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12-08-2015, 21:40

Clark Memorandum

In 1928 Under-Secretary of State J. Reuben Clark issued a report that repudiated the Roosevelt Corollary, a policy that had extended the reach of the Monroe Doctrine by stating that the United States not only would protect the Western Hemisphere from interference by the major powers of Europe but also promised to intervene in the domestic affairs of Latin American countries if they failed to protect American interests. The Clark Memorandum rejected this position, stating that the Monroe Doctrine could not be used to justify American intervention in the region. The doctrine had referred only to European interference, not to the right of the United States to intervene in Latin American nations.

Between 1929 and 1933, President Herbert Hoover followed policies outlined in the Clark Memorandum. He made a 10-week goodwill tour in Latin America before he was inaugurated into office. His administration moved to withdraw troops from Haiti. The president announced that the United States would recognize any new government that came to power in the region, regardless of whether or not the United States favored it. In addition, he refused to allow American intervention when several Latin American nations defaulted on their debts during the world economic crisis in 1931.

Even though the Clark Memorandum rejected the Monroe Doctrine as the rationale for intervention, it did not preclude entirely the U. S. right to interfere in Latin America. In practice the memorandum meant that the United States simply found other explanations for intervention in the region.

The Clark Memorandum set a precedent for the Good Neighbor Policy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In 1933, Roosevelt declared the policy of good neighbors, which was intended to express mutual respect for the rights of all countries in the Western Hemisphere. The Good Neighbor Policy represented a shift in the means the United States used to ensure its power in the region. Rather than use military intervention, American administrations utilized economic or diplomatic leverage to sustain a foothold in Latin America.

Further reading: Thomas O’Brien, The Century of U. S. Capitalism in Latin America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999).

—Glen Bessemer