President Obama meets Tuesday with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos — the first Latin American leader to visit the White House since Secretary of State John F. Kerry declared the death of the Monroe Doctrine.
Monday marked the 190th anniversary of the declaration by President James Monroe, who warned 19th century European powers to stay out of the Western Hemisphere or face U.S. retaliation.
“The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over … That’s worth applauding. That’s not a bad thing,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech to the Organization of American States two weeks ago, adding that the United States wants to create a Western Hemisphere partnership of “equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues.”
His announcement prompted some analysts to conclude that Mr. Obama is retreating from Latin America as critics say he has done in other key regions of the world.
Jaime Daremblum, a former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, saw Mr. Kerry’s statement as another U.S. apology in foreign affairs.
Mr. Kerry “was effectively apologizing for decades of U.S. foreign policy,” Mr. Daremblum, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute, wrote last week. “He was also indicating that the Obama administration is uncomfortable with strong U.S. leadership in Latin America. In that sense, his speech conveyed the wrong signals both to U.S. partners and to U.S. adversaries.”
Even a Russian think tank that fulminates against what it still sees as U.S. imperialism was dissatisfied with the Kerry speech.
“The U.S. has shelved the Monroe Doctrine, but it has not given up pressuring Latin American countries or conducting complex operations to destabilize them,” said Nil Nikandrov of the Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation. He complained that Mr. Kerry criticized Cuba and Venezuela in his speech.
Monroe, America’s fifth president, signed what later became known as the Monroe Doctrine on Dec. 2, 1823. He warned European powers against trying to reassert their colonial empires in Latin America at a time when many countries in Central and South America had won independence from Portugal or Spain.
However, European powers began looking for new opportunities to re-establish empires in the Western Hemisphere after the Napoleonic wars.
James M. Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations noted that the doctrine was a gigantic bluff by a weak United States that lacked a navy to enforce its anti-colonial declaration.
Britain, which had established trade ties in Latin America, originally approached Monroe to form a joint venture to keep the other Europeans out of the hemisphere. But Monroe’s secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, persuaded the president to reject Britain’s offer and issue a unilateral doctrine.
“European leaders reacted in fury at the audacity of the Americans,” Mr. Lindsay wrote Monday.
Britain assumed the role of unofficial partner of the United States and provided the naval muscle to enforce the doctrine.
The Monroe Doctrine was “born as a bluff based on shrewd diplomatic analysis,” Mr. Lindsay wrote.