Drago Doctrine

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Drago Doctrine

Drago Doctrine, a principle of international law that rejects the right of a country to use military force against another country to collect debts. The doctrine was first enunciated on 29 December 1902 by Luis María Drago, Argentina's minister of foreign affairs, in a letter to the Argentine minister in Washington, D.C., in response to the naval blockade imposed on Venezuela by Germany, Great Britain, and Italy for the purpose of collecting debts incurred by the Venezuelan government with nationals of those countries.

Although based on the Calvo Doctrine, the Drago Doctrine goes further by rejecting the right of intervention and specifying that economic claims give no legal right to intervene militarily in another country. The Calvo Doctrine says, in essence, that investors have to accept the jurisdiction of the host country's laws and should not appeal to their own governments in case of any conflict in the enforcement of a contract. The Drago Doctrine stipulates that a nation, although it is legally bound to pay its debts, cannot be forced to do so.

The doctrine was innovative because it rejected categorically the right of military intervention or occupation of a country for the purpose of collecting debts. At the time, however, European powers were intervening and carving out empires everywhere and the United States had also joined the club of colonial powers after the Spanish-American War, and thus the doctrine was not readily accepted as a principle of international law. At the Second Hague Conference (1907) a toned-down form of the doctrine was adopted. The resolution declared illegal an intervention for the collection of debts, provided that the nation in question had accepted arbitration and the decisions adopted in that arbitration. Drago explained his doctrine extensively in two of his books: La República Argentina y el caso de Venezuela (1903) and Cobro coercitivo de deudas públicas (1906).

The general doctrine rejecting military force to collect debts seems to have become an accepted principle. After World War II, international institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) arranged emergency loans when a country defaulted on its obligations. Even when Argentina defaulted on its foreign loans in 2001 and could not work out an agreement with international agencies, lenders had to resort to courts and arbitration to get any of their investments back.

See alsoCalvo Doctrine; Drago, Luis María; International Monetary Fund (IMF); World Bank.


Alfredo N. Vivot, La Doctrina Drago (1911).

Victorino Jiménez y Núñez, La Doctrina Drago y la política internacional (1927).

Edwin M. Borchard, "Calvo and Drago Doctrines," in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, vol. 3 (1930).

Isidro Fabela, Las doctrinas Monroe y Drago (1957).

Additional Bibliography

Drake, Paul W., ed. Money Doctors, Foreign Debts, and Economic Reforms in Latin America from the 1890s to the Present. Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 1994.

Lozada, Martín, and Lista, Guillermo. "Deuda externa y soberanía del estado deudor: Reflexiones en ocasión del centenario de la Doctrina Drago." Realidad Económica 192 (November-December 2002), 25-36.

Marichal, Carlos. A Century of Debt Crises in Latin America: From Independence to the Great Depression, 1820–1930. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

                                        Juan Manuel PÉrez