Read this article to learn about the status of ‘Latin America’ during the two World Wars!
Most of the countries of Latin America continued to have regimes dominated by big landlords and the army.
However, in almost every country, democratic and left-wing political movements and workers’ and peasants’ organisations gained in strength.
In most Latin American countries, communist parties were also formed during this period. There was a popular uprising led by Augusto Cesar Sandino against the puppet government in Nicaragua, which had been installed with the help of the US troops.
The uprising continued for many years and, in 1933, the US troops were withdrawn. However, Sandino was assassinated and power was captured by Anastasio Somoza, who established his dictatorship in Nicaragua.
The popular uprising led by Sandino had won the sympathy and support of people in all Latin American countries and, because of this, the US policy of sending troops to intervene in the internal affairs of Latin American countries had changed.
The economic crisis of 1929 had affected the economy of all Latin American countries. Most of the economies were heavily dependent on exports and they faced a serious crisis when USA and other countries imposed severe restrictions on imports.
This resulted in a vast increase in the number of unemployed in industry. The impact on the people engaged in agriculture was even worse, and they constituted an overwhelming majority of the population in these countries.
Significant developments took place in Mexico during the inter-war period. Mexico had been one of the first countries in Latin America to assert her independence from the US as well as to adopt social and economic policies in the interests of the peasants.
She was the first country in the Americas to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Between 1934 and 1940, Lazaro Cardenas was the president of Mexico. He introduced many radical steps to end the power of big landowners and to build up the economy. Many landed estates were confiscated and lands distributed to the peasants.
Initially he nationalised the railways along with some other industries, but later the entire petroleum industry, which had been owned by the British and American oil companies, was nationalised. The nationalisation of the petroleum industry had a far-reaching significance as it meant an assertion by the people of their right over the wealth and resources of their country. In course of time, the example of Mexico was followed by many other Latin American countries.
Changes in US Policy:
A major feature of this period was the assertion by the Latin American countries of their independence from foreign interference as well as their independent role in world affairs. This was the major objective behind their joining the League of Nations.
An ail-American Anti- Imperialist League was formed, and its representatives attended the Brussels Conference in 1927 where the League against Imperialism was set up. All Latin American countries were united in their opposition to the US domination of the Pan-American Union which had been set up on US initiative.
They also opposed the claims by the US of her right to interfere in the affairs of other countries in the Americas. At a conference of the Pan-American Union in-1933, the US had to formally affirm its support to the declaration, with the statement that “no state has the right to interfere in the internal or foreign affairs of another”.
There were some important changes in the US policy towards Latin America. From the 1920s, she relied more on what is called ‘dollar diplomacy’ by increasing investments in Latin American countries and controlling their economy rather than on direct military interference.
The US policy towards Latin American countries during the period of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency is described as the “Good Neighbour Policy”. In some respects, the changes in policy were significant. The US annulled what is known as the Piatt Amendment which gave her the self-assumed right to send troops to Cuba.
The US withdrew her troops from Nicaragua and Panama, but kept some troops in the Panama Canal Zone which continued to remain under US control. These steps, however, did not end the hegemony of the US over Latin America, and the policy of non-interference was not adhered to in the subsequent years.
After the rise of fascism in Europe, fascist groups and parties began to be set up in some Latin American countries, some of whom had many immigrants from Germany,-Italy and Spain. The peoples of Latin America were awakened to the danger of fascism, and efforts were made to set up united fronts to curb the activities of fascist groups and parties, and the aggressive acts of fascist countries and Japan were condemned.
Mexico consistently followed an anti-fascist policy. She condemned the Japanese aggression in Manchuria, the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia, and Germany’s annexation of Austria, She also provided shelter to thousands of Spanish Republicans who had to leave their country after Franco, with Italian and German support, had destroyed the Spanish Republic.