Early US-Chilean Relations and the War of the Pacific

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American and Chilean authors seem to coincide in their perceptions of US-Chile historical relations. Henry Clay Evans states that “Few countries have had more occasions to regard the United States with unfriendliness and to resent its policies” than Chile. In the same sense, Fredrick Pike has analyzed the historical Chilean Anti-Americanism, and William Sater has depicted the US-Chile relation as a conflict between two imperialistic projects. In a similar way, Heraldo Muñoz and Carlos Portales (Chilean authors) state that US-Chilean relations “have been marked preferably by signs of divergence.” According to them, tension and disputes between both countries have been more common than agreement and cooperation over the years. As early as 1820’s decade, the Chilean statesman Diego Portales, warned his countrymen about the Monroe Doctrine and US interests in the Western Hemisphere. In Portales’ view the United States had not collaborated in the Latin American independence and represented an imperialistic threat. In Frederick Spike’s words, the anti-Yankee spirit of Portales became in a tradition of the Chilean foreign policy. Some years later, during the war between Chile and the Peru-Bolivia Confederation (1836-1839,) the United States –in spite of its official neutrality- favored the confederation’s position. According to Heraldo Muñoz, Americans believed that a Chilean victory would provoke an imbalance of power in South America, extending the economic protectionism advocated by its authorities and affecting the US trade in the region. The unfriendly relations between US and Chile continued with the Chilean support to Mexico in its conflict with the United States (1845-1848) as well as during the South American war agains... ... middle of paper ... ...ield, James Blaine was no longer Secretary of State and Trescott –in representation of US government- had to sign the protocol of Viña del Mar (February 1882) accepting “the Chilean principle that peace depended on territorial transfer” from Peru. Chile had imposed its conditions and -as Heraldo Muñoz says- the United States “lost prestige in Chile due to its behavior in the War of the Pacific.” During the nineteenth century US-Chilean relations were unfriendly or at least, distant. The United States perceived Chile as a critical and resistant voice toward its policy in Latin America, and Chile considered US as a threat for Latin American countries and for its own national interests. This historical background is essential to understand the US and Chilean attitudes during the Tacna-Arica controversy and especially during the attempted plebiscite in that region.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that american and chilean authors seem to coincide in their perceptions of us-chile historical relations. henry clay evans states that few countries have had more occasions to regard the united states with unfriendliness than chile.
  • Analyzes how the chilean statesman diego portales warned his countrymen about the monroe doctrine and us interests in the western hemisphere.
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