Protection or Interference?
Amid the various
Latin American independence movements
in the early 1800s, the United States issued the
Doctrine in 1823. This stated that any attempt by a European power
reassert control over a rebellious colony in South
America would be viewed as a threat to the United States
which had only recently won its independence from Great
Britain. While the U.S. did not have the military prowess
necessary to repel Spain or Portugal in 1823, Great Britain
was only too pleased to lend its support in order to gain
access to the lucrative South American markets that it had
been denied under mercantilism.
While the Monroe Doctrine may have seemed to protect the
young nations being created in South America in the 1800s, it
also set a precedent for U.S. interference in the region.
After winning the
War in 1898, the
U.S. gained control of Spanish colonial possessions in Asia
and South America. While Cuba and Puerto Rico were soon given
a measure of autonomy, the U.S. still reserved the right to
intervene in their affairs when it best suited the national
interests of the United States.
As President of the United States,
issued an extension to the Monroe Doctrine that essentially
stated that only the U.S. would be allowed to intervene in
South America. With European nations trying to collect on bad
debts in South American nations, the U.S. actually took over
trade in areas in order to provide prompt payment to their
A canal corridor between the Caribbean Sea and the
Pacific Ocean served the national interests of the United
States. The U.S. went so far as to provide aid to the
rebelling province of Panama in its bid for independence from
Colombia. In exchange, the U.S. was able to dig, maintain, and
control access through the canal until 1999 when its lease
expired, requiring its return to the Panama government.