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America’s Backyard: The United States and Latin America from the Monroe Doctrine to the War on Terror



About the Book

The United States has shaped Latin American history, condemning it to poverty and inequality by intervening to protect the rich and powerful. America’s Backyard tells the story of that intervention.

Using newly-declassified documents, Grace Livingstone, reveals the US role in the darkest periods of Latin American history including Pinochet’s coup in Chile, the Contra War in Nicaragua and the death squads in El Salvador. She shows how George W Bush’s administration used the War on Terror as a new pretext for intervention; how it tried to destabilise leftwing governments and push back the ‘pink tide’ washing across the Americas. America’s Backyard also has chapters on drugs, economy and culture. It explains why US drug policy has caused widespread environmental damage, yet failed to reduce the supply of cocaine and looks at the US economic stake in Latin America and the strategies of the big corporations.

Today Latin Americans are demanding respect and an end to the Washington Consensus. Will the White House listen?


‘Grace Livingstone’s admirable study shows why US policy towards Latin America needs to change both urgently and substantially. Packed with telling information and written with both verve and attention to detail, this book addresses the key issues in a perennially uneven and generally unjust relationship. Readers coming to the theme for the first time will benefit from a lucid synthesis of the voluminous literature in the field, whilst those more familiar with Pan-American affairs will find much useful material and discussion on developments in recent years.’ – James Dunkerley, professor of Latin American politics, former director of the Institute of the Americas, University of London

‘A useful and timely account of US strategy towards Latin America over the past half century, revealing its intrinsic weaknesses and the profound ignorance and prejudice of US policymakers. Grace Livingstone’s book covers wide ground in an original and compelling narrative.’ – Richard Gott, author of Cuba: A New History.

‘The US in Latin America – good neighbour or big bad wolf? Grace Livingstone sets aside the pious euphemisms of a past age and shows it has been much more the latter than the former. She also shows how US hegemony is draining away as the republics start forging their own destiny at last.’ – Hugh O’Shaughnessy, journalist and broadcaster, author of ‘Pinochet: the politics of torture’ 


Part 1: The History of US Intervention in Latin America

1. Introductory Overview of US-Latin American Relations

2. The Monroe Doctrine to Second World War 1823-1945

3. The Cold War: the Guatemalan coup and the Cuban Revolution 1945-1961

4. Alliance for Progress and the military governments of the 1960s

5. Coup in Chile 1973

6. Reagan and the Central American Tragedy 1979-1996

7. The end of the Cold War: Bush to Clinton 1989-2001


Part 2: The United States and Latin America Today

8. George Bush and the War on Terror

9. Why US Drugs Policy Doesn’t Work

10. The Economy: Money, Multinationals and Misery

11. Culture: Coca-Coca, Cartoons and Caricatures

12. Conclusion




About the Author

Grace Livingstone is a journalist specialising in Latin American affairs. She was a reporter for The Guardian in Venezuela and has also worked for the BBC World Service and written for The Observer, The New Statesman and The Tablet. She is the author of Inside Colombia: Drugs Democracy and War (Latin America Bureau, 2003). 


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