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United States-Latin American Relations in the 1950s
In 1958 I was in 7th grade, by then the Korean police action had reached a stalemate, and Vietnam was not a major issue yet. On what must have been a slow day at the White House, President Dwight Eisenhower decided to send his vice president, Richard Nixon, on a good-will tour to Latin America. This became a day of woe for Nixon.
http://www.history.com offers several salient points about this ill-fated trip.
In Peru and Ecuador, protestors accosted Nixon over America’s policy of giving military support to political coups in Central America. The Venezuelan government and the American embassy in Caracas had warned Eisenhower earlier not to send Nixon to Venezuela, where anti-American sentiment ran particularly high …
We were warned that we were not welcome in certain circles. Most regions of the world view the United States as a country on steroids. They are not kneeling around praying that the U.S. will
invade visit them and sow peace and prosperity throughout their land. Latin America is one such region. In Caracas Nixon almost suffered physical harm.
With only 12 Secret Service agents for protection, his motorcade encountered hundreds of angry protestors who spit on his car, smashed its windows and rocked it from side to side, threatening to turn it over while chanting Death to Nixon! and Nixon Go Home!
Predictable U.S. Response
When Eisenhower received word of Nixon’s ordeal, he ordered a U.S. naval squadron to the Venezuelan coast … However, Nixon was able to fly out of the Caracas airport without incident the next day. He arrived at the Washington airport to the cheers of 15,000 well-wishers, including Eisenhower and his cabinet members.
So I guess Nixon was a hero for going somewhere he wasn’t welcome. I wonder for what those 15.000 cheering people were wishing him well. There was no diplomacy, no hearty handshakes, no “Vive de largo el vicepresidente!” Instead, he heard “Muerte a Nixon” and “Nixon, va a casa.” Frightening in any language.
Peace Among Americas
Funny how North America–the United States and Canada–remain at peace with Latin, Central, and South America, Cuba being the half-century exception. Oh, Venezuela grumbles every now and then, but our differences do not come to blows. Our key strategic interest in Central America is the Panama Canal. And we have a favorable balance of trade with most of the countries that make up the Americas. Maybe we can learn from countries in our own hemisphere that peace=trade, trade=work, more workers=fewer soldiers, fewer soldiers=less war, more peace=more trade …
Perhaps instead of trying to bomb our way to peace in predominantly Muslim countries we could learn from our own Americas Model. I think it is time to take aggression off the table as our first response to differences we have with other nations. We can do this.