Soon after the Iberian conquests by Napolean, the great Spanish and Portuguese empires began to fall apart resulting into a massive decolonization in Latin America during the 19th century. As South American states gained independence from their colonial masters, much did not change in terms of the economic and social distress that had plagued their people for many a century. Even without the political presence of a Colonial power, Latin America was exploited by the presence of the economic powers of the time, which was initially Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th century, and later the United States of North America (Cline, 2003). Historians and public figures have described this phenomenon as ‘Neo-colonialism’. In words of the legendary Che Ernesto Guevara, "As long as imperialism exists it will, by definition, exert its domination over other countries. Today that domination is called neo-colonialism (1965)."
The rise of neo-colonialism saw a foreign corporate control over the natural and human-made resources of the continent and by 1914, much of the mining, real estate, ranching, and manufacture was in the hands of the international corporations (pg 246, Benjamin Keen, 2008). As a result, although there was a temporary, uneven rise in the economic progress of Latin America, but it was mostly dependent on monoculture. A few products from each country, according to their demand in the international market became the basis of progress (pg 244, Benjamin Keen, 2008). As a
result, the economy was fragile and easily manipulated by the economic powers of the time.
The inability to create industries and massive imports of manufactured goods meant dependence on Britain. It wasn’t until the first world war, that the market for Latin American raw material was disrupted and the British lost control over the trade