Read this article to learn about the major developments in Latin America countries after Second World War!
Most Latin American countries continued to suffer from most of the same ills as before the war.
The emergence of regimes which promised to introduce radical economic and social changes was always considered a threat to the United States and led her to intervene in the political affairs of the Latin American countries.
These countries faced much the same problems as the developing countries of Asia and Africa and often suffered from political instability which had become a common feature of many developing countries’ political life.
The US had vast economic interests in almost every country in Latin America; in the case of some countries, the US companies almost totally dominated their economy.
To maintain their domination, these companies, with the support of the US government, encouraged undemocratic regimes with a powerful influence exercised by the army.
The US policy, besides the threat it always perceived from the radical regimes in Latin America, also began to see these regimes as being communist-inspired or under communist control and, therefore, a danger to her security.
In many cases, the US interference in Latin America directly or through the CIA’s covert operations, was sought to be justified by an alleged communist threat. Very few countries in the region have had a continuous history of elected governments since the end of the Second World War.
US Interventions against Radical Regimes:
Since the late 1940s, in the political life of most Latin American countries radical and left-wing trends have become powerful. They have been able to form governments and introduce reforms, and stay in power for varying lengths of time, only to be, in most cases, overthrown through coups, almost invariably with the support of the US. The two major exceptions have been Mexico and Cuba. The case of the latter has already been mentioned in the context of the Cold War.
Guatemala, for over a hundred years, had been ruled by military dictators. The first free elections were held in 1944 and a reformist government came to power. From 1950, this government was led by Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. It introduced many social and economic reforms in the country and expropriated the United Fruit Company, a US company which dominated the economy of Guatemala.
This alarmed the US government. Dulles believed that the government of Arbenz was potentially communist. A US-supported military coup overthrew this government in 1954. The resentment against the US was so deep that when Richard Nixon, the then US Vice-President, visited Latin American countries in 1958, he was “greeted in city after city by angry, hostile, occasionally dangerous mobs”.
The most important event in Latin America in the 1950s which inspired radical and left-wing movements throughout the region was the revolution in Cuba. On 1 January 1959, after Batista, a military dictator who had been a close ally of the US, fled the country, Fidel Castro who had led the revolutionary movement formed the government.
The revolution in Cuba had not been led by Cuban communists and Castro himself was not a communist. However, when the government started implementing radical land reforms and taking over foreign companies, the US government turned hostile to it.
It was only in 1965 that the organisations with which Castro and other Cuban revolutionaries were associated and the Cuban communists came together to form the Communist Party of Cuba. The US had been the main importer of Cuba’s sugar, which was Cuba’s main item of export.
This was stopped. Gradually, the Cuban government established close links with the Soviet Union. Many attempts were made by the CIA—a member of the US Congress had some years ago listed 15 attempts—to assassinate Castro.
The Bay of Pigs fiasco and the missile crisis during the presidency of Kennedy have been mentioned earlier. Against the heavy odds the Cuban revolution has survived for over forty years now. One of the most inspiring leaders which the Cuban revolution produced was Che Guevara. He was born in Argentina but had joined Castro in 1956. He played a leading role in the revolutionary movement in Cuba which led to the fall of Batista’s dictatorship.
He became a minister in the new Cuban government, but left Cuba in 1965 to help organise a revolution in Bolivia. He was captured and killed by Bolivian troops in 1967. He became a major source of inspiration to the radical youth in Latin America and elsewhere in the world.
An event which shocked the world in the 1970s was the overthrow of the government headed by Salvador Allende in Chile. One of the founders of the Chilean Socialist Party, he was elected President of Chile in 1970.
Like other radical regimes in Latin America which had come to power in the past, Allende also started introducing radical land reforms and nationalising industries. On 11 September 1973, a military junta headed by General Pinochet, again with the support of the CIA, overthrew the government of Allende. Allende himself was killed in his Presidential Palace while fighting.
A brutal military regime was established in Chile which remained in power till recently. Civilian rule was restored in Chile in 1990 when a democratically elected government came to power. There were demands to prosecute him for violation of human rights, including kidnapping, murder, torture and corruption. He escaped prosecution because of the immunity he enjoyed as a senator. He went to Britain for medical treatment and was arrested there.
He was supposed to be extradited to Spain to stand trial for human rights violation. He was however released by the British authorities on grounds of health. Back in Chile he was arrested, but the court declared him mentally unfit to stand trial. In 2006, he was again arrested, but before his trial could begin, he died.
The events mentioned above indicate a major trend of developments in Latin America. The US has intervened in many more countries than have been mentioned above—in Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, etc. There have been too many military coups, mainly directed against elected governments which tried to introduce social and economic reforms.
Recently, the US sent troops to Haiti to restore Aristide, who had been elected president in 1990, but had been overthrown the next year. However, in 2004, he had to leave, when the US President announced that US marines would be sent there to, what he called, “restore peace”. One of the significant developments has been the change in the attitude of the Catholic clergy in Latin America.
Traditionally hostile to all radical ideologies and movements, the church and the clergy have become more responsive to the need for social and economic reform. Many priests have actively involved themselves in radical social and political movements.
Recent Changes in Latin America:
The US perceived as their legitimate rights to intervene, both overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of the Latin American countries. There Latin American countries were perceived by the US to have established radical regimes which meant regimes that sought to implement policies that were in the interest of the common people and diminished or eliminated the interests of the US companies in the economies of their respective countries.
Cuba defeated the US- sponsored invasion and in spite of serious economic problems that it faced due to the economic blockade foisted by the US, continued on the path it has chosen for itself. In most other countries the US succeeded in maintaining its hegemony. In recent years, however, the US has suffered considerable loss of influence in the region.
The loss of US influence over Latin America has been increasing and the process appears to be irreversible. A large number of countries— Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guatemal, Chile, and others—now have elected government which may be broadly described as ‘leftist’.
They have come to power through free and fair elections, replacing in most cases authoritarian and dictatorial regimes and are implementing in varying degrees programmes of radical’ social and economic development.
One of the most charismatic leaders to emerge in Latin America is Huga Chavez in Venezuela. He was elected president in 1998 and again in 1999 when a new constitution came force. He was re-elected in 2000 but was deposed in a US-sponsored military coup in 2002.
He was again elected in 2004 and 2006. He is an ardent supporter of Cuba (a close friend of Castro) and a staunch opponent of US domination. Venezuela, unlike Cuba, has the resources of possessing enormous oil resources which is an important factor that may enable Chavez to pursue his policies of social and economic change in Venezuela and to promoting in collaboration with other leaders of Latin American countries, close relations of cooperation of Latin America.