© 2018

Becoming a Good Neighbor among Dictators

The U.S. Foreign Service in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras

  • Features a unique focus on the personal interactions between rank-and-file members of the U.S. Foreign Service and dictatorial regimes

  • Complicates popular academic narratives of the State Department’s support for despotic regimes in Latin America by debating the extent of U.S. complicity in sustaining these regimes

  • Focuses on Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which have been under-studied in relation to U.S.-Central American foreign policy compared to the former protectorates


Table of contents

About this book


Very few works of history, if any, delve into the daily interactions of U.S. Foreign Service members in Latin America during the era of Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy. But as Jorrit van den Berk argues, the encounters between these rank-and-file diplomats and local officials reveal the complexities, procedures, intrigues, and shifting alliances that characterized the precarious balance of U.S. foreign relations with right-wing dictatorial regimes. Using accounts from twenty-two ministers and ambassadors, Becoming a Good Neighbor among Dictators is a careful, sophisticated account of how the U.S. Foreign Service implemented ever-changing State Department directives from the 1930s through the Second World War and early Cold War, and in so doing, transformed the U.S.-Central American relationship.  How did Foreign Service officers translate broad policy guidelines into local realities? Could the U.S. fight dictatorships in Europe while simultaneously collaborating with dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras?  What role did diplomats play in the standoff between democratic and authoritarian forces? In investigating these questions, Van den Berk draws new conclusions about the political culture of the Foreign Service, its position between Washington policymakers and local actors, and the consequences of foreign intervention.


U.S. Foreign Service U.S. Foreign Policy U.S. Diplomacy in World War II Central American history United States- Central American relations U.S. intervention in Latin America US Foreign Relations the good neighbor policy Franklin Roosevelt foreign policy diplomacy studies Central American politics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Radboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

About the authors

Jorrit van den Berk is Assistant Professor of North American Studies at Radboud University, The Netherlands. 

Bibliographic information