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The Conflicts of the Cold War in Latin America

In Latin America, the cold war that started in 1947 officially had far-reaching implications. The “containment” policy theorized by the Truman doctrine that regarded the US as part and parcel of the Western Bloc that was also referred to as the “free world” that was the total opposite of the Eastern Bloc that came into existence right after World War two ended coupled with the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Truman made it the United States policy to assist free people who resist any sort of suppression from outside forces or armed minorities. With this policy, Truman initiated the United States government to help other governments irrespective of their track record as long as they were willing to fight and stop communists. With this approach, Truman’s administration in Washington embarked on signing defense treaties with numerous countries worldwide including the North Atlantic Treaty that eventually led to the creation of NATO as well as the ANZUS that included Australia and New Zealand. (pg, 45)

On realizing the strong alliance the United States was masterminding, Moscow retaliated with the formation of the economic treaty COMECON as well as the defense alliance of the Warsaw Pact that brought together countries in Eastern Europe that were under Moscow’s influence. The US treaty on defense in Latin America was the Inter-American accord of mutual aid, also known as the Rio Treaty (TIAR) in 1947. It was known as the “hemispheric defense” accord and its main aim was to address matters related to War and peace.

The United States became concerned when Panama Canal faced apparent threats earlier in the 30s. The US did enjoy the support of individual Latin American regimes except for Uruguay that permanently stayed neutral and never went along with the United States’ overtures for its military support. The Organization of American States was formed in 1948 with all its members undertaking to fight communism in the Americas at its 9th International Conference of American States headed by George Marshall, the Secretary of State for the US government. The Charter of the Organization of American States was signed in 1948 on 30th April by 21 American countries.

In the course of the Cold War, the first intervention carried out by the united state in Latin America was the overthrowing of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the democratically-elected President of Guatemala through Operation PBSUCCESS in 1954. This was closely followed by another overthrow of the Iranian president Mossadegh. (pg, 105)

“We will not allow another Cuba” was a slogan that hid the prospect of carrying out aggressions without worrying of retaliation such as it was the case of the massacre in Panama or the Dominican Republic. The first trounce of the United States came in 1959 by Fidel Castro who orchestrated the Cuban Revolution. In 196, Cuba joined the Non-Aligned Movement. The United States increased its trade restrictions on Cuba after Cuba’s Government implemented a number of economic reforms that went as far as incorporating nationalization. (pg, 169)

With the United States firmly involved in Latin American affairs, it created a dent in Cuba’s economy when Cuban sugar which sustained Cuba’s economy could not be sold in the United States. Apart from rejecting Cuban sugar, the United States also stopped its oil supply to Cuba that desperately needed it which further devastated Cuba’s economy. The state of affairs worsened even further when La Coubre freighter murdered over 75 people when it exploded in Havana port. Fidel Castro squarely blamed the United States for the incident though he couldn’t offer any evidence to support his claim. (pg, 215)

Shortly after the explosion incident, the CIA equipped, trained, and organized Cuban refugees to overthrow Fidel Castro as a guerilla force as ordered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States. The tension between Cuba and the United States escalated which eventually led to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. (pg, 260)

The more American properties got nationalized by the Cuban government Americans retaliated with the countermeasures that eventually placed a total ban on all its exports to Cuba. This eventually led to Cuba opening close business ties with the Soviet Union while the United States closed all its diplomatic ties with Cuba. Things got so bad to a point where a year later two US diplomats got arrested for allegedly “encouraging terrorist acts, smuggling weapons, financing subversive publications as well as granting asylum” and were later expelled from Cuba. This resulted in renewed efforts by the United States government to destabilize Fidel Castro’s regime that was code-named “The Cuban Project” also known as Operation Mongoose. (pg, 275)

The Cuban Project was an elaborate plan that covered a wide range of things from assassination attempts on prominent politicians, intelligence operations military, psychological as well as political sabotage. The project also suggested false flag attacks that were referred to as Operation Northwoods. Later it was learned that there were more than eight assassination attempts on the Cuban president Fidel Castro between 1960 and 1965 apart from other separate plans to eliminate several other prominent Cuban political heavyweights. (pg, 290)

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy attempted to put into action the Alliance for Progress that was meant to be financial assistance program apart from the aggressive policy that was already underway but it turned out to be rather inadequate. The United States either broke off or suspended both diplomatic as well as economic ties with Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, Dominican Republic as well as Argentina’s dictatorship being the reason for the United States action.

However, the suspensions were simply short-term measures and were never permanent. Due to the ineffectiveness of their methods, the United States opted to train American militaries at the school of America in counter-insurgency tactics. Both militaries, as well as police assistance, were also included in the Alliance for progress programs to counteract communism that also includes Plan LASO in Colombia. (pg, 295)

In 1962, the race for nuclear arms did bring the two superpowers to the edge of a nuclear war. President John F. Kennedy used a naval blockade in retaliation to the installation of the nuclear missiles in Cuba that almost resulted in a nuclear war between the two superpowers. Luckily, neither the Soviet Union nor the United States was prepared to make use of their nuclear weapons for the obvious fear of mutual destruction. There was a happy ending after the missile crisis as efforts were made to improve relations as well as nuclear disarmament. (pg, 45)

Under President Johnson in 1964, the aggressive programs against rogue or dictatorial regimes ended. However, the United States endorsed a military coup in Brazil in Mach 1964 that evicted President Joao Goulart, a left-wing and was ready to offer more assistance whenever it was required through an operation that was code-named Operation Brother Sam. The United States send out 24,000 troops to prevent a likely takeover by a left-wing in the Dominican Republic the following year under Operation Power Pack. Even Close to the CIA but reliant on the USAID, the agency of Public Safety (OPS) assisted the Latin American security forces by hurling their training equipment, and by training them how to manage riots as well as interrogation methods.

Work cited

  1. Chasteen, John Charles. Born in Blood and Fire. Norton: UNC Press, 2005.
  2. Richard Ibsen. The Cold War in Latin America. Chicago, Millan press, 1996.
  3. Peter H. Smith, Democracy in Latin America, New York, Damson, 2000.

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