Ever since the 17 republics of mainland Latin America emerged from the wreck of the Spanish Empire in the early 19th century, North Americans had viewed them with a mixture of condescension and contempt that focused on their alien culture, racial mix, unstable politics, and moribund economies. The Western Hemisphere seemed a natural sphere of U.S. influence, and this view had been institutionalized in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 warning European states that any attempt to "extend their system" to the Americas would be viewed as evidence of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States itself. On the one hand, the doctrine seemed to underscore republican familiarity, as suggested by references to "our sister republics," "our good neighbors," our "southern brethren." On the other hand, the United States later used the doctrine to justify paternalism and intervention. This posed a quandary for the Latin Americans, since a United States strong enough to protect them from Europe was also strong enough to pose a threat itself. When Secretary of State James G. Blaine hosted the first Pan-American Conference in 1889, Argentina proposed the Calvo Doctrine asking all parties to renounce special privileges in other states. The United States refused.
After the Spanish-American War in 1898 the United States strengthened its power in the Caribbean by annexing Puerto Rico, declaring Cuba a virtual protectorate in the Platt Amendment (1901), and manipulating Colombia into granting independence to Panama (1904), which in turn invited the United States to build and control the Panama Canal.
The secretary of war, Elihu Root, formulated the Platt Amendment; Sen. Orville H. Platt of Connecticut presented the amendment to the Senate. By its terms, Cuba would
not transfer Cuban land to any power other than the United States, Cuba's right to negotiate treaties was limited, rights to a naval base in Cuba (Guantanamo Bay) were ceded to the Un...