The two subjects of this book help to define each other: the Good Neigh-
bor policy, the initiative to improve Latin American relations through
nonintervention and friendship that developed during the Hoover and
Roosevelt administrations; and the Generalisimo Rafael Trujillo regime, the
dictatorship that consolidated in the Dominican Republic at the same time
and lasted thirty-one years. Trujillo's seizure of power in 1930 and his re-
pressive military rule thereafter tested
resolve to quit meddling in the
internal affairs of its neighbors and to preserve amiable relationships with
all Latin American leaders, regardless of their path to power or political
stripe. The formation of the Trujillo regime showed that a foreign policy
based on the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination, the
Geist of the Good Neighbor policy, meant having to accept as gracefully
as possible the nearby existence of regimes antithetical to the principles of
peace and democracy. The Good Neighbor policy demonstrated to a gen-
eration of Caribbean dictators that they were free to run their countries
however they pleased, so long as they maintained common enemies with
the United States: first the fascists, then the communists.
The combination of nonintervention on the part of the United States and
a powerful dictatorship in the Dominican Republic imposed new limits on
the hegemony Washington had long exercised over that country. The con-
nection between the Good Neighbor policy and the Trujillo regime offers
a revealing perspective on the debate over how democratic states should
treat authoritarian governments. It also calls into question the ability of any
single individual, group, or branch of government in the United States to
control or even to consistently influence the forces of nationalism and per-
Previous Page Next Page