In 1823, U.S. president James Monroe stated his Monroe Doctrine. It was issued at a time when most of Latin America had just become independent.
Monroe’s foreign policy statement warned that the United States would not tolerate new colonization of the Americas by European powers.
In years to come, it came to mean something more: that the United States had the right to reign supreme over Latin America.
President Theodore Roosevelt made this position explicit with his Roosevelt Corollary of 1904. It inferred from the Monroe Doctrine that the United States had a duty at times to intervene in Latin American affairs:
Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of ties of civilized society, may force the United States, however, reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.
Not surprisingly, Latin Americans viewed both the Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary with distaste and alarm. Too often, these principles seemed like thin disguises for a policy of “might makes right.”