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The United States and the Development of Latin America

             has played in the development and evolution of Latin American States differs markedly depending upon which of two time periods is under consideration: the first period dates from the issuance of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 through to shortly after WWII (to roughly the early 1960's), and the second period begins in the early 1960's and continues to the present. During the first period the U.S. contributed to many of the factors-racial and class divisions, weak central governments, poor state administration, the absence of nationalistic fervor within the populations, export oriented economies, the absence of strong state institutions-that precluded formation of strong states consistent with Miguel Angel Centeno's theses in his work Blood and Debt: War and the Nation-State in Latin America (2002)1. During the second period the U.S. adopted a more enlightened approach that involved much lower levels of intervention, either overt or covert, and social and economic policies that favored evolution and development of strong, democratic states and economies.
             In his "Blood and Debt," Centeno posits that Latin American states are "weak" in comparison to North American (U.S. and Canadian) and European states for a number of reasons, but mostly because pre-existing conditions in Latin American countries limited their capacities to wage the types of "total wars" that would have required and led to the development of effective government administration, strong state institutions, a sense of nationalism and unity of purpose within the public, and development of internal infrastructure and industry, all of which, Centeno argues, would have helped to build strong states. "Total wars" would have catalyzed development of strong states, but given the pre-existing limitations of Latin American states, they could not wage such wars, focusing instead on limited wars directed largely at internal foes-civil wars, if you will-that provided few of the state-building benefits of total wars.

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