the Alliance for Progress, differed fundamentally from dollar diplomacy. Rather than relying on Wall Street bankers to bring repose to Latin America with loans, American taxpayers provided the money, most of it in concessional terms.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berger, Mark T. Under Northern Eyes: Latin American Studies and U.S. Hegemony in the Americas, 1898–1990. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Schoultz, Lars. Beneath the United States: A History of U. S. Policy Toward Latin America. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Ralph A.Dungan

Robert M.Levine

See alsoDollar Diplomacy ; Latin America, Relations with ; Marshall Plan .

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Alliance for Progress

Alliance for Progress, Span. Alianza para el Progreso, U.S. assistance program for Latin America begun in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It was created principally to counter the appeal of revolutionary politics, such as those adopted in Cuba (see Fidel Castro). It called for vast multilateral programs to relieve the continent's poverty and social inequities and ultimately included U.S. programs of military and police assistance to counter Communist subversion. The charter of the alliance, formulated at an inter-American conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay, in Aug., 1961, called for an annual increase of 2.5% in per capita income, the establishment of democratic governments, more equitable income distribution, land reform, and economic and social planning. Latin American countries (excluding Cuba) pledged a capital investment of $80 billion over 10 years. The United States agreed to supply or guarantee $20 billion. By the late 1960s, however, the United States had become preoccupied with the Vietnam War, and commitments to Latin America were reduced. Moreover, most Latin American nations were unwilling to implement needed reforms. The Organization of American States disbanded the permanent committee created to implement the alliance in 1973.

See A. F. Lowenthal, ed., Exporting Democracy: The United States and Latin America (1991).

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