Lars Schoultz of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of his generation’s most influential scholars of Latin American studies. In his 2018 book, In Their Own Best Interest, Schoultz takes to task U.S. policymakers and advocates who seek to “uplift” or “improve” Latin American nations, viewing them as part of a very long tradition going back to imperialists of the gunboat diplomacy era. He notes that some countries are hardly better off after a century of U.S. “uplifting,” and worries about how our grandchildren will view the policies that we advocate for today.
Is WOLA guilty of this? While we frankly don’t see much of ourselves in Schoultz’s characterization of our work, we’re delighted to have engaged him in this lively and very thought-provoking discussion.