Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Political Science (MA)

Degree Level



Political Science


Jeffrey J. Ryan

Committee Member

Marijke Breuning

Second Committee Member

William Miller


United States, Foreign aid, Latin America, human rights


This paper is set in a time when, quite frankly, situations and events around the world are changing much faster than the perceptive abilities of the academic community. During the Cold War period it was relatively common to focus one's research toward a particular direction or specialty and feel safe that the rug would no be pulled out from under it. Many of this century's great political scientists carved their niches and made their names by studying and commenting on the status of the world as defined by the Cold War. Times have changed though. The Cold War has ended and the Soviet model collapsed. The world is not so neatly divided between "good" and "bad" anymore and demarcating right from wrong is now an even more important debate, with regard to U.S. foreign policy, than it has been for many years. Old excuses, such as the one outlined by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, that U.S. support of not-so-democratic regimes is justified within the broader context of the Cold War and that an apology is "neither morally necessary nor politically appropriate", are no longer acceptable to the world (Kirkpatrick 1982, 29) . To support a seemingly insupportable regime today without a clearly defined reason would not be nearly as easy for the U.S. government to justify as it might have been during the high tide of the Cold War. All of this brings us to the topic at hand, namely U.S. foreign aid and Latin American human rights during the late 1970s and 1980s. As this paper will show, U.S. foreign aid has gone through dramatic changes over the years. The origins of U.S. foreign aid can be traced back to World War II, where it began as a desperate effort to aid what was then seen as the only nation left in Europe with a chance of defeating Hitler. During the Cold War, it was often used haphazardly as a powerful weapon of persuasion throughout the less developed world. In Latin America particularly, the charge was frequently leveled that the United States aided some of the most repressive regimes as a part of its grand strategy of keeping Communism from spreading anywhere beyond the beaches of Cuba.