Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Alliance for Progress" Still a Noble Goal in Latin America

By Robert Valencia

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy mapped out a plan for Latin America, called the Alliance for Progress. It was meant, originally, to foster development and strengthen diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the rest of the Americas for ten years. Signed in Uruguay’s Punta Del Este at an inter-American conference, the $22.3 billion plan sought to eliminate adult illiteracy, enhance price stability, and ensure the establishment of democratic governments.

While largely forgotten in the U.S., the Alliance for Progress had a lasting impact in Latin American countries, and though it failed to meet Kennedy’s lofty goals, the Alliance embodies a vision of social justice that should point the way for U.S.-Latin America relations today. Instead, the U.S.’s futile attempts to fight a global war on drugs is shifting the focus away from the ideals of democracy and widespread economic growth—much like the U.S. obsession with Communism veered the U.S. off course in the 1960s.

The Alliance didn’t transform Latin America the way Kennedy had hoped. Today, Latin American health systems cannot handle the rapid population growth; farmers struggle with land right violations, and weak minimum wage laws have led to low-paying jobs. But the Alliance did help expand education to disadvantaged communities; nine countries (including Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s largest economies) saw their GDP grow by 2.6 percent (0.1 percentage point higher than the 2.5 percent established by the Alliance) during the decade the agreement was in effect and, thanks to the Alliance, local initiatives provided more affordable housing and access to financial institutions.

Case in point: Ciudad Kennedy, one of the largest neighborhoods in Bogotá, Colombia was founded when President Kennedy visited the South American nation in 1961. Other projects such as hospitals, highways, and electrical grids were built in Venezuela and other South American countries while Peace Corps programs—also launched fifty years ago—were implemented all over the region.

Early on though, the Alliance’s good intentions were overshadowed by a fear of communism. With the Kennedy administration dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, people in the U.S. began to see the policy as an interventionist move rather than a pan-regional New Deal. As a result, the U.S. supported military dictatorships like the regime that ruled in Brazil from 1960-1985 and instituted an ineffective embargo on Cuba that is still in effect today.

Read more about this original publication here

No comments: