Cold War Influence in Latin America Essay

Cold War Influence in Latin America The United States and the Soviet Union competed against each other during the Cold War in the second half of the 20th Century like a chess game, with the world as their chessboard and countries as pawns in their game. For the Russians, a critical part of the chessboard was Cuba and Latin America. The Russians believed that if they could align themselves with countries in the western hemisphere, America’s “backyard”, it would help the Soviet Union counter the strong political influence and military presence America had in Europe, which made the Russians feel threatened.

The Soviet Union tried to align itself politically, militarily, and economically with as many Latin American countries as it could. In response, the U. S. attempted to block Russia’s efforts. America supported Latin American governments which were anti-communist, and pressured communist governments and even toppling several communist or social leaders. The meddling by Soviet Russia and the U. S. in these counties caused social, political and economic damage to the affected Latin American countries such as Cuba, Guatemala and Chile, which lasted for decades. A source that describes U. S. olicies in Guatemala during the early part of the Cold War is a secret (now declassified) CIA Study written in 1995 by Gerald K. Hines, a CIA history staff analyst. The Study is entitled “CIA and Guatemala Assassination Proposals 1952-154. ” Hines’ Study is based upon secret internal CIA records from the 1950’s. Although the Study does not appear to be addressed to or directed at any particular person or group, it seems its purpose was to inform CIA agency officials in the 1990’s about the level of CIA involvement in attempted assassinations of pro-communist Guatemalan political leaders in the early part of the Cold War.

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In the Study, Haines explains that the U. S. became concerned that Guatemala was becoming a communist country after Jocobo Arbenz became President of Guatemala in 1951 (Haines). Arbenz believed in redistributing back to the people of Guatemala agricultural land that was owned by American and international corporations. The U. S. felt that under Arbenz’s rule, Guatemala was becoming a “client” state of the Soviet Union (Haines). The Study describes how U. S. gencies such as the CIA developed plans to assassinate Arbenz, but did not follow through. According to Haines’ research, “discussions of assassination reached a high level within the [CIA]” (Haines). The CIA did help Guatemalans in a successful plot to overthrow Arbenz in 1954. With Arbenz overthrown, the U. S. helped Castillo Armas, a pro-western Guatemalan military leader, take over as president of Guatemala. Armas was assassinated just three years later. Haines concludes the Study by stating that U. S. ear of communism caused the CIA to consider the assassination of pro-communist Latin American political leaders such as Arbenz as legitimate “political weapons”, and that “discussion of whether to assassinate Guatemalan Communists and leaders sympathetic to Communist program took place in a historical era quite different from the present. ” Haines also notes that it was not until two decades later that a presidential Executive Order banned the CIA from using assassination as a political weapon (Haines). The U. S. upported overthrow of Arbenz caused political turmoil in Guatemala. After Armas’ assassination in 1958, another military leader, Ydigoras Fuentes, took over as leader of Guatemala (Global Security). During his presidency, Fuentes kept the Guatemalan government aligned with the U. S. , but pro-communist insurgent groups formed to fight the American-supported Guatemalan government. The battle between the pro-western, American-supported Fuentes government, and pro-communist insurgents aligned with Cuba and Russia, fueled a civil war in Guatemala that lasted over 30 years.

During the civil war, the Guatemalan economy suffered greatly. In addition, many Guatemalan citizens thought to be socialists or communists were tortured or murdered. [Global Security]. It is possible that had the U. S. not supported the overthrow of Arbenz, civil unrest in Guatemala may not have occurred, and Guatemala might have been able to avoid its terrible 30-year long civil war. Cuba is the country best known for being at the center of the Cold War conflict between the U. S. and Russia because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Soviet Union’s strategy, and the anticipated U. S. response to the Russian strategy, is described in an October 19, 1962 telegram from Andrei Gromyko, Russia’s Foreign Minister, to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [Virtual Archive]. The Central Committee was the highest organization within communist Russia. Gromyko seems to have written the telegram to inform the Central Committee that the Russian strategy in aligning itself with Cuba seemed to be working.

In the telegram Gromyko expressed his belief that “a USA military adventure against Cuba is almost impossible to imagine” because of “assurances given to us that the USA has no plans for in Cuba (which undeniably commits them in many respects)” (Gromyko). Instead, Gromyko believed that the U. S. efforts would be to try weakening Cuba by obstructing its economy, thinking that over the long term Russia would not be able to continue supporting Cuba with foreign aid in order to offset U. S. economic sanctions against Cuba (Gromyko). Gromyko’s telegram accurately describes U.

S. policy regarding Cuba around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. Fidel Castro came to power a few years earlier in 1959. Castro believed the poor economic conditions in Cuba were caused by the U. S. (Kelly). He began to nationalize industries, which upset Americans who owned companies operating in Cuba (Kelly). The U. S. responded by bringing economic sanctions against Cuba’s. Castro was also threatened by the U. S. military, and accepted offers of Soviet economic and military aid to help fight against the U.

S. actions. The result is that Fidel Castro remained Cuba’s communist leader well past the end of the Cold War, deeply impacting the social structure of Cuba and its economy. During the Cold War constant U. S. economic sanctions hurt the Cuban economy, which even Soviet foreign aid could not fully offset. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia stopped giving aid to Cuba. Without Russian aid, the effect of the U. S. trade embargo against Cuba became greater and the Cuban economy and its people suffered even more (Kelly).

Chile is another country whose government and economy were damaged by the Cold War actions of both the U. S. and the Soviet Union. In 1970, Dr. Salvador Allende, a Chilean politician, ran for president of Chile. Allende was known to be a socialist and it was believed that once in power he would nationalize Chilean industries such as banking and mining, and align Chile with communist Russia and Cuba. To prevent Chile from becoming pro-communist, the CIA first unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Allende from even taking office (CIA Reports). After Allende took office, the CIA attempted to undermine his government.

The U. S. strategy is described in a November, 1970 “top secret” (now declassified) letter written by Henry Kissinger, who was then serving as U. S. National Security Advisor. The letter was addressed to the U. S. Secretary of State, the U. S. Secretary of Defense, the U. S. Director of the Office of Emergency Response, and the Director of Central Intelligence. In the letter, Kissinger argues that the U. S. should try to weaken Chile’s economy to “maximize pressures on the Allende government to prevent its consolidation and limit its ability to implement policies contrary to U. S. nd hemisphere interests” (Kissinger). The pressure on Allende was to be achieved by preventing any new U. S. economic aid to Chile, by reducing or terminating existing foreign aid programs to Chile, and by using U. S. influence to block international credit and financial assistance to Chile from other countries. Kissinger’s strategy also included attempting to isolate Chile by maintaining “close relations with friendly military leaders in the hemisphere” (Kissinger). The U. S. policy for Chile, as expressed in Kissinger’s letter, was to overthrow Allende as the political leader of Chile.

A military coup actually did occur in Chile in 1973, with Allende supposedly committing suicide. Although the U. S. did not actively participate in the 1973 coup, it did support his replacement, Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was pro-western and anti-communist. While Pinochet was in power, he aligned Chile with the U. S. This achieved the U. S. policy of preventing Chile from becoming a communist country. During this period Chilean military officers trained in the U. S. , “which included presentations on the impact of global communism on their own country” (CIA Reports).

Making Pinochet the leader of Chile had its costs, however. Pinochet was known to torture and commit other human rights abuses against Guatemalans his regime believed to be socialists and communists. The human rights abuses were overlooked by the U. S. because Pinochet was pro-western and anti-communist. U. S. actions to overthrow Allende and support Pinochet demonstrate that the U. S. policy to interfere in the internal politics of Chile resulted in terrible human rights abuses against Chilean citizens during Pinochet’s rule as president of Chile. The actions of the U.

S. and Russia in the internal affairs of Guatemala, Cuba, and Chile had significant negative impacts on the political, economic and social conditions in each of these countries. The strategies of both the U. S. and the Soviet Union are clearly stated in the historical documents reviewed. The resulting damage to the Latin American countries of Guatemala, Cuba and Chile was significant and long lasting, but seemed to be of little concern to U. S. and Russia, who treated these countries and their leaders like pawns in their worldwide Cold War chess game.

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