There is an expectation, influenced by the historical of US actions against left-wing governments in Latin America, suggesting that the ideological position of ruling parties in the region foresees the attitude of their administrations toward the United States. In this sense, left-wing governments in Latin America would be critical of the US, whereas right-wing governments would be friendly.
The purpose of the article is to examine the effects of four variables, including two ideological ones, on the vote coincidence of seventeen Latin American countries with the US in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which was considered as the indicator of the attitude of these Latin American nations toward the US. The two ideological variables considered were the locations of the ruling party and the president in the left-right scale, according to the evaluation of legislators from each country per period of government. Two other variables were also tested, to evaluate alternative explanations about the attitude of Latin American nations toward the United States.
The expectation that left-wing governments in Latin America are critical of the US and right-wing governments are friendly has already been tested to some extent in the literature. Alcántara and Rivas (2007) show that relations with the United States constitute a relevant factor in the division between right and left-wing in Latin America. Between the five variable groups tested, the one defined as US image is the third with greater explanatory power, responsible for 9.7% of the total variation (Alcántara and Rivas, 2007: 358).
On the other hand, between the evaluated political parties, the factor that seems to be more important to explain position divergences concerning the United States is geographical location, that is, from which country the political party is and in which region of the American continent this country is located, and not ideology. The group pro-US is composed only by Central and North American political parties, being three from the left-wing and one from the right-wing, whereas the anti-United States group is formed exclusively by South American political parties, being, once more, three from the left and one from the right (Alcántara and Rivas, 2007: 371-372).
Ribeiro (2012) tested a series of factors to explain the position of legislators from Chile, Colombia and Peru in the deliberations on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) of their countries with the US. In the cases of Colombia and Peru, ideology was an important factor, as expected that the left-wing orientation, of the Peruvian legislator or the Colombian legislator’s party, meant a lower predisposition to approving such a treaty (Ribeiro, 2012: 134-135).
If, on one hand, the results of Ribeiro are divergent to those of Alcántara and Rivas, by showing that the left-wing ideology stimulates a critical position toward the United States, on the other, both studies coincide to some extent, since the countries in which Ribeiro identified this relantionship are from South America, where Alcántara and Rivas point that the anti-United States political parties are concentrated.
At the same time, alternative explanations for the attitude of Latin American countries toward the US can be drawn from the literature. Dreher, Sturm, and Vreeland (2009) show that there is a strong relationship between temporary UN Security Council membership and participation in International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs. According to the authors, the reason for this relationship is that major shareholders of the IMF, among which are the United States, care about how the temporary members vote on the Security Council, whereas some developing countries, which occupy theses seats, are willing to trade their votes for IMF loans (Dreher et al. 2009: 752).
Adjusting these findings to the case of the attitude of Latin American nations toward the US, it could be considered that countries more dependent on loans from the international credit organisms would be more willing to vote in a convergent manner with the United States in the UNGA.
Other alternative explanation can be drawn from the neorealist theory. According to Waltz (1979), the military and economic powers are the main determinants of international action of the States, that would be unitary actors who, based on their relative capabilities, would establish their preferences and take rational decisions. Under the different configurations of the international system, the options of States would be limited to join forces for counterbalance the most powerful ones or let be conducted by them. In the case of the first option, it would be possible the joining of forces between two or more States or the mobilization of internal resources to resist the most powerful ones.
Applying these postulates to the relations between Latin American nations and the US, it could be considered that the countries of Latin America who have more national capabilities would be more willing to resist and vote in a divergent manner with the United States in the UNGA.
The article The weight of ideology on the attitude of Latin American countries toward the United States published in the issue 1/2017 (volume 60 – n. 1) of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional adopts a larger universe of cases than in the literature that addressed to some extent the influence of ideology in the attitude of Latin American countries toward the United States, and it tests, then, the hypothesis that left-wing governments in Latin America are critical of the US and right-wing governments are friendly, as well as the alternative explanations. After using regression analysis, the findings are that the alternative explanations are less relevant and that ideology has the expected effect.
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Botelho, João Carlos Amoroso, & Alves, Vinícius Silva. (2017). The weight of ideology on the attitude of Latin American countriestoward the United States. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(1), e004. Epub February 06, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201600112
João Carlos Amoroso Botelho – Universidade Federal de Goiás – Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil
Vinícius Silva Alves – Universidade de Brasília – Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil