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Scholars have pointed out that post-1980s Neoliberalism is often represented as “a necessary and inevitable successor to the political-economic policies of import substitution industrialization (ISI) in Latin America” (Perreault & Martin 2005). In contrast to such a view, this paper conceptualises Neoliberalism as contingent rather than preordained by unpacking the conflictual processes that existed throughout the decade of the 1980s between creditors and debtors. The paper will analyse how the “case-by-case” approach adopted by IFIs and Western creditors – notably since the London Economic Summit in June 1984 – in dealing with debtor countries was at some point challenged by global solutions and why these approaches did not succeed. Did the fact that global solutions would imply “large losses for commercial banks” (Mohammed 1985, p.29) play a role in their dismissal? The paper will rely on personal papers of key international financial policymakers such as Nigel Lawson (UK Treasury), Paul Volcker (Federal Reserve), Jacques de Larosière (IMF) and material related to the annual WB and IMF meeting in Washington D.C. and the annual Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ Meeting to highlight the role played by key policymakers in Thatcher’s cabinet in resisting global solutions to Latin American debt and, consequently, their role in paving the way to Neoliberal orthodoxy in the region.

Carlo Edoardo Altamura is Lecturer in Twentieth Century Latin American History at the Department of History, University of Manchester. Previously he was a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Ambizione Research Fellow at the Department of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva with a five- year research project titled “Business with the Devil? Assessing the Financial Dimension of Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America, 1973-85” (CHF 972'068). He is the author of European Banks and the Rise of International Finance: The Post-Bretton Woods Era (2016) and A Global Financial History of Oil Crises (forthcoming 2024).


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