Coups d'état and Latin American populisms

De Baripedia

Based on a lecture by Aline Helg[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

The rise of populism in Latin America after the First World War is rooted in a combination of complex social and economic dynamics. The weakness of democratic institutions, powerless to respond to the growing demands of citizens, endemic poverty and flagrant inequality, formed a fertile breeding ground for populist ideas. The devastating impact of the Great Depression of 1929 amplified these pre-existing tensions, plunging the region into an era of unprecedented political violence and social unrest.

In Colombia, the epic story of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán epitomises this tumultuous period. Buoyed by a wave of popular support, Gaitán and his movement captured the imagination of the underprivileged, promising justice and equality. His tragic assassination in 1948 gave rise to "La Violencia", a period of bloody and persistent internal conflict.

Cuba was not to be outdone. The 1930s saw the emergence of Fulgencio Batista, another charismatic leader who claimed to defend the interests of the working classes. However, corruption and authoritarianism eroded the legitimacy of his rule, paving the way for Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959.

In Brazil, the arrival in power of Getúlio Vargas in 1930 seemed to herald radical change. Vargas, with his discourse centred on the well-being of the working class and marginalised populations, launched progressive reforms. However, the authoritarian drift of his government tarnished his legacy, culminating in his overthrow in 1945.

This paper sets out to dissect the underlying forces behind the emergence of populism in Latin America, against a political and economic backdrop of global upheaval. It offers a meticulous analysis of the repercussions of the Great Depression on the region, illustrated by in-depth case studies in Colombia, Cuba and Brazil, revealing the nuances and national specificities that characterised each experience with populism.

The 1920s: A turning point in the history of Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

During the 1920s, Latin America underwent a transformation driven by fast-changing economic, political and social dynamics. After the end of the First World War, the region enjoyed remarkable economic growth, often referred to as the "boom". This period of prosperity, which lasted until the end of the decade, was largely fuelled by growing international demand for South American products, stimulated by global economic recovery and industrial expansion. The substantial increase in demand for raw materials such as rubber, copper and soya propelled Latin American economies onto the growth track. International markets, in the process of reconstruction and expansion, absorbed these products at an unprecedented rate. As a result, foreign investment flowed in, domestic industries expanded, and urbanisation progressed at an accelerated pace, changing the social and economic landscape of the region. This economic boom has also brought about significant socio-political changes. The emergence of a more robust middle class and the growth of the urban population have created momentum for democratic and social reforms. Citizens, now more informed and engaged, began to demand greater political participation and a fairer distribution of national wealth. However, this apparent prosperity concealed structural vulnerabilities. Overdependence on world markets and raw materials made Latin America particularly sensitive to international economic fluctuations. The Great Depression of 1929 brutally exposed these weaknesses, leading to severe economic contraction, unemployment and social and political instability.

The golden era of the 1920s in Latin America, often referred to as the "Dance of Millions", was a time of unprecedented prosperity, marked by galloping economic growth and infectious optimism. The exponential rise in gross national product and the enthusiasm of foreign investors, mainly from the United States, transformed the region into a fertile ground for business opportunities and innovation. This era of prosperity was the product of a fortuitous alignment of global and regional economic factors. Post-First World War reconstruction in Europe and elsewhere stimulated demand for Latin America's natural and agricultural resources. The countries of the region, richly endowed with raw materials, saw their exports soar, bringing with them national economic expansion and prosperity. The "Dance of Millions" was not just an economic phenomenon. It permeated the social and cultural psyche of the region, instilling a sense of optimism and euphoria. Metropolises blossomed, arts and culture flourished, and there was a palpable sense that Latin America was on the verge of realising its untapped potential. However, this wild dance was also tinged with ambiguity. Prosperity was not evenly distributed, and social and economic inequalities persisted, if not worsened. The massive influx of foreign capital also raised concerns about economic dependence and foreign interference. The upturn was vulnerable, anchored in the volatility of world markets and fluctuating commodity prices.

The "Dance of Millions" is an emblematic episode in Latin America's economic history, illustrating a transformation marked by an influx of foreign investment and incipient economic diversification. While the region was traditionally anchored in an export economy dominated by agricultural and mining products, global circumstances opened a window of opportunity for a significant reorientation. The First World War had forced Europe to reduce its exports, creating a vacuum that Latin America's fledgling industries rushed to fill. The continent, rich in natural resources but previously limited by low industrial capacity, embarked on an accelerated process of industrialisation. The textile, food and construction industries have enjoyed remarkable growth, signalling a transition to a more self-sufficient and diversified economy. This influx of foreign investment, combined with domestic industrial growth, has also led to rapid urbanisation. Cities have grown and expanded, and with them an urban middle class has emerged, changing the social and political landscape of the region. This new dynamic has injected vitality and diversity into the economy, but has also highlighted structural challenges and persistent inequalities. Despite the economic euphoria, continued dependence on commodity exports left the region vulnerable to external shocks. Prosperity rested on a precarious balance, and the "Dance of Millions" was both a celebration of growth and a foreshadowing of future economic vulnerabilities.

The post-First World War period was characterised by the rise of American imperialism in Latin America. While the European powers, notably Great Britain, were busy with post-war reconstruction, the United States seized the opportunity to extend its grip over its southern neighbourhood. This ascendancy was not simply a matter of chance, but the result of a deliberate strategy. The Monroe Doctrine, proclaimed at the beginning of the 19th century, found new relevance in this context, with its cardinal principle, "America for Americans", serving as the ideological basis for American expansion. This imperialist intrusion took various forms. Politically, the US was involved in engineering regime change, installing governments that were ideologically aligned with and economically subordinate to Washington. Direct military intervention, support for coups d'état and other forms of political interference were commonplace. Economically, American companies proliferated in the region. Their influence was not limited to the extraction of natural and agricultural resources, but also extended to the domination of local and regional markets. The concept of "banana plantations", where companies such as the United Fruit Company wielded considerable influence, has become emblematic of this era. Culturally, Latin America was exposed to intense Americanisation. American lifestyles, values and democratic ideals were promoted, often to the detriment of local traditions and identities. American hegemony in Latin America has had far-reaching implications. It has established a new regional order and redefined inter-American relations for decades to come. Although this influence has brought modernisation and development in certain sectors, it has also generated resistance, resentment and political instability. The duality of the American impact - as a catalyst for development and a source of restraint - continues to inhabit the political and cultural imagination of Latin America. The legacies of that era are still palpable today, testifying to the complexity and ambiguity of American imperialism in the region.

During the "Dance of Millions", the social fabric of Latin America was reshaped and redefined by major economic and political upheavals. The transformation was visible not only in economic growth figures or rates of foreign investment, but also in the daily lives of ordinary citizens, whose lives were transformed by the currents of change sweeping across the continent. The structural change in the economy resonated deeply in society. Agriculture, once the backbone of the economy, was mechanised, reducing the need for abundant labour and exacerbating the decline of the small peasantry. Large haciendas and commercial agricultural enterprises have become dominant players, pushing many small farmers and sharecroppers off their ancestral lands. The rural exodus, a phenomenon of mass emigration from the countryside to the cities, was a visible symptom of these economic transformations. Towns that were once peaceful and manageable became bustling metropolises, and with this population growth came complex challenges relating to employment, housing and public services. Poverty and inequality, already worrying, have been exacerbated, with shanty towns and deprived neighbourhoods emerging on the outskirts of thriving urban centres. Massive European immigration, particularly to Argentina and Brazil, has added another layer of complexity to this simmering social mix. It has stimulated demographic and economic growth, but it has also intensified competition for jobs and resources, and amplified social and cultural tensions. In this context of rapid and often destabilising change, the ground was fertile for the emergence of populist ideologies. Populist leaders, with their rhetoric focused on social justice, economic equity and political reform, found a particular resonance among the disenchanted masses. For those displaced, marginalised and disillusioned by the unfulfilled promises of economic prosperity, populism offered not only answers, but also a sense of belonging and dignity.

The rapidly changing demographic structure in Latin America, resulting from accelerated industrialisation and urbanisation, embodied a significant transformation that redefined the region in many ways. The massive shift of population from rural to urban centres was not only a physical migration, but also a cultural, social and economic transition. In countries such as Argentina, Peru and Central America, the rapid decline in the percentage of the population living in rural areas highlighted the scale of the movement. Cities have become the main engines of growth, attracting large numbers of rural migrants with the promise of jobs and opportunities in the wake of industrial expansion. However, this rapid growth has also amplified existing problems and introduced new ones. Urban infrastructures, unprepared for such an influx, were often overwhelmed. Housing shortages, inadequate health and education services, and growing unemployment became persistent problems. The cities, symbols of opportunity, were also the scene of glaring inequalities and urban poverty. For traditional elites, this demographic upheaval presented a complex challenge. The old methods of governance and maintaining social order were inadequate in the face of a rapidly growing, diverse and often discontented urban population. New social, political and economic management mechanisms were needed to navigate this changing reality. This shift to an urban society also had profound political implications. The new urban arrivals, with their distinct concerns and demands, changed the political landscape. Political parties and movements that could articulate and respond to these new demands gained in importance. It was in this context that populism, with its direct appeal to the masses and its promise of social and economic reform, gained ground. The legacy of this rapid transformation is still visible today. Latin American cities are vibrant centres of culture, economy and politics, but they also face persistent challenges of poverty, inequality and governance. Migration from the countryside to the city, which has been a defining element of the "dance of the millions", continues to influence the development trajectory of Latin America, testifying to the complexity and dynamics of this diverse and rapidly evolving region.

