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M. Morrison

“Legal” Intervention in Latin America

(31 March 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 13, 31 March 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What has become known as the “Act of Chapultepec” is considered the major achievement of the Inter-American Conference held recently in Mexico City. The masses of the Latin American countries can with justification feel disquieted about this achievement. Through it the door has been opened for the apparently “legal” intervention by American imperialism in the affairs of Latin American countries.

For the representatives of twenty American republics meeting in Mexico City to deal “with problems of war and peace” accepted a proposition which obligates these governments to guarantee the territorial integrity and the political independence of every country signing the Act of Chapultepec. In case of a threat to any of the nations that sent representatives to the conference, either by an American or non-American aggressor, all the others promise to consult, to agree on measures to be taken against the aggressor, and to use force if necessary to prevent or repel aggression.

For the duration of the war any intervention under the Act of Chapultepec is to take place only if the aggression interferes with the “war effort.” After the war a treaty is to be drafted to be presented to the United States Senate for ratification providing for the same guarantees but without the necessity of justifying any intervention because of interference with the war effort. This distinction was made to avoid any conflict between the Roosevelt administration and the Senate.

* * *

By signing the declaration the Latin American republics have given up a tradition in existence for many decades – the tradition of opposition to any interference by the United States in their internal or external affairs. In 1933 at the conference held in Lima these republics insisted on a statement that “the intervention of any state in the internal or external affairs of another is inadmissible.” This statement was aimed at American imperialism. Roosevelt agreed to it because he had decided to introduce the “good neighbor policy” and to use the silk glove instead of the mailed fist in order to guard the supremacy of American imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.

When one takes into consideration the fact that the only power that is really capable of using force to prevent “aggression” against any Latin American republic is the United States, it becomes clear that the representatives of the Latin American republics have permitted a loophole which the imperialists of this country may utilize as a legal cover for any future intervention.

It may be true, as is claimed, that fear of a possible attack by Argentina against its weak neighbors is the factor that led some of the Latin American representatives to introduce the proposal embodied in the Act of Chapultepec. But to depend upon U.S. imperialism to defend the territorial integrity and political independence of any Latin American country is a sign of imbecility or a conscious betrayal of the masses of the Latin American countries. One might as well depend upon the tiger for defense against the wolf.

At present it is the military-police dictatorship of Argentina that has aroused the displeasure of the United States Government. All other Latin American republics have willingly exchanged their independence of action for economic help from the rich uncle. It happens that Argentina is not so dependent upon help from this country. It is in fact a competitor of the United States on the world market for meat and grain products. Behind Argentina are the British imperialists who are deriving great satisfaction from the Argentina-United States controversy.

Will Scrap Treaties

But it will not always be a reactionary government that will oppose the dictates of the American imperialists. On the contrary, the more democratic and progressive a government of any Latin American country is, the more likely is it to come in conflict with the colossus of the north.

It must be recognized of course that the imperialists of this country will not, in the last analysis, be guided by provisions in any agreement or treaty. If and when they think that intervention on their part is necessary to protect their interests, they will do so with or without any provisions in any treaty. But under no circumstances should U.S. imperialism be furnished with a “legal” pretext by the very countries who ought to oppose intervention under any circumstances. The masses of Latin America must defend themselves against the dictatorships of Argentina and other South American countries but they must never rely on the American imperialists.

* * *

If the Act of Chapultepec received the lion’s share of attention at the conference, the economic problems facing the Latin American countries gave the representatives of those countries the greatest worry. What will the capitalists of the United States and their government do to help the Latin American countries economically after the war? For the present the Latin American governments depend for their economic stability upon the contracts for the sale of raw material to the United States. Should the United States cease its purchases it would result in economic breakdown and possible revolutionary upheavals.

Socialist Latin America

What the Latin American representatives received from the representatives of the United States were some declarations on the necessity of a higher standard of living and of encouragement for private investments. The Latin American politicians were not greatly interested in empty declarations. The best they could get, however, was a promise that the contracts for the purchase of raw material would be canceled only after due notice.

Undoubtedly United States imperialism will try to keep the Latin American governments satisfied. But the fundamental contradiction between American imperialism anxious to make profits out of its investments in Latin America and the welfare of the Latin American masses cannot possibly be solved. The industrialization of Latin America, the raising of the standard of living for the masses, the complete independence of the Latin American republics are problems that cannot be solved with the aid of American imperialism. They can be solved only by a Socialist Latin America with the aid of a Socialist United States.

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