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Communism in Latin America

Anticommunism In Latin America

A period of increased productivity and foreign investment in Latin America during the latter part of the nineteenth century attracted a wave of Italian, German, and Spanish immigrants who spread Marxist ideas throughout Latin America. This feudal, medieval, Catholic, and patrimonial region translated these ideas into a movement against its hierarchical two-class agrarian-based system. Following the Great Depression of the 1930s, leftist political parties emerged that promoted a strong role for the state in directing change, a leftist ideology, and anti-American nationalism. The next two decades were marked by instability and conflict as authoritarian, democratic, and communist groups vied for power.

In 1954 the United States intervened in Guatemala to overthrow a leftist regime that the United States said was communist. Four years later Fidel Castro led the successful Cuban Revolution. Cuba became the first openly socialist country in Latin America, the first to ally itself with the Soviet Union, and the first to openly turn its back on the United States. As a result, anticommunism in the region gained powerful U.S. military, political, and covert backing. Cuba added a new Marxist-Leninist "model" for Latin America and consequently made the prevention of "another Cuba" the central focus of United States policy. The United States chose time and again to support anticommunist military regimes over unstable democracies that believed in freedom for leftists. As workers, peasants, and guerrillas mobilized throughout the region, the traditional elite power-holders turned to their armies for support and received the backing of the United States, thereby ushering in twenty years of conflict and military–authoritarian rule.

The most famous U.S. anticommunist engagements in Latin America included the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco, in which the CIA trained and financed 1,400 Cuban exiles who were supposed to incite a popular revolt against Castro, but were instead arrested upon arrival. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, when the United States discovered that the Soviet Union was attempting to assemble nuclear missiles in Cuba. In 1965, the United States intervened in the Dominican Republic to prevent what it thought was a communist uprising.

Internal anticommunist movements also emerged throughout the region. One notable example of this was in Chile. In 1973 General Augusto Pinochet, head of the Chilean army, overthrew democratically elected, but Marxist, Salvador Allende in an attempt to save the country from communism. Leftist parties were banned and their supporters exiled, tortured, or killed. Pinochet subsequently shut down the old political system and established a personalist dictatorship that maintained power through violent repression for more than a decade.

In Nicaragua, a Marxist guerrilla movement known as the Sandinista Liberation Front gained much domestic and international support by the late 1970s. It forced the powerful Somoza family from power and established the second openly socialist regime in Latin America. The contras emerged as an armed anti-Sandinista resistance movement and were strongly supported by the United States. The contras' resistance, combined with a U.S. boycott that devastated the economy, undermined Sandinista control. Internationally supervised elections were held in 1991. As in the majority of Latin American states that had democratized since the 1970s, the Marxists did not win a majority of the vote in Nicaragua but continued to participate as a significant player in the democratic political process.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cluster compound to ConcupiscenceCommunism in Latin America - Anticommunism In Latin America, The Cuban Model, Guerrilla Insurgents, Democratic Transition, Conclusion, Bibliography