Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

Political Science

First Advisor

Richard Stahler-Sholk

Second Advisor

Edward Sidlow)


The U.S. policy of democracy promotion in Latin America has consisted of promoting governments that are favorable to U.S. political and economic interests rather than democracy itself. While the U.S. claims to have a tradition of “promoting democracy” in Latin America, justification for U.S. intervention has been questionable and inconsistent. U.S. support for Latin American regimes has coincided with favorable economic policies rather than with the strength of democracy within a country. Historically, the protection of resources for extraction has been one of the main goals of U.S. policy in Latin America. U.S. A historical overview of U.S. relations in Latin America shows that the promotion of democracy is secondary to economic and social factors. Relations between the U.S. and Latin America show that the U.S. has used democracy promotion as cover for U.S. imperialism in Latin America. During the Cold War, the U.S. supported anti-communist regimes that were often undemocratic because they were capable of protecting U.S. interests. Since the mid-1980s, we have seen a wave of democratization in Latin America and an embrace of market democracy. U.S. relations in Latin America since the end of the Cold War reveal that the U.S. is merely changing its means of establishing U.S. friendly governments by promoting low-intensity democracy. This low-intensity democracy is characteristic polyarchy, in which elites who adhere to the neoliberal model control the government. When democratic governments within Latin America have veered too far from this outline for democracy and have threatened U.S. interests, the U.S. has intervened to undermine and attempt to overthrow these governments.