The "dance of millions" was not just an economic and demographic metamorphosis; it was also marked by intellectual and ideological effervescence. The development of trade and communication networks forged closer links not only between cities and regions, but also between countries and continents. Latin America has become a melting pot where ideas and ideologies have intersected and intermingled, providing fertile ground for social and political innovation, as well as protest. Mexico, in the throes of revolution, became an exporter of progressive and nationalist ideas. At the same time, the influence of socialist and fascist Europe and Bolshevik Russia seeped in, introducing concepts and methodologies that challenged existing paradigms. Each current of thought found its followers and critics, and contributed to the richness of the region's political discourse. Immigration, particularly the arrival of Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution in Europe, added another dimension to this cultural and intellectual mosaic. They brought with them not only diverse skills and talents, but also distinct ideological and cultural perspectives, enriching social and political discourse. The traditional elites found themselves in a precarious position. Their authority, once unchallenged, was now being challenged by an increasingly diverse, educated and engaged population. Cities, centres of innovation and contestation, became arenas for heated debates about identity, governance and social justice. In this context, populism found its time and place. Populist leaders, with their ability to articulate the frustrations of the masses and present bold visions of equality and justice, gained in popularity. They have been able to navigate this tumultuous sea of ideas and ideologies, proposing concrete responses to the pressing challenges of poverty, inequality and exclusion. The "Dance of Millions" is thus revealing itself as a period of multidimensional transformation. Not only did it redefine the economy and demography of Latin America, it also ushered in an era of ideological pluralism and political dynamism that would continue to shape the region's destiny for generations to come. In this teeming context, the tensions between tradition and modernity, elites and masses, and between different ideologies, forged the distinct and complex character of Latin America as we know it today.

The period characterised by the "Dance of Millions" was a critical moment when established power structures and social norms in Latin America were profoundly challenged. The combined forces of rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and the influx of foreign ideologies exposed cracks in the foundations of existing regimes and triggered a reassessment of the social and political order. The traditional elite and the Catholic Church, once unchallenged pillars of authority and influence, faced a series of unprecedented challenges. Their moral and political authority has been eroded not only by the diversification of ideas and beliefs, but also by their apparent inability to alleviate the poverty and inequality exacerbated by rapid economic transformation. New ideologies, brought by waves of immigrants and facilitated by expanding communications networks, have bypassed the traditional gatekeepers of information and knowledge. The ideas of socialism, fascism and Bolshevism, among others, found an echo among segments of the population who felt marginalised and forgotten by the existing system. The rapid growth of urban centres was another catalyst for change. Cities have become crucibles of diversity and innovation, but also epicentres of poverty and disenchantment. Newcomers to the city, detached from the traditional structures of rural life and confronted with the harsh realities of urban life, were receptive to radical ideas and reform movements. It was in this fertile ground that populist movements germinated and flourished. Populist leaders, skilled at channelling popular discontent and articulating a vision of fairness and justice, emerged as viable alternatives to traditional elites. They offered an answer, albeit a controversial one, to the pressing questions of the day: how to reconcile economic progress with social justice? How to integrate diverse ideas and identities into a coherent vision of the nation?

This mass migration from the countryside to the city generated a cultural and social ferment whose repercussions still resonate in contemporary Latin America. Cities, once bastions of the urban elite and colonial traditions, have become vibrant scenes of interaction and fusion between different classes, ethnicities and cultures. In the burgeoning cities, shanty towns and working-class neighbourhoods have multiplied, housing a diverse and dynamic population. While these areas were marked by poverty and precariousness, they were also spaces of innovation, where new forms of cultural, artistic and musical expression were born. Music, art, literature and even cuisine were transformed by this fusion of traditions and influences. Each city has become a living reflection of its country's diversity. In Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Mexico City, the sounds, flavours and colours of rural areas have permeated urban life, creating metropolises with rich and complex identities. Traditions that were once isolated in remote villages and rural communities have blended and evolved, giving rise to unique and distinctive cultural forms. Socially, rural migrants have been confronted with the brutal reality of urban life. Adapting to an urban environment required not only an economic and professional reorientation, but also a transformation of identities and lifestyles. Old norms and values were challenged, and new arrivals had to navigate a constantly changing social landscape. However, these challenges were also vectors for change. Migrant communities have been active agents of social and cultural transformation. They introduced new norms, new values and new aspirations into urban discourse. The struggle for survival, dignity and recognition has given new impetus to social and political movements, reinforcing the demand for rights, justice and equity.

The confrontation between the old and the new, the rural and the urban, and the traditional and the modern was at the heart of the transformation of Latin America during the period of the "Dance of Millions". Rural migrants, although marginalised and often treated with contempt by established urban residents, were in fact agents of change, catalysts for social and cultural renewal. Migration facilitated deeper national integration. Despite discrimination and hardship, migrants have woven their traditions, languages and cultures into the fabric of the metropolis. This contrasting and vibrant cultural mosaic has enabled interaction and exchange that has gradually dissolved regional and social barriers, laying the foundations for a more coherent and integrated national identity. Urbanisation has also spurred an educational revolution. Illiteracy, once widespread, began to recede in the face of the imperative of an educated and informed urban population. Education was no longer a luxury, but a necessity, and access to education opened doors to economic and social opportunities, as well as fostering active and enlightened citizenship. The advent of radio and cinema marked another important stage in this transformation. These media not only provided entertainment, but also served as channels for the dissemination of information and ideas. They captured the imagination of the masses, establishing an audience community that transcended geographical and social boundaries. Popular culture, once segmented and regional, has become national and even international. These developments eroded traditional divisions and fostered a collective identity and national consciousness. The challenges were certainly numerous, but with them came unprecedented opportunities for expression, representation and participation. Latin America was on the move, not only physically, with the migration of populations, but also socially and culturally. The years marked by the "dance of millions" turned out to be a time of contradictions. They were marked by profound inequalities and discrimination, but also by a creative effervescence and a social dynamic that laid the foundations of modern Latin American societies. In this tumultuous era, the foundations were laid for a new chapter in regional history, one in which identity, culture and nationhood would be constantly negotiated, contested and reinvented.

The emergence of a new middle class in the 1910s and 1920s was a transformational phenomenon that overturned traditional social and political dynamics in Latin America. This new social class, more educated and economically diversified, constituted an intermediary force between the traditional elites and the working and rural classes. Characterised by relative economic independence and greater access to education, this middle class was less inclined to submit to the authority of traditional elites and foreign capital. It was the driving force behind democratic aspirations, favouring transparency, equity and participation in governance and public life. The rise of this middle class was stimulated by economic expansion, urbanisation and industrialisation. Employment opportunities in the public sector, education and small businesses have proliferated. With this economic and social growth, a stronger sense of identity and autonomy took root. These individuals were the bearers of new ideologies and perspectives. They sought political representation, access to education and social justice. Often educated, they were also consumers and disseminators of ideas and cultures, linking local and international influences. The impact of this middle class on politics was significant. It has been a catalyst for democratisation, pluralist expression and public debate. It has supported and often led reform movements that sought to rebalance power, reduce corruption and ensure that resources and opportunities were more equitably distributed. Culturally, this new middle class was at the heart of the emergence of a distinct national culture. They were the creators and consumers of a literature, art, music and cinema that reflected the specific realities, challenges and aspirations of their respective nations.

The influx of these young university students breathed renewed vigour and intensity into the academic and cultural atmosphere of Latin American countries. These students, armed with curiosity, ambition and a heightened awareness of their role in a rapidly changing society, were often at the forefront of intellectual innovation and social change. The university became a fertile ground for the exchange of ideas, debate and protest. Classrooms and campuses were spaces where traditional ideas were challenged and emerging paradigms explored and shaped. Issues of governance, civil rights, national identity and social justice were frequently discussed and debated with renewed passion and intensity. Students at the time were not passive spectators; they were actively engaged in politics and society. Many were influenced by a variety of ideologies, including socialism, Marxism, nationalism and other currents of thought that were circulating vigorously in a post-First World War world. Universities became centres of activism, where theory and practice met and intermingled. The economic context also played a crucial role in this transformation. With the rise of the middle class, higher education was no longer the exclusive preserve of the elite. A growing number of middle-class families aspired to offer their children educational opportunities that would pave the way to a better life, marked by economic security and social mobility. This diversification of the student population also led to a diversification of perspectives and aspirations. Students were driven by a desire to play an active part in building their nations, defining their identities and shaping their futures. They were aware of their potential as agents of change and were determined to play a part in transforming their societies.

The year 1918 marked a significant turning point in the political involvement of students in Latin America. Inspired and galvanised by a mixture of local and international dynamics, they became active political players, speaking out boldly on crucial issues affecting their nations. This rise in student activism was not limited to conventional politics, but also embraced issues such as education, social justice and civil rights. University autonomy was at the heart of their demands. They aspired to higher education institutions free from external political and ideological influences, where free thought, innovation and critical debate could flourish. For them, the university was to be a sanctuary of learning and intellectual exploration, a place where young minds could train, question and innovate without constraint. Diverse ideologies fuelled the energy and passion of these young players. The Mexican revolution, with its vibrant call for justice, equality and reform, resonated deeply. Indigenism, with its focus on the rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, added another layer of complexity and urgency to their cause. Socialism and anarchism offered alternative visions of social and economic order. These students did not see themselves simply as passive recipients of education. They saw themselves as active partners, catalysts for change, builders of a more just and equitable future. They were convinced that education should be a tool for emancipation, not just for them but for society as a whole, particularly for the working classes and the marginalised. Their actions and their voices reached beyond the walls of the universities. They have engaged in a wider dialogue with society, stimulating public debate and influencing policy. Their demands and actions revealed a deep thirst for reform, a desire to dismantle oppressive structures and build nations based on equity, justice and inclusion.

The early twentieth century in Latin America was marked by a proliferation of social movements, and in particular the strengthening of the workers' movement. In the wake of rapid industrialisation and social change, workers in the emerging industries found themselves in often precarious working conditions, stimulating an urgent need for solidarity and mobilisation to improve their living and working conditions. The 1920s saw a marked increase in trade union organisation. Encouraged by socialist, anarchist and communist ideas, and often guided by European immigrants who were themselves influenced by labour movements in Europe, Latin American workers began to see the value and power of collective action. They recognised that their rights and interests could be protected and promoted effectively through unified and structured organisations. Sectors such as mining, manufacturing, oil and other heavy industries became strongholds of the labour movement. Faced with difficult working conditions, long hours, inadequate pay and little or no social protection, workers in these sectors were particularly receptive to calls for unity and mobilisation. Strikes, demonstrations and other forms of direct action became common ways for workers to express their demands and challenge exploitation and injustice. Trade unions were crucial platforms, not only for collective bargaining and the defence of workers' rights, but also as spaces for solidarity, political education and the construction of class identity. This movement was not isolated; it was intrinsically linked to broader political movements within Latin American countries and beyond. Left-wing ideologies helped to shape the discourse and demands of workers, injecting a profound political dimension into their struggles. These dynamics have contributed to a profound socio-political transformation in Latin America. Workers, once marginalised and powerless, have become important political players. Their struggles have contributed to the emergence of more inclusive policies, the broadening of citizenship, and the advancement of social and economic rights.

During this tumultuous period, the army became not only a defence and security institution, but also a crucial political player in Latin America. Military forces emerged as dynamic agents of change, often in reaction to governments perceived as incapable of responding to the growing social and economic demands of diverse populations. Military coups proliferated, often led by ambitious officers inspired by a desire for reform and a desire to establish order and stability. These interventions were sometimes welcomed by segments of the population frustrated by the corruption, incompetence and inefficiency of civilian leaders. However, they also introduced new dynamics of power and authoritarianism, with complex implications for governance, human rights and development. At the heart of this military emergence was an inherent tension. The military was often seen as an agent of modernisation and progress, bringing determined leadership and necessary reform. At the same time, their rise implied a centralisation of power and a potential repression of civil and political liberties. In countries like Mexico and Brazil, the army's influence was palpable. Figures like Getúlio Vargas in Brazil embodied the complexity of this era. They introduced significant economic and social reforms and capitalised on popular discontent, but they also ruled through authoritarian methods. The military's incursion into politics was interconnected with wider economic and social dynamics. The Great Depression of 1929 exacerbated existing tensions, putting economies and societies to the test. Populist ideologies gained ground, offering simple and seductive answers to complex and structural problems.

This detachment of the military from the influence and control of traditional institutions in Latin America can be attributed to several key factors. On the one hand, the growing complexity of socio-economic and political problems required a more robust and often authoritarian approach to maintaining order and stability. On the other hand, the desire for rapid modernisation and structural reform pushed the army to position itself as an autonomous and powerful political actor. The erosion of the influence of traditional political parties and the Catholic Church has been exacerbated by their difficulties in responding to the changing needs and aspirations of a growing and increasingly urbanised population. The discrediting of traditional elites and institutions left a vacuum that the army was ready to fill, presenting itself as a bastion of order, discipline and efficiency. Coups d'état and military interventions became common instruments for readjusting the political course of nations. The justification for these interventions was often based on the pretext of endemic corruption, the incompetence of civilians in power and the need for a firm hand to guide the country towards modernisation and progress. The doctrine of national security, which emphasised internal stability and the fight against communism and other "internal threats", also played a central role in the politicisation of the army. This doctrine, often fuelled and supported by external influences, notably from the United States, led to a series of authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships in the region. However, the emergence of the army as a dominant political force was not without consequences. Although often initially welcomed for their promise of reform and order, many military regimes have been marked by repression, human rights abuses and authoritarianism. The promise of stability and progress was often balanced against a diminution of civil and political liberties.

The emergence of the military as a new political force in Latin America was symbiotic with the rise of the middle class. Military officers, often from modest backgrounds, saw their social and political rise parallel to the expansion and affirmation of the middle class in the national context. The expanded role of the army was not limited to governance and politics; it also extended to economic development. Officers saw the military institution as an effective and disciplined mechanism for driving rapid economic modernisation, combating endemic corruption and establishing effective governance, characteristics often seen as lacking in previous civilian administrations. The vision of the army transcended the simple maintenance of order and security. It encompassed an ambition to transform the nation, catalyse industrialisation, modernise infrastructure and promote balanced economic development. This perspective was often rooted in a nationalist ideology, aimed at reducing dependence on foreign powers and asserting national sovereignty and autonomy. In this configuration, the army was positioned as an institution capable of transcending partisan divisions, sectoral interests and regional rivalries. It promised unity, clear leadership and a commitment to the common good, qualities seen as essential for navigating the tumultuous economic and political waters of the 1920s and beyond. However, this new dynamic also raised critical questions about the nature of democracy, the separation of powers and civil rights in Latin America. The predominance of the military in politics and the economy created a context in which authoritarianism and militarism could flourish, often to the detriment of political and civil liberties.

The increased involvement of the military in Latin American politics was not an isolated dynamic; it was part of a wider socio-political transformation that challenged traditional power structures and opened up spaces for wider participation. Although military intervention was often associated with authoritarianism, it paradoxically coincided with a widening of the political sphere in certain regions and contexts. One of the most notable manifestations of this opening up was the gradual inclusion of previously marginalised groups. The working class, which had long been excluded from political decision-making, began to find its voice. Trade unions and workers' movements played a crucial role in this development, fighting for workers' rights, economic equity and social justice. At the same time, women also began to claim their place in the public sphere. Feminist movements and women's rights groups emerged, challenging traditional gender norms and fighting for gender equality, the right to vote and fair representation in all spheres of social, economic and political life. These changes were influenced by a multitude of factors. Democratic and egalitarian ideas circulated more and more freely, carried by modernisation, education and global communications. International social and political movements also played a role, with ideas and ideals transcending national boundaries and influencing local discourses. This expansion of democracy and participation was not uniform, however. It was often in tension with authoritarian and conservative forces and depended on the specific dynamics of each country. The gains were contested and fragile, and the trajectory of democratisation was far from linear.

The incorporation of emerging technologies, such as film and radio, into Latin American politics coincided with a rise in far-right ideologies in the region. This coalescence created a dynamic where political messages, particularly those aligned with conservative and authoritarian visions, could be amplified and disseminated in unprecedented ways. The far right gained influence, fuelled by fears of social instability, economic tensions and an aversion to left-wing ideologies perceived as a threat to the existing social and economic order. The political and military leaders of this movement have exploited new media technologies to propagate their ideologies, reach and mobilise support bases, and influence public opinion. Radio and film became powerful tools for shaping political and social consciousness. Messages could be designed and broadcast in ways that aroused emotion, reinforced collective identities and articulated specific worldviews. Charismatic personalities used these media to build their image, communicate directly with the masses and shape public discourse. However, this expansion of media influence has also raised critical questions about propaganda, manipulation and the concentration of media power. The far right, in particular, has often been associated with tactics of information manipulation, media control and suppression of dissenting voices. The impact of these dynamics on democracy and civil society in Latin America was considerable. On the one hand, the increased accessibility of information and the greater mobilisation capacity of radio and film played a role in the democratisation of the public sphere. On the other hand, the strategic use of these technologies by extreme right-wing forces has contributed to the entrenchment and spread of authoritarian ideologies. In this complex context, the political and media landscape of Latin America has become a contested terrain. Struggles over the control of information, the definition of truth and the shaping of public opinion have been intrinsically linked to issues of power, authority and democracy in the region. The resonances of this era of emerging communication and ideological polarisation continue to influence the political and social dynamics of Latin America to this day.

Latin American populism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Latin American populism from the 1920s to the 1950s was a complex phenomenon, uniting diverse masses around charismatic figures who promised radical change and the satisfaction of the people's needs. These popular movements drew on widespread discontent resulting from growing socio-economic inequalities, injustice and the marginalisation of large sections of the population. Populist leaders such as Getúlio Vargas in Brazil, Juan Perón in Argentina and Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico capitalised on these frustrations. They created direct connections with their constituencies, often bypassing traditional institutions and elites, and introduced a leader-centred style of governance. Their rhetoric was imbued with themes of social justice, nationalism and economic redistribution. The period from the 1930s to the 1950s was particularly turbulent. Populist movements faced fierce opposition from conservative forces and the military. Coups d'état were commonplace, an indication of the tension between popular forces and the traditional, authoritarian elements of society. However, populism has left an indelible legacy. Firstly, it broadened political participation. Segments of the population that had previously been excluded from the political process were mobilised and integrated into national politics. Secondly, it anchored themes of social and economic justice in political discourse. Although the methods and policies of populist leaders were challenged, they highlighted issues of equity, inclusion and rights that would continue to resonate in Latin American politics. Third, it helped forge a political identity around nationalism and sovereignty. In response to foreign influence and economic imbalances, populists cultivated a vision of national development and dignity. However, Latin American populism at this time was also associated with considerable challenges. The cult of the leader and the centralisation of power often limited the development of robust democratic institutions. Moreover, although these movements carried messages of inclusion, they sometimes generated polarisation and deep conflict within societies. Populism continues to be a key feature of Latin American politics. Its forms, actors and discourses have evolved, but the fundamental themes of justice, inclusion and nationalism that it introduced continue to influence the political landscape, and still resonate in contemporary debates and conflicts in the region.

