"Useful fools" as diplomatic tools: Organized labor as an instrument of US foreign policy in Latin America
Buchanan, Paul G.
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This paper analyzes the role played by organized labor in the formulation and conduct of US foreign policy in Latin America, with particular reference to the field of labor relations and the promotion of democracy in the region. It first traces the historical presence of US labor in Latin America, then moves to a disaggregated analysis of the ideological and economic bases of its foreign policy approach towards the region, an examination of the primary vehicles and instruments used in pursuit of its regional objectives, and brief case summaries as illustrative examples. The paper argues that for both ideological and economic reasons US labor has historically played a negative role in promoting democracy in the region, and in fact has actively engaged in subverting democratic regimes when these did not adhere to the type of economic and ideological guidelines advocated by the US government or the AFL-CIO. However, as a result of the adverse consequences of this traditional stance and of a changing international economic and political climate since the mid-1970s, organized labor has shifted towards a more consistent support for democracy for pragmatic rather than activist reasons. Consequently it now has the potential to be a major promoter of open government and democratic labor relations in Latin America.
This is a revised version of a paper prepared for presentation at the conference on “The United States and Latin American Democracy,” University of Southern California, April 6-9, 1989. The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Working Paper #136 - April 1990
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