America’s Back Yard

“Mucra Nixon, Mucra Nixon!”-Death to Nixon!

A barricade blocked the road. The car rocked wildly as the chanting mob tried to overturn it. Rocks and iron bars thudded against its roof and shattered its windows. Inside the car Richard Nixon, Vice President of the United States, was in great danger.

It was May 13, 1958, in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Nixon was visiting the city as part of a goodwill tour of Latin America. But he found only hatred on the streets of Caracas. Nixon’s life was saved when a truck forced a way through the barricade and his car was able to accelerate away. When news of the attack reached the United States the American people were shocked and angry. But it made them realize how much some Latin Americans hated and resented their country.


Latin America is the name given to the mainly Spanish-speaking countries which lie to the south of the United States. Ever since the early nineteenth century the United States has taken a special interest in what happens in these countries. They arc its closest neighbors and so it is important to the safety of the United States to make sure that no foreign enemies gain influence in them.

In the past this has often meant that the rulers of these Latin American countries have been little more than American puppets. Their agriculture and industry have frequently been American-controlled, too. A classic example was Cuba. Up to the 1950s its railroads, banks, electricity industry and many of its biggest farms were all American-owned.

In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt promised that the United States would respect the right of Latin American countries to control their own affairs. He called this the “good neighbor” policy. “I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor,” he said, “the neighbor who respects the rights of others.”

Roosevelt ordered home the American soldiers and officials who had been running the affairs of Latin American countries at one time or another for much of the past thirty years. Nicaragua, for example, had been occupied by American troops from 1912 to 1933. He also gave up the United States’ claim to interfere in Panama and Cuba whenever it wanted.

But many Latin Americans were not convinced by Roosevelt’s talk about being a good neighbor. True, the American troops had gone home. But the rulers who took over when the soldiers left – the Somoza family, who held power in Nicaragua from 1937 to 1979, for example-usually did what the Americans expected of them.

і he Second World War brought better times for Latin America. All the raw materials that it could produce-copper, tin, oil and countless others-were used by the wartime factories of the United States. The result was more money and more jobs-but also even more American control.

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:17 pm