Juan Domingo Perón is one of the emblematic figures of Latin American populism, although he was not its initiator. When Perón came to power in Argentina in the 1940s, populism was already a major political force in Latin America, characterised by charismatic figures, an orientation towards social and economic justice and a massive base of support among the working classes. Perón capitalised on this existing movement and adapted it to the particular context of Argentina. His rise to power can be attributed to a combination of factors, including his role in the existing military government, his personal charisma and his ability to mobilise a wide range of social groups around his political programme. The Peronist doctrine, or 'justicialism', combined elements of socialism, nationalism and capitalism to create a unique and distinct 'third way'. Perón promoted the welfare of workers and introduced substantial social and economic reforms. His policies aimed to balance workers' rights, social justice and economic productivity. The first lady, Eva Perón, or "Evita", also played a central role in Peronist populism. She was a beloved figure who consolidated popular support for the Peronist regime. Evita was known for her devotion to the poor and her role in promoting women's rights, including the right of women to vote in Argentina. So, although Perón was riding a wave of populism that already existed in Latin America, he left his own indelible mark. Peronism continued to shape Argentine politics for decades, reflecting the persistent tensions between populist and elite forces, social inclusion and economic stability, and nationalism and internationalism in the region. Perón's legacy demonstrates the complexity of populism in Latin America. It is a phenomenon rooted in specific historical, social and economic contexts, capable of adapting and transforming itself in response to the changing dynamics of regional politics and society.

The populism that emerged in Latin America in the 1920s and 1930s was an attempt to unite the working class under a political banner while preserving existing social and political structures. It was a movement that sought to bridge different social classes, offering a voice to workers, rural migrants and the petty bourgeoisie while avoiding a radical transformation of the social order. The state played a central role as mediator in this type of populism. It acted as an intermediary to harmonise the often conflicting interests of different social groups. Populist governments were recognised for their ability to introduce social and economic programmes that responded to the immediate concerns of the masses. In this way, they sought to build and strengthen their legitimacy and win popular support. Charismatic leadership was another distinctive feature of populism in this period. Populist leaders, often endowed with remarkable personal charm, established a direct connection with the masses. They tended to bypass traditional political channels, presenting themselves as the true representatives of the people, and were often perceived as such by their supporters. However, despite these advances in terms of popular mobilisation and political engagement, the populism of this period did not seek to fundamentally overturn the existing social order. Power structures, although contested and modified, largely remained in place. Populist leaders made significant changes, but they also exercised caution to avoid radical ruptures that could lead to major instability. The evolution of populism in Latin America was the product of tensions between the imperatives of social inclusion and the realities of an entrenched social and political order. Each country in the region, while sharing common features of populism, manifested the phenomenon in a way that reflected its specific challenges, contradictions and opportunities.

Urban dynamics in Latin America, marked by rapid growth in urban populations and increased mobilisation of the working and middle classes, were perceived as a threat to the traditional social order. The new urban groups, with their distinct concerns and aspirations, had the potential to become radicalised, challenging the hegemony of the elites and posing significant challenges to the established order. In this context, populism emerged as a strategy for mitigating these threats while allowing a degree of social mobility and integration. Rather than opting for class struggle, an approach that could have led to a major social and political rupture, populist leaders adopted a rhetoric of national unity and solidarity. They advocated a corporatist state, in which each sector of society, each "corporation", had a specific role to play as part of an orchestrated social harmony. In this model, the state assumed a central, paternalistic role, guiding and managing the "national family" through hierarchical governance. Vertical patronage coalitions were essential to guarantee the loyalty and cooperation of different groups, ensuring that the social order remained in balance, even if dynamic. This populism, while responding to certain aspirations of the urban masses, therefore had the ultimate aim of containing and channelling their energies within an adjusted but preserved social order. Change was necessary, but it had to be carefully managed to avoid social revolution. This approach contributed to political stability, but it also limited the potential for radical social transformation and a profound challenge to structural inequalities. It was a delicate dance between inclusion and control, reform and preservation, characteristic of the Latin American political landscape at the time.

Rafael Molina Trujillo.

Populism in Latin America was often embodied in the figure of a charismatic leader who distinguished himself by his ability to establish a deep and powerful emotional bond with the masses. These leaders were more than politicians; they were living symbols of the aspirations and desires of their people. Their charisma lay not just in their eloquence or their presence, but in their ability to resonate with the everyday experiences and challenges of the working classes. Masculinity and strength were salient features of these populist figures. They embodied a form of machismo, a vigour and determination that were not only attractive but also reassuring to an audience looking for direction and stability in often tumultuous times. Authoritarianism was not seen negatively in this context, but rather as a sign of determination and the ability to take difficult decisions for the good of the people. These charismatic leaders were cleverly positioned, or positioned themselves, as the embodiment of the popular will. They presented themselves as quasi-messianic figures, champions of the disadvantaged and voices of the voiceless. They went beyond traditional politics and transcended institutional divisions to speak directly to the people, creating a direct, almost intimate relationship. In this environment, the emotional bond forged between the leader and the masses was crucial. This was not based on detailed political programmes or rigid ideologies, but on emotional and symbolic alchemy. The leader was seen as one of them, someone who deeply understood their needs, their suffering and their hopes.

In Latin America, the figure of the populist leader unfolded in a complex mix of benevolence and authoritarianism, a duality that defined his approach to governance and his relationship with the people. Perceived as a protective father, the populist leader embodied a paternalistic figure, winning the trust and affection of the masses through his apparent understanding of their needs and aspirations, and through his promise of protection and guardianship. However, this benevolence coexisted with overt authoritarianism. Opposition and dissent were often barely tolerated. The leader, seeing himself and being seen as the embodiment of the will of the people, regarded any opposition not as a democratic counterpoint, but as a betrayal of the will of the people. This type of leadership oscillated between tenderness and firmness, between inclusion and repression. The use of the mass media was strategic in consolidating the power of these populist leaders. Radio, newspapers and, later, television became powerful tools for shaping the leader's image, building and reinforcing his personal brand, and solidifying his emotional hold on the public. They were masters of the art of communication, using the media to speak directly to the people, bypassing intermediaries, and instilling a sense of personal connection. Ideologically, Latin American populism was often not characterised by doctrinal complexity or depth. Instead, it was based on broad, mobilising themes such as nationalism, development and social justice. Ideological precision was sacrificed for a mobilising narrative, with the leader himself standing at the centre as the indomitable champion of these causes. This cocktail of personal charisma, media narrative and authoritarian but benevolent approaches defined the essence of populism in Latin America. The leader was the movement, and the movement was the leader. It was less about politics and ideology than a delicate dance of emotions and symbols, where power and popularity were shaped in the intimate embrace between the charismatic leader and a people in search of identity, security and recognition.

State interventionism is a characteristic feature of populism in Latin America, a concrete manifestation of the populist leader's commitment to responding directly to the needs of the masses and shaping a social and economic order aligned with popular aspirations. The state, under the charismatic leadership of the leader, does not simply regulate; it intervenes, commits and transforms. Social programmes, economic initiatives and infrastructure projects become tools for translating personal charisma into concrete, tangible action. However, domestic social and economic challenges are often complex and deep-rooted, requiring nuanced, long-term solutions. For the populist leader, it therefore becomes tempting, and sometimes necessary, to divert attention from internal challenges to external issues, in particular by identifying common foreign enemies. Nationalism is then mixed with a certain xenophobia, as the populist narrative feeds on the clear demarcation between "us" and "them". Whether it is US imperialism, often denounced for its harmful influence, or diverse immigrant communities, targeted for their apparent difference, the populist narrative in Latin America channels popular dissatisfaction and frustration towards external targets. In such a context, national unity is strengthened, but often at the cost of marginalising and stigmatising the "others", those perceived as outside the national community. This strategy, while successful in mobilising the masses and consolidating the leader's power, can mask and sometimes exacerbate underlying tensions and challenges. Internal social conflicts, economic inequalities and political differences remain, often muted but always present. Latin American populism, with its flamboyance and charisma, is thus a delicate dance between the affirmation of national identity and the management of internal tensions, between the promise of a prosperous future and the reality of the deep-rooted challenges that stand in the way of realising that promise. It is a tale of hope and challenge, solidarity and division, revealing the complexity and richness of the region's political and social experience.

The authoritarian rule of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, which lasted 31 years from 1930 to 1961, illustrates an extreme case of populism in Latin America. Trujillo, an officer trained by the US Marines, was a dominant figure, embodying an intense version of authoritarianism mixed with populist charisma. In 1937, Trujillo ordered one of the darkest episodes in Latin American history: the massacre of 15,000 to 20,000 Haitians. This atrocity revealed the immeasurable brutality and exacerbated xenophobia that defined his regime. Despite this crime against humanity, Trujillo managed to maintain a significant support base among certain sectors of the Dominican population. The strategic use of the mass media, combined with a carefully orchestrated cult of personality, transformed the despot into a leader perceived as strong and protective. The leader mastered the art of communication and, thanks to this, managed to shape an alternative reality in which he was seen as the indomitable protector of the Dominican nation against external threats, despite a macabre record. Trujillo's story highlights the complex and often contradictory nuances of populism in Latin America. A man who ruled for more than three decades, whose power was fuelled by a toxic mix of authoritarianism and populist charm, and whose legacy is marked by an atrocity that cost thousands of lives, while remaining an influential populist figure thanks to an effective media strategy.

The impact of the Great Depression on Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Economic consequences[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Great Depression that began in 1929 sent shockwaves across the globe, and Latin America was not spared. The nations of this region, particularly those rooted in the export economy, were hard hit. Strong interdependence with the US and European markets amplified the impact of the financial crisis on Latin American economies. The economic contraction resulting from the abrupt fall in demand for export products was rapid and severe. Raw materials, the cornerstone of many of the region's economies, saw their prices plummet. This economic recession has hampered growth, increased unemployment and reduced living standards. Millions of people were plunged into poverty, exacerbating existing social and economic inequalities. The lasting effect of the Great Depression extended well beyond the decade of the 1930s. It not only disrupted the economy but also generated a climate of political and social discontent. Against this backdrop of economic instability, political ideologies became radicalised, and the stage was set for the emergence of populist and authoritarian movements. Charismatic leaders capitalised on public despair, promising reform and economic recovery. Latin America's post-depression economic landscape was marked by a growing distrust of the liberal economic model and a greater orientation towards domestic and protectionist economic policies. Governments adopted measures to strengthen the domestic economy, sometimes to the detriment of international trade relations.

