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date: 07 October 2022

Nelson Rockefeller in Latin Americalocked

Nelson Rockefeller in Latin Americalocked

  • Darlene RivasDarlene RivasPepperdine University

Summary

Nelson Rockefeller (1908–1979), known for his political career in the United States, built his public reputation upon experiences in Latin America and impacted US relations with the region. His initial interest grew through art collecting and business investments in the 1930s. He developed a conviction that US policy should foster collaborative efforts to promote economic development, in large measure to combat economic nationalism but also for humanitarian purposes and to encourage democracy. During World War II, he led the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA), which combated Axis influence, developed cultural and propaganda programs, and launched the first long-term US foreign aid programs of technical assistance through the Institute of Inter-American Affairs. As assistant secretary of state for Latin American affairs (1944–1945), he cultivated Latin American aspirations to maintain US interest in the region characterized by the Good Neighbor Policy, through renewed commitment to collaboration and nonintervention, continued US support for economic and social development, and protection of regional organization within the larger United Nations. After the war, Rockefeller promoted a reformed capitalism he envisioned would involve collaboration among government and private groups in the United States and Latin America. Starting in Venezuela and Brazil, he created a nonprofit entity, the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA), that partnered with Latin American governments, especially in public health and agriculture, and a for-profit business, the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), which fostered joint investments. In 1950, he headed the International Development Advisory Board to advise the Truman administration on the Point Four program, established to foster US technical assistance toward developing nations. Rockefeller advocated for continued focus on economic development abroad, even as the Korean War intensified the defensive nature and military requirements of US Cold War policy. He promoted partnerships with private capital investment and increased public loans that prioritized developing nations’ concerns. The scope he suggested was not adopted in the region, but models for technical assistance he had pioneered in Latin America spread globally. He leveraged his experiences in the region to promote a political career, serving as governor of New York (1959–1973) and vice president of the United States (1974–1977), and he attempted to win the presidency several times. In 1969, he led a series of Latin American tours for President Richard Nixon that were met with violence and harsh criticism of the United States. His economic prescriptions changed little, yet alarm over potential radical change led Rockefeller controversially to suggest friendly relations with authoritarian military governments. His impact on US Latin American policy waxed and waned, yet Rockefeller’s endeavors expanded cultural relations, increased collaboration, prioritized economic development, and valued pre-Columbian and Latin American artistic expression.

Subjects

  • History of Mexico
  • History of Latin America and the Oceanic World
  • 1910–1945
  • 1945–1991
  • Cultural History
  • Diplomatic History

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