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'Approaches to the Americas'

April 13, 1986

The Fuentes article accurately points out that the political choice for the United States should be between the contras and the governments of Latin America. He also wondered how Roosevelt or Kennedy would have handled the problem.

An answer is to look at what Roosevelt did when the world was faced with the menace of Hitler's Germany. When Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933 he was faced with a hostile group of nations that stretched from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn, a result of our repeated interventions in their affairs. The United States had intervened in Latin America more than 60 times before 1933 and the U.S. Marines were in Haiti when Roosevelt assumed office. Under Secretary of State Sumner Wells remarked in 1935 that the "effect of these interventions was to arouse widespread and bitter resentment against the United States."

Roosevelt's highly successful Good Neighbor policy was based upon non-intervention treaties, which bound all of the American nations to refrain from direct or indirect intervention for whatever reason in the external or internal affairs of any other nation. Accordingly, he removed the Marines from Haiti, and relinquished our treaty right to intervene in Cuba.

The Foreign Ministers Conference was created for the precise purpose of allowing the American nations to meet on short notice to discuss and solve problems involving the welfare or security of any one of the nations.

These devices were used very successfully during World War II to achieve a high degree of cooperation with the Latin American nations and against the Axis nations. Chile and Argentina dragged their feet for awhile, but both eventually declared war on German and Japan. This would not have been possible if Roosevelt had not accepted the non-intervention treaties and had not consulted with the Latin Americans frequently to form a united continental policy.

The machinery formulated during Roosevelt's lifetime still exists, as well as the Organization of American States, created in 1948, which provides additional tools to solve continental problems.

Reagan is apparently ignorant of this historical background or is unwilling to use any of the numerous agencies now in existence to deal with such problems as exist in Nicaragua. Instead, he has chosen, against the will of the Latin American countries, to use force that could easily lead to our armed intervention, and alienate all of Latin America.

Reagan's policy seems destined to follow the same dismal path that occurred from 1912 until 1933 when the Marines were in Nicaragua (except for a brief withdrawal in 1925), and which produced nothing but hatred, not only in Nicaragua, but also throughout the Latin American nations. He gives no more than lip service to the efforts of the Contadora nations, and ignores all of the existing mechanisms of the Organization of American States that were created to handle such problems.



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