The Great Depression, rooted in a financial crisis in the United States, had global repercussions, and Latin America was no exception. The decline in consumption in the United States hit Latin American countries hard, as their economies were heavily dependent on exports to the North American giant. The reduction in demand for these exports translated into falling incomes and a considerable economic shock. The economies of Latin America, already precarious and largely based on the export of raw materials, were hit hard. Commodity prices plummeted, exacerbating the impact of reduced demand. Export revenues plummeted, and foreign investment dried up. This devastating combination led to a rapid economic contraction, shaking the economic foundations of the region. Living standards, which had been rising during the previous boom period, fell precipitously. Unemployment and poverty rose, creating social tensions and exacerbating inequalities. Confidence in financial and political institutions eroded, opening the door to instability and unrest. The echoes of this economic instability reverberated well beyond the crisis years. Political and social unrest intensified, with economic challenges fuelling popular discontent and giving rise to movements for radical reform. The region's political systems were put to the test, and in many cases existing governments were unable to respond effectively to the crisis. Ultimately, the Great Depression left an indelible mark on Latin America, reshaping its economic, political and social landscape. The aftermath of this tumultuous period has influenced the course of the region's history, shaping its responses to future crises and altering the course of its economic and social development.

Social implications[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Great Depression marked a period of intense economic distress and social upheaval in Latin America. The ramifications of the global economic crisis were clearly visible in the daily fabric of life, particularly in the region's rural areas, which were severely affected by massive job losses. The agricultural and mining sectors, the backbone of rural economies, were in decline. The fall in commodity prices and the reduction in international demand hit these sectors hard, leaving thousands of workers unemployed. This wave of unemployment triggered a major migration to urban areas. Rural workers, desperate and distraught, flocked to the cities in the hope of finding employment and economic refuge. However, the cities, themselves mired in crisis, were hardly prepared to receive such an influx of migrants. Overcrowding, poverty and underemployment had become endemic. Urban infrastructure was inadequate to cope with the rapid increase in population. Shanty towns began to develop on the outskirts of major cities, embodying the hardship and deprivation of the time. Families and communities were hit hard. Widespread unemployment destabilised family structures, exacerbating the daily challenges of survival. The decline in living standards was not only an economic reality but also a social crisis. Economic distress deepened the income gap, exacerbating inequalities and sowing the seeds of social unrest. The Great Depression was thus a catalyst for considerable social change. It not only triggered an economic recession but also brought about a profound social transformation. The challenges and struggles of this period left an indelible mark on the social and economic history of Latin America, shaping the social and political dynamics of the decades to follow.

The Great Depression plunged Latin America into an economic and social abyss, but the manifestations of this crisis varied considerably from country to country. The diversity of economic structures, levels of development and social conditions in the region gave rise to a multiplicity of experiences and responses to the crisis. In Latin American countries already suffering from high levels of poverty, the impact of the Great Depression exacerbated existing conditions. Unemployment and misery increased, but in a context where precariousness was already the norm, the socio-economic transformations brought about by the crisis may not have been as abrupt or visible as in more prosperous nations. In the United States, by comparison, the crisis represented a severe and abrupt shock. The nation had gone from a period of unprecedented prosperity, marked by rapid industrialisation and economic expansion, to an era of misery, mass unemployment and despair. This abrupt transition made the crisis even more visible, making the economic and social ravages of the Great Depression a ubiquitous part of everyday life. In Latin America, resilience in the face of economic adversity and familiarity with precariousness may have mitigated the perception of the crisis, but they have not reduced its devastating impact. Economic contraction, escalating poverty and unemployment, and social upheaval have profoundly affected the region. Each country, with its own economic and social particularities, navigated the turmoil of the depression with distinct survival strategies, creating a complex patchwork of experiences and responses to an unprecedented global crisis.

Political consequences[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Great Depression created a climate of exacerbated economic crisis and social despair in Latin America, laying the foundations for considerable political instability. With poverty and unemployment reaching alarming levels, confidence in existing political regimes eroded, paving the way for radical changes in governance. Between 1930 and 1935, the region witnessed a series of overthrows of governments, oscillating between peaceful transitions and violent coups d'état. Disastrous economic conditions, exacerbated by the drastic fall in export prices and the contraction of foreign investment, fuelled widespread discontent. The popular masses, faced with hunger, unemployment and deteriorating living conditions, have become fertile ground for radical and authoritarian political movements. In this tumultuous context, authoritarian political figures emerged, capitalising on popular disarray and promising order, stability and economic recovery. These promises resonated deeply with a population desperate for change and an escape from daily misery. Democratic institutions, already fragile and often marked by elitism and corruption, succumbed under the weight of the crisis. Authoritarian and military regimes, presenting a façade of strength and determination, emerged as attractive alternatives. These political transitions not only shaped the political landscape of Latin America during the Depression, but also set precedents and dynamics that would endure for decades. The prevalence of authoritarian regimes contributed to a gradual erosion of democratic norms and human rights, and echoes of this tumultuous era can be identified in the region's political developments for years to come. Ultimately, the Great Depression was not just an economic crisis; it initiated a profound and lasting political transformation in Latin America, illustrating the deep interconnection between the economic, social and political spheres.

The Great Depression profoundly altered the dynamics of relations between the United States and Latin America. Mired in a devastating economic crisis, the United States was no longer in a position to exert its influence as predominantly or to provide the same level of financial support to Latin American nations. This reduction in American influence took place in the context of a "good neighbour" policy, a diplomatic strategy that advocated a less interventionist approach in the region. However, while the US was trying to deal with its own domestic challenges, Latin America was being swept along by its own whirlwinds of economic and social crisis. Already fragile political structures were exacerbated by mass unemployment, economic contraction and social insecurity. Against this backdrop, the absence of substantial support from the United States has accentuated the region's political vulnerability. Authoritarian leaders seized the opportunity to rise to power, exploiting public insecurity and popular demand for stability and strong leadership. These regimes often thrived in the absence of a significant US presence, and the "good neighbour" policy, while beloved in theory, proved powerless to stabilise or constructively influence Latin America's political trajectory during this critical period.

The case of Colombia: a crisis absorbed by coffee growers[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Economic factors[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Great Depression put intense pressure on the Colombian economy, particularly on the coffee industry that was its mainstay. The country's dependence on coffee exports to the United States increased Colombia's economic vulnerability when US demand collapsed. Much of the economic impact was felt by the coffee growers themselves. They have had to navigate a difficult economic landscape, marked by plummeting prices and falling demand. However, despite this economic instability, Colombia managed to avoid the overthrows of government and violent revolutions that shook other Latin American nations during this period. It is possible that the country's political and social structure offered some resilience to external shocks, although this did not mitigate the scale of the economic crisis at an individual level, particularly for farmers and workers in the coffee sector. Colombia's coffee-growing regions have been hard hit. A combination of reduced incomes, economic instability and increased poverty has tested rural communities. This is likely to have had an impact on the long-term social and economic dynamics in these regions, possibly altering employment patterns, farming practices and social mobility. Colombia's ability to avoid a sudden shift in power during the Great Depression does not mean that the country was not profoundly affected. The economic, social and political challenges generated by this period left lasting scars and helped shape the country's economic and political landscape in the decades that followed. The country's political resilience during this period can be attributed to a complex mix of factors, including government structure, political responses to crises and social dynamics that may have offered some stability in an era of widespread uncertainty.

The Great Depression impacted Colombia as it did the rest of the world, but the country managed to navigate through this period with relative stability. The fall in the world price of coffee had a direct impact on the Colombian economy. The reduction in income for coffee growers, who were the driving force behind the economy, was a severe blow. However, Colombia has shown remarkable resilience. The fall in prices led to an economic contraction, but on a smaller scale than that seen in other countries in the region. The 13% fall in export volumes and 2.4% fall in GNP, while significant, did not lead to the political and social instability that characterised other Latin American nations during this period. Colombia's relative stability can be attributed to several factors. One could be the structure of its political and economic system, which has allowed a degree of flexibility and adaptation to external shocks. Another key factor was the historic transfer of power from the conservative to the liberal party in 1930. This transition took place in a context where the Liberal Party had been marginalised, with the Conservative Party dominating the Colombian political scene for more than half a century. The division within the conservative party paved the way for the election of a liberal president. This political change, while significant, was not the result of a coup or revolution, but rather of an electoral process. This illustrates Colombia's ability to maintain a degree of political stability despite the significant economic challenges of the time. This stability does not mean that Colombia has been spared economic hardship. Coffee growers, workers and the economy in general felt the impact of the depression. However, the way in which the country managed this crisis, avoiding major political instability and implementing political transitions via electoral processes, reflects the robustness of its institutions and its ability to absorb and adapt to economic and social shocks.

Historical experiences, such as those of Colombia during the Great Depression, are invaluable resources for understanding the potential dynamics at play during economic and political crises. These historical case studies offer valuable insights into resilience mechanisms, structural vulnerabilities, and how political, economic and social factors interact in times of crisis. Colombia, for example, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to maintain political stability during a period of intense economic turbulence. Understanding the factors that contributed to this resilience - be they the structure of the political system, economic flexibility, social cohesion or other elements - can provide valuable lessons for other countries facing similar challenges. In the current context of economic globalisation and potential volatility, the lessons learned from the Great Depression can inform responses to future crises. For example, they can help identify strategies that can strengthen economic and political resilience, understand the risks associated with dependence on exports or foreign markets, and assess the impact of political transitions in an uncertain economic environment. By analysing specific examples such as Colombia in depth, policymakers, economists and researchers can develop models and scenarios to anticipate future challenges and opportunities. They can also work to create adaptive policies and strategies to navigate effectively through economic crises, minimising the social impact and preserving political stability.

