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Despite President Franklin Roosevelt's policy, US intervention in Latin American affairs didn't stop. Why was the United States so concerned with Latin American political and economic affairs? One motive was to protect its own borders from potential threats. A more important reason, however, was supporting US businesses in the region. Latin America was a source of cheap oil, agricultural products, and raw materials for US industries. In addition, the region was largely unindustrialized and needed to import most manufactured products. That made it a valuable market for goods produced in the United States.

Big US companies such as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company dominated Latin American economies in the early twentieth century. Some of these companies manipulated corrupt governments to further their interests. These actions often fueled anti-US sentiments in those countries.

The Great Depression of the 1930s further aggravated income inequality in Latin America. It caused a sharp decline in demand for Latin American resources, which led to widespread poverty and public unrest.

After World War II ended in 1945, many Latin American nations attempted to industrialize. That way, they could manufacture their own goods and reduce their dependence on imports. However, many of these nations failed because industrialization proved to be too expensive. It not only burdened the economy but also channeled funds away from social welfare programs, leading to more income inequality. It also caused a neglect of traditional exports that provided profits in the past.
Throughout the early twentieth century, violence and social inequality plagued El Salvador. During the Great Depression, the price of El Salvador's main export, coffee, dropped drastically. Coffee producers reduced wages and shrunk their workforce. Widespread unemployment and poverty led poor farmers and workers to revolt against the military government in 1932. The government responded with "death squads" that killed thousands of revolutionaries and ended the revolt.

Over the next 40 years, a series of military juntas controlled El Salvador. Reforms to assist poor farmers and the working class were limited.

Church leader Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out against human rights violations in El Salvador in the 1960s and 1970s. He became known as the "Voice of the Voiceless." Romero's activism coincided with the rise of a Latin American religious movement called liberation theology. Supporters of this movement interpret the Bible from the perspective of the poor. The movement was controversial because it encouraged Catholic priests and nuns to engage in political activism against the wealthy on behalf of the poor.

Romero's political stance eventually caused El Salvador's government to support his assassination in 1980. The military regime also attacked and killed many priests and nuns working to aid the poor. Romero's murder coincided with the start of a civil war that lasted until 1992. Throughout the civil war, the Salvadoran regime routinely violated human rights and massacred civilians. The nation remains politically unstable in the early twenty-first century.
Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 after a slave revolt. Throughout its history, Haiti has struggled without success to establish a stable democratic government.

In the early twentieth century, US troops occupied Haiti. The Haitian people resented US occupation, and many revolts followed. As the century progressed, a series of dictators and military juntas ruled Haiti.

In 1964, Francois Duvalier became dictator. Almost 30,000 Haitians were killed during his brutal regime. Many educated Haitians fled the country, leaving a widening social and economic divide. In 1971, Duvalier died, leaving his son in power. The Duvalier family ruled Haiti until 1986.

In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, was elected president of Haiti. Aristide's policies were aimed at limiting the military's power and ending human rights violations. However, he lost power in a military coup that killed thousands of Haitians.

Another military coup took place in 2004. In 2006, the United States and the United Nations sent troops to Haiti in a peacekeeping effort.

In January 2010, a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. Millions of people were left homeless as entire cities were leveled. Haiti has not yet recovered from this disaster, and political instability remains. While some groups want to hold free elections and institute a democratic government, opponents continue to delay the process. The United States remains active in Haitian affairs, and international relief workers continue their efforts to rebuild the nation.
In the twenty-first century, political and economic conditions have improved in Latin America. However, several issues and challenges to economic and social stability remain. This section will examine some of these issues

Industrialization and economic reforms have helped reduce poverty in Latin America. Profits from exports have helped to provide for health care, education, and social programs. Trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have proved beneficial. These agreements support private businesses and help expand trade by eliminating tariffs.

Nations rich in natural resources, such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela, are developing competitive economies. Some nations, like Brazil, have successfully industrialized. Brazil is the only Latin American country in BRICS, a group of large developing economies that have high economic growth rates.

However, countries that have not switched from agricultural economies to industrialized economies continue to struggle. Income inequality remains high in these nations.

In countries throughout Latin America, people are migrating to cities for jobs, education, access to health care, and modern conveniences. As a result, cities are experiencing a population boom.

People who cannot afford to live in the city often settle in areas around it. These settlements contain makeshift shacks with no water, sanitation, or modern conveniences. Brazilian slums, known as favelas, are the largest in Latin America. International aid groups are trying to ease the poverty in these overcrowded settlements, which are plagued by pollution and disease.