An Inter-American New Deal? The Global Depression and Latin American Economic Diplomacy

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:00 AM
Maryland Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Teresa Davis, Princeton University
The Great Depression generated a search for new economic models, from European fascism and socialism, to Brazilian corporatism and the welfare policies of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration in the United States. This process was mirrored internationally, as conversations over international peace and security came to encompass questions about development and the economy. Concern over the spread of rival economic models led in the 1930s to U.S. efforts to co-opt Latin America. By the 1936 Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, Pan American meetings had come to echo the global security concerns—and the emphasis on liberal market reformism—emanating from the United States.

At the same time, however, the global crisis prompted a concerted Latin American challenge to Anglo-American political and ideological dominance. Here I focus on the intersecting labor of Latin American diplomats at the Pan American Union and at the League of Nations between 1928 and 1933. Within both both institutions, Latin American diplomats and technical advisors pushed for a new system of regional and international governance that would prevent the particularly dire effects of international crisis on weak economies. At the same time, they engaged in a regional and international diplomacy aimed at protecting “unorthodox” responses to the crisis such as national resource nationalization, the emission of paper money and new forms of economic protectionism. By looking at Latin American diplomacy in both the League of Nations and the Pan American union, I am able to show the variety of Latin American diplomatic strategies—from the regional to the global—as well as the ways in which Latin American diplomats played both institutions off of one another in their efforts to create an international “new deal” for Latin America.

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