The transition of the Colombian economy during the Great Depression illustrates the importance of economic diversification and decentralisation. Spreading risk and having a multiplicity of economic players can mitigate the impact of global economic shocks. In the case of Colombia, the shift to small-scale coffee production has redistributed the risks associated with falling commodity prices and fluctuations in world markets. Instead of being concentrated in the hands of large landowners and companies, the risk has been shared among many smallholders. This decentralisation allowed a degree of flexibility. Smallholders could quickly adjust their production practices in response to market changes, a flexibility often less present in large-scale farming structures. It also favoured a more balanced distribution of income and resources, mitigating the economic inequalities that can exacerbate the social impact of economic crises. This scenario highlights the importance of adaptability and diversity in the economic structure. An economy that is not overly dependent on a particular sector, or mode of production, is often better equipped to withstand economic turbulence. This lesson is particularly relevant in the current context, where the world's economies are interconnected and susceptible to a variety of shocks, from financial crises to pandemics and climate change. An economy's ability to adapt, diversify and evolve in response to emerging challenges is a key factor in its long-term resilience. Studying historical responses to crisis, such as Colombia's during the Great Depression, can provide valuable insights for building global and local economic resilience in the uncertain future ahead.

The analysis of the situation of small coffee producers in Colombia during the Great Depression highlights a painful reality that remains relevant today: in times of economic crisis, vulnerable communities and small producers are often the hardest hit. Their lack of financial resources and dependence on a single source of income make them particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in world markets. In the specific case of Colombia, the crisis has revealed a clear dichotomy. The former large landowners, who had diversified their sources of income and were now involved in buying and exporting coffee, had financial leeway to absorb the shock of falling prices. They were not directly linked to production and could therefore navigate the crisis more easily. However, for small coffee producers, the fall in coffee prices meant a direct reduction in their income, with no margin to absorb the shock. They were forced to continue producing, often at a loss, in a market where production costs were higher than the income generated by the sale of coffee. These dynamics have exacerbated the economic insecurity of small farmers, plunging them deeper into poverty and debt. This reality exposes a critical issue that transcends time and region: the need for a robust system of protection for small producers and vulnerable communities in times of crisis. Mechanisms such as social safety nets, access to credit on favourable terms, and agricultural policies that stabilise prices can be crucial instruments for mitigating the impact of economic crises on the most vulnerable communities. The lesson learned from Colombia during the Great Depression reinforces the idea that the strength and resilience of an economy is measured not only by its overall growth or the wealth of its elites, but also by the protection and resilience of its most vulnerable members in the face of economic shocks and crises. Building an equitable and sustainable society requires careful attention to how economic benefits are distributed, particularly in times of crisis.

The adoption of semi-autarchic strategies, such as that observed among small coffee growers in Colombia during the Great Depression, highlights the resilience and adaptability of communities in the face of adverse economic conditions. The ability to produce some of their own food via kitchen gardens acted as a buffer against volatile market fluctuations, providing a form of food insurance in the face of uncertainty. This example highlights an old and widespread practice: in times of crisis, households often return to more self-sufficient modes of production to ensure their survival. This not only reduces their dependence on markets, which are often unstable, but also brings a degree of stability to the daily lives of households. Self-production also has the advantage of reducing the pressure on limited financial resources, by enabling families to save what they would have spent on food. However, this solution is not without its challenges. While it offers a degree of resilience in the short term, semi-autarchy is often not sustainable in the long term. It cannot fully compensate for the loss of income due to the fall in prices of export products such as coffee. What's more, it does not address structural challenges such as inequality, land concentration or trade barriers. The lesson here is twofold. Firstly, it recognises the importance of local support systems and resilience within communities. These mechanisms often provide a first line of defence against economic crises. But, on the other hand, it also highlights the need for broader, systemic solutions. While households can adapt their behaviour to cope with temporary shocks, broader interventions, such as price stabilisation policies, access to credit and income support programmes, are needed to address the root causes of economic instability and provide lasting security.

Political dynamics[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Alfonso López Pumarejo, President of the Republic of Colombia from 1934 to 1938, then from 1942 to 1946.

Colombia's relative political stability during the Great Depression, despite substantial economic challenges, is remarkable and merits in-depth analysis. The peaceful transfer of power from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party in 1930 indicates a level of maturity and flexibility in the Colombian political system at the time. The Conservatives' internal division opened the door to political change, but the transition itself was not marked by the kind of violence or instability often associated with periods of economic crisis. This suggests the presence of institutional and social mechanisms that enabled a degree of adaptability in the face of internal and external pressures. One crucial factor was probably the absence of large-scale military unrest or revolts. While other Latin American nations were rocked by coups and political conflicts during this period, Colombia navigated through the crisis with relative political continuity. This could be attributed to a variety of factors, including perhaps more robust institutions, a less militaristic political culture, or less pronounced social and political divisions. The case of Colombia during the Great Depression provides an instructive example of how different nations can respond in different ways to global economic crises, influenced by their unique political, social and institutional contexts. Further study of this particular case could offer valuable insights into understanding political resilience in times of economic stress.

Alfonso López Pumarejo, as President of Colombia in the 1930s and 1940s, played a significant role in the country's political and social transition during and after the Great Depression. At a time when the country was facing enormous economic and social challenges, López's reforms were crucial in stabilising and reshaping Colombian society. Under López's presidency, Colombia saw the introduction of the "Revolution on the Move", a set of progressive reforms aimed at transforming the country's socio-economic structure. At the heart of this programme was a strategy to reduce the social inequalities exacerbated by the Great Depression. López sought to modernise the Colombian economy, extend civil rights and improve education. The introduction of universal suffrage for men was a major step towards democratising Colombian politics. By extending the right to vote, López not only strengthened the legitimacy of the political system, but also gave a voice to previously marginalised segments of the population. The education programmes introduced under his presidency were also a key element in tackling the country's socio-economic problems. By investing in education, López aimed to improve social mobility and create a more skilled workforce, essential for economic modernisation. Similarly, unionisation and recognition of indigenous communities have helped to reduce inequality and promote social and economic rights. Trade unions have provided a mechanism for workers to collectively bargain for fairer wages and working conditions, while recognition of the rights of indigenous communities has helped to correct historical injustices.

The election of Alfonso López Pumarejo in 1934 ushered in an era of significant transformation in Colombia, characterised by the introduction of a series of progressive reforms encapsulated in the programme known as "Revolución en Marcha". Inspired by the Mexican revolution, this programme reflected a growing desire for social justice and economic recovery in the wake of the challenges exacerbated by the Great Depression. The constitutional reform that López initiated was not radical in itself, but it laid the foundations for a greater commitment to social inclusion and economic equity. He implemented constitutional changes to make Colombia's political and social system more inclusive and responsive to the needs of ordinary citizens, moving away from the rigid structures that had previously characterised the country's governance. The introduction of universal suffrage for men was a decisive step. It marked a transition to a more participatory democracy, in which political rights were extended to include wider segments of the population. This reform has encouraged more diverse political representation and helped to boost public debate and citizen participation. Reforms in education and unionisation were also central. Lopez understood that education was a crucial vector for social and economic improvement. Initiatives to widen access to education were designed to equip the population with the skills and knowledge needed to participate fully in the modern economy. At the same time, unionisation was promoted to give workers a means of defending their rights and improving their working and living conditions. Lopez did not neglect the indigenous communities, an often marginalised segment of Colombian society. Although modest, the measures taken to recognise and respect their rights signalled a desire to include these communities in the country's wider social and economic fabric.

The "Revolution on the Move" under López's leadership was a major response to the profound economic and social challenges triggered by the Great Depression in Colombia. At a time of deepening poverty, inequality and unemployment, López's efforts to transform society and the economy were a bold attempt to turn the country around. López's reforms, while considered limited, symbolise a tectonic shift in Colombia's political and social approach. They embody a drive towards a more humanised political and social space geared towards the well-being of the masses. The persistent challenges of poverty and inequality were brought to the fore, triggering a process of transformation which, although gradual, marked a remarkable departure from previous policies. The introduction of universal suffrage for men, the promotion of education and unionisation, and the increased recognition of indigenous communities are tangible manifestations of this progressive change. Each initiative, each reform, was a thread in the fabric of a nation seeking to reimagine and rebuild itself in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. Lopez sought to build a country where opportunities were not restricted to an elite, but were accessible to the greatest number. Economic disparities, social disparities and barriers to progress were not just physical barriers but psychological barriers, barriers to a sense of national belonging and collective identity. The "Revolution in Progress", in all its ambition, was not just a series of policies and reforms. It was an awakening, a call to action that still resonates in the history of Colombia. It is proof of the nation's resilience in the face of adversity and a testament to the never-ending aspirations for a just, balanced and equitable society. As the Great Depression revealed the cracks in the country's economic and social structure, Lopez's response, albeit limited, provided a glimmer of hope. It affirmed that progress was possible, that change was attainable, and that the nation, despite its challenges and uncertainties, was capable of adapting, transforming and renewing itself in its relentless quest for justice and equity.

In 1938, the momentum of transformation and hope established by Lopez was brutally interrupted. A military coup, like an impromptu storm, wiped out the promising horizon that the "Revolution in Progress" had begun to sketch out. Lopez was ousted from power, and with him went a vision of the country in which reforms and the aspiration to social and economic progress were at the heart of the national agenda. The rise to power of the far-right military regime marked a return to the shadows of repression and authoritarianism. Opposition voices were muzzled, aspirations for change stifled, and the trade unions, those bastions of workers' solidarity and social progress, were forced into silence and impotence. The regime erects walls of intolerance and repression, relentlessly reversing and erasing the gains made under Lopez. This abrupt turn towards authoritarianism extinguished the flame of progressive reform and plunged Colombia into an era of dark repression. The "Revolution on the Move", once a source of hope and transformation, became a distant memory, a shooting star in the Colombian political sky, eclipsed by the dark glow of military dictatorship. It's a time when hope is dying and fear and intimidation reign. Social and political progress was not only halted but reversed, like a ship that was once bold but is now bogged down, unable to free itself from the shackles of authoritarianism that are holding it back. Colombia's history, at this point, becomes a tale of lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. The echoes of the "Revolution on the march" still ring out, a poignant reminder of what could have been, but was violently interrupted by military intervention. This episode in Colombian history illustrates the fragility of progress and the precariousness of democracy in a world prey to volatile and unpredictable political forces.

The reign of Alfonso Lopez is an ambiguous chapter in Colombian history. On the one hand, his liberal policies attracted the support of urban dwellers and the working class, marking an era of optimism and progressive reform. However, on the other hand, a critical flaw in his governance was his neglect of rural areas, where small-scale coffee growers lived, forgotten and marginalised. Their existence was shaped by relentless self-exploitation and toil, which unfortunately did not translate into an improvement in their living conditions. The Lopez era, although illuminated by the light of reform in the cities, left the countryside in the dark, an omission that was to have tragic consequences. Violencia" emerged not from a vacuum, but from an accumulation of frustration, misery and neglect. As the Second World War shook the globe, Colombia was dragged into its own internal storm, a brutal and devastating conflict. More than 250,000 peasants lost their lives, a human tragedy exacerbated by a massive rural exodus. Colombia's cities, once bastions of progress under Lopez, are now the scene of a massive influx of rural refugees, each with a story of loss and suffering. The duality of the Lopez era is revealed in full light - a period when hope and neglect coexisted, sowing the seeds of a conflict that would profoundly mark Colombian history. Violencia" is a reflection of these untreated seeds of despair and injustice, a stark reminder that prosperity and reform in urban centres cannot mask the abandonment and distress of rural areas. It is a painful chapter, where ignored voices rise up in an explosion of violence, and Colombia is forced to confront the omitted shadows of the liberal era, a confrontation that reveals the devastating human costs of inattention and neglect.

The case of Cuba: Revolution and military coup[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Over the course of the 20th century, Cuba underwent a remarkable political, economic and social transformation. The Caribbean island, bathed in the wealth of its sugar production, found its economy and, by extension, its political destiny, inextricably linked to the power of the North, the United States. During this period, more than 80% of Cuban sugar was shipped to American shores. This economic dependence mirrored a reality of dichotomies - an opulent elite, bathed in the luxuriance of wealth, and a majority, the workers, who reaped the bitterness of poverty and inequality. 1959 will go down in Cuban history as the dawn of a revolutionary renaissance. Fidel Castro, a name that will resonate through the ages, emerged as the face of a successful insurrection against the regime of Fulgencio Batista, a man whose governance bore the imprint of American interests. Under Castro's reign, a socialist revolution took root. The vast expanses of sugar plantations, once symbols of American economic hegemony, were nationalised. A far-reaching agrarian reform unfolded, a breath of fresh air for the exhausted and marginalised rural workers. However, the revolution was not without international consequences. Relations with the United States cooled, plunging into an abyss of mistrust and hostility. The trade embargo was erected, an economic wall that would leave lasting scars. The Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, a failed attempt by the United States to overthrow Castro, marked the boiling point of geopolitical tensions. And yet, despite the political and economic storms, the Cuban revolution has been a beacon of social improvement. Education, healthcare and social equality are rising, shining stars in a sky once darkened by inequality and oppression. Over the decades, Cuba has remained a bastion of socialism. A country where the echoes of the 1959 revolution still resonate, a testament to the resilience and transformation of a nation that has struggled between the shackles of economic dependence and the yearning for sovereignty and equality.

The deep inequality and poverty that had sunk their claws into Cuban soil provoked social and political convulsions, testifying to the restlessness of a population yearning for justice and fairness. The dark reality of oppression and injustice was illuminated in 1933 when Fulgencio Batista, at the head of a military insurrection, orchestrated a coup d'état that swept away the government in power. Batista's dictatorship ushered in an era of control and authoritarianism, a reign that lasted until the emblematic revolution of 1959. The revolution, carried by the winds of change and the aspiration for freedom, saw Fidel Castro and the 26 July Movement rise up as the faces of an insurrection that would resonate throughout the annals of history. Batista, the central figure of the dictatorship, was overthrown, marking the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. The advent of the socialist state in Cuba under the banner of Castro was a turning point in the nation's political and economic landscape. It was a revolution that did more than simply depose a dictator; it was a revolution that bore the seeds of social and economic transformation. The echoes of the revolution reverberated through the corridors of power and the streets of Cuba. American companies, once the titans of the Cuban economy, were nationalised. A wave of social and economic reforms swept the country, a rising tide aimed at eradicating deep-rooted inequalities and raising the living standards of the Cuban people. In the wake of the revolution, a transformed nation has emerged. Inequality and oppression, while still present, were now being challenged by the winds of change, and a new era in Cuban history was taking shape, marked by socialism, the aspiration for equity and the relentless pursuit of social justice.

The Cuban sugar industry, once prosperous and abundant, was plunged into chaos and desolation between 1929 and 1933, an unsuspecting victim of the great economic calamity known as the Great Depression. Sugar, sweet in taste but bitter in its economic repercussions, saw its prices plummet by more than 60%, a precipitous descent that sounded the death knell for past prosperity. Exports, once the backbone of the Cuban economy, have declined dramatically, plunging by more than 80% and taking with them the hopes and aspirations of an entire nation. In the plantations and sugar cane fields, the large landowners, once dominant figures of prosperity, have been reduced to desperate measures. Faced with a market that was deteriorating by the day, they cut production and lowered farm wages by 75%. It was an act of desperation and necessity that resonated in every nook and cranny of the island. Seasonal workers from Haiti and Jamaica, once essential to the smooth running of the sugar industry, were sacked en masse. An enforced exodus of those who had once found a place under the Cuban sun. Hundreds of small factories and shops, once bastions of the local economy, have been declared bankrupt, their doors closed, their hopes dashed. The ripple effect was devastating. In 1933, a quarter of the working population was plunged into the abyss of unemployment, a bleak and desolate reality. A population faced with economic desolation, where 60% lived below the subsistence minimum, confronted every day with the harsh reality of an existence marked by poverty and deprivation. Cuba, an island once bathed in sunshine and prosperity, was now a nation plunged into the dark embrace of economic desolation, an unwitting victim of the Great Depression that swept the world, taking with it the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a once prosperous nation.

As his presidency progressed, Machado was transformed into an authoritarian ruler. As the Great Depression exerted its cruel grip on the Cuban economy, exacerbating social and economic tensions, Machado's style of government became increasingly oppressive. As the sugar industry, the backbone of the Cuban economy, withered under the weight of falling prices and demand, Machado found himself facing growing opposition. The popularity he enjoyed as he inaugurated infrastructure projects and launched reforms evaporated, replaced by discontent and protest. Machado, once celebrated for his nationalist and liberal policies, responded to this protest with repression. Civil liberties were eroded, political opposition muzzled, and political violence became commonplace. Machado's tenure, which had begun with the promise of an era of progress and modernisation, was overshadowed by authoritarianism and repression. The infrastructure projects that were once the hallmark of his leadership faded into the shadows of social and political injustice. The Cuban nation, initially full of hope and optimism under his leadership, found itself plunged into a period of despair and repression. Machado's transition to authoritarian rule was also facilitated by the global economic crisis. With the economic recession and falling state revenues, his efforts to strengthen executive power were accelerated. His government became notorious for corruption, press censorship and the use of military force to suppress demonstrations and opposition movements. Gerardo Machado's presidency became synonymous with authoritarian rule and repressive governance, marked by a dramatic decline in civil and political liberties. His tenure, once marked by hope and promise, descended into oppression and tyranny, underlining the fragility of fledgling democracies in the face of economic and social crises. Machado, once a symbol of progress, became a sombre warning of the perils of authoritarianism, marking a dark chapter in Cuba's political and social history.

Machado's transformation into an authoritarian leader coincided with the deterioration of economic conditions in Cuba, exacerbated by the Great Depression. Public frustrations, already exacerbated by rampant corruption and concentration of power, intensified in response to worsening poverty, unemployment and economic instability. In this tense context, Machado opted for an iron fist, exacerbating popular mistrust and discontent. Demonstrations against his regime multiplied, and the government's brutal response created a cycle of protest and repression. Machado's repressive actions, in turn, galvanised the opposition and led to an increasing radicalisation of protest groups. The erosion of civil liberties and human rights under Machado isolated his regime not only domestically, but also internationally. His actions have attracted the attention and criticism of foreign governments, international organisations and the global media, exacerbating the ongoing political crisis. The atmosphere of mistrust, fear and repression has led to an escalation of violence and instability, with devastating consequences for Cuban society. The country, once promising under Machado's initial reforms, was now caught up in a whirlwind of protests, repression and political crisis.

Machado's resignation in 1933 was hailed by large sections of the Cuban population as a victory against authoritarianism and repression. However, the initial relief quickly dissipated in the face of persistent challenges and political turbulence. The power vacuum left by Machado led to a period of instability, with various political and military actors fighting for control of the country. The economic situation remained precarious. The Great Depression had left deep scars, and the population faced unemployment, poverty and economic uncertainty. Despite Machado's departure, the structural challenges facing the Cuban economy, which was largely dependent on sugar and vulnerable to fluctuations in the world market, remained unresolved. Against this tumultuous backdrop, public expectations for radical change and improved living conditions came up against the harsh reality of economic and political constraints. Reforms were urgent, but implementation was hampered by political polarisation, conflicting interests and foreign interference. The United States, in particular, continued to play an influential role in Cuban politics. Although it was criticised for its support for Machado, its economic and political influence remained a determining factor. Cuba's dependence on US investment and the US market complicated efforts to achieve independent and sovereign reform. Machado's legacy was therefore a complex one. Although he initiated modernisation and development projects, his turn towards authoritarianism and repression led to a breakdown in trust with the Cuban people. His departure ushered in a new political era, but the structural, social and economic problems of the Machado era continued, echoing the challenges and tensions that would continue to characterise Cuban politics and society in the decades that followed.

Popular discontent with Machado's presidency was amplified by the economic misery resulting from the Great Depression. As sugar prices collapsed and unemployment rose, Machado's response was perceived as inadequate, even oppressive. His repression of demonstrations, increased control over the media and imposition of censorship exacerbated the situation, fuelling popular frustration and mistrust. The climate of mistrust and antagonism was fertile ground for the growth of radical movements. Communists, socialists and anarchists gained ground, galvanising general discontent to advance their respective ideologies. Their actions, often characterised by radicalism and sometimes violence, have added a layer of complexity to Cuba's turbulent political landscape. These movements, each with its own ideologies and tactics, were united by a common opposition to Machado's authoritarianism. They called for far-reaching political, economic and social reforms to improve the lives of the working and marginalised classes. These calls were particularly resonant in the context of exacerbated economic inequality and social distress resulting from the Depression. Growing social discontent led to an escalation of oppositional actions. Strikes multiplied, paralysing key sectors of the economy. Demonstrations intensified, growing in scale and intensity. Acts of sabotage and violence became increasingly common tactics for expressing opposition and challenging Machado's authority. Against this backdrop, Machado's position became more fragile. His inability to appease public discontent, carry out meaningful reforms and respond adequately to the economic crisis has eroded his legitimacy. Repression and authoritarian measures only succeeded in galvanising the opposition, turning his regime into a hotbed of instability and conflict. The Machado era is a clear example of the complex dynamic between authoritarianism, economic crisis and political radicalisation. It set the stage for a tumultuous period in Cuba's history, characterised by power struggles, instability and the ongoing search for a balance between authority, freedom and social justice.

This spiral of oppression and rebellion marked a dark chapter in Cuban history. Machado's regime, mired in an economic crisis exacerbated by the Great Depression and faced with growing opposition, resorted to brutal repression to retain power. State violence and violations of civil and political rights were commonplace. Each act of repression helped to fuel an atmosphere of mistrust and indignation among citizens, exacerbating instability. Fundamental human rights were often flouted. Political opponents, activists and even ordinary citizens were exposed to violence, arbitrary detention and other forms of intimidation and repression. Freedom of expression, assembly and other civil liberties were severely restricted, reinforcing a climate of fear and mistrust. At the same time, the opposition has become more organised and determined. Activist groups and resistance movements have grown in strength and popular support, building on widespread outrage at the regime's brutality and continuing economic hardship. Clashes between police and demonstrators were frequent and often violent, turning parts of the country into conflict zones. Cuba's international relations were also affected. Machado's actions attracted international attention and criticism. Neighbouring countries, international organisations and world powers watched developments with concern, aware of the potential implications for regional stability and international relations. The Machado era has become synonymous with repression, human rights abuses and instability. It is a cautionary reminder of the complexity and challenges inherent in managing deep economic and political crises, and of the potential dangers of unchecked authoritarian rule. The echoes of that period resonate in the challenges and questions that continue to shape Cuba and the region to this day.

Machado's exile marked a dramatic and intense turning point in Cuba's political crisis. His departure, however, did not calm popular unrest or resolve the deep-seated structural problems that animated the rebellion. The Cuban people, tired of authoritarianism and repression, were deeply engaged in a struggle for social justice, democracy and economic reform. The general strike that led to Machado's exile reflected the potential power of popular collective action. It was a manifestation of deep and widespread discontent, and a response to the years of oppression, corruption and mismanagement that had characterised his regime. The Cuban people had reached a breaking point, and the general strike was a concrete expression of this. The American intervention, although unsuccessful, underlines the impact and influence of the United States in the region, particularly in Cuba. The complex and often conflictual relationship between Cuba and the United States has been shaped by decades of intervention, support for authoritarian regimes and geopolitical manoeuvring. Machado's exile, far from resolving the crisis, left a power vacuum and deep uncertainty. The question of Cuba's political and economic future remained unanswered. Who would fill the vacuum left by Machado's fall? What reforms would be needed to meet the profound social and economic demands of the Cuban people? And how would relations with the United States evolve in the light of this political upheaval? The days and weeks following Machado's exile were characterised by continued uncertainty and instability. Power struggles, unmet social and political demands and foreign intervention would continue to shape the Cuban landscape in the years to come, ultimately leading to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the rise of Fidel Castro. This tumultuous period in Cuban history offers valuable insight into the complex dynamics of power, resistance and international intervention in a nation in crisis.

The fall of an authoritarian regime can often leave a vacuum of power and governance, leading to instability and sometimes chaos. This is what happened in Cuba after Machado's exile in 1933. A heterogeneous coalition made up of various political and civil society groups emerged in an attempt to fill this vacuum and govern the country. However, without strong leadership or a unified political vision, the coalition struggled to establish a stable order or to satisfy the diverse and complex aspirations of the Cuban people. The ensuing anarchy is testament to the challenges faced by a nation trying to rebuild itself after years of authoritarian rule. The old power structures have been discredited, but the new ones are not yet in place. Political factions, interest groups and ordinary citizens are all engaged in a struggle to define the country's future. In Cuba, this struggle has manifested itself in increased violence and instability. Militias and armed groups have taken to the streets, fighting for control and influence in an increasingly fragmented political landscape. The ruling coalition, although representing a broad cross-section of Cuban society, has failed to restore order or present a clear and coherent vision for the country's future. The political and social instability of this period has had a lasting impact on Cuba. It highlighted the challenges inherent in the transition from authoritarian rule to more democratic and inclusive governance. It also paved the way for the emergence of new forms of leadership and governance, and helped shape the Cuban political landscape for decades to come. Against this backdrop of crisis and uncertainty, the resilience, adaptability and ability of Cubans to navigate extremely difficult conditions have become apparent. These attributes will be crucial in the years ahead, as the country continues to transform and adapt to new challenges and opportunities. The complexity of this transition is a powerful reminder of the challenges inherent in any major political transformation, and of the need for a clear and coherent vision to guide a country towards a more stable and prosperous future.

Fulgencio Batista in Washington, D.C. in 1938.

This post-Machado period in Cuban history is often described as a time of chaos, confusion and radical transformation. Machado's departure, while a relief for many, did not instantly resolve the country's deep political, economic and social divisions. On the contrary, it opened the door to an explosion of restrained forces, conflicting ideologies and long-suppressed demands for justice and equity. The collapse of the Machado regime gave way to a period of relative anarchy. Accumulated anger and frustration erupted in the form of riots, strikes and other public expressions of discontent. The power vacuum created a space where various groups, from socialists to nationalists and other political factions, tried to impose their vision for Cuba's future. Among these groups, the sugar plantation workers play a crucial role. Entangled for years in precarious working conditions and faced with exploitation, they are rising up to take control of the plantations. This was less an organised adoption of socialism or Bolshevism than a spontaneous and desperate response to years of oppression. These workers, many of whom were informed and inspired by socialist and communist ideologies, sought to establish socialist-style collectives. They aim to end capitalist exploitation and create systems where workers control production and share the profits fairly. This revolution within the sugar industry reflects wider tensions in Cuban society and highlights the deep economic and social inequality that persists. As Cuba struggles to rebuild itself after Machado's reign, the country faces fundamental challenges. How can the divergent demands for justice, equity and freedom be reconciled? How to transform an economy and a society long defined by authoritarianism, exploitation and inequality? These questions will define post-Machado Cuba and set the stage for future struggles for the heart and soul of the nation. Against this tumultuous backdrop, the portrait of a country in search of its identity and its future begins to emerge.

The military unrest led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista in 1933 was another key element in Cuba's spiralling instability. At a time when the country was already overwhelmed by social and economic conflicts, Batista's intervention injected a new dimension of complexity and violence into the political landscape. The mutiny, which added to the existing social unrest, helped to shape an increasingly unpredictable and tumultuous environment. The rise of Batista was swift and decisive. This relatively unknown sergeant suddenly catapulted himself to the centre of the Cuban political arena. His rise illustrates the fragmented and volatile state of Cuban politics at the time. In a country marked by deep divisions and a lack of stable leadership, bold and opportunistic figures like Batista were able to capitalise on the chaos. Batista skilfully wielded military power and influence to establish his pre-eminence. His coup d'état in 1952 was a manifestation of the deepening Cuban political crisis. It was not an isolated event, but rather the result of years of accumulated tensions, discontent and the absence of stable and reliable political institutions. Under Batista's rule, Cuba entered a new phase in its tumultuous history. Batista's dictatorship was characterised by repression, corruption and close alignment with American interests. Although he succeeded in imposing a measure of stability, it was achieved at the cost of civil liberty and social justice. This chapter in Cuban history highlights the complexity and volatility of political transitions. Batista, once a mutinous sergeant, became the dictator who, in many ways, laid the foundations for the Cuban revolution of 1959.

The coup initiated by Batista, and bolstered by significant civilian support, marked a period of intense turbulence and change for Cuba. The uprising, although military in origin, was widely embraced by a dissatisfied civilian population. They saw it as an opportunity for far-reaching social and political transformation, reflecting the high level of discontent and aspiration for change. The 100-day government that followed the coup was a period of rapid and often radical change. Guided by the ideology of "returning Cuba to Cuba", this short government sought to dismantle inherited power structures and introduce far-reaching reforms. The public witnessed a determined effort to free Cuba from foreign influence and tackle deep-rooted structural problems. The reforms envisaged were ambitious, focusing on issues such as social inequality, poverty and political repression. This historic moment highlighted the deep thirst for change among the Cuban people, exacerbated by decades of authoritarian rule and economic exploitation. Despite its progressive intentions, the 100-day government was framed by inherent instability. The process of radical transformation faced both internal and external challenges, demonstrating the complexity of political reform in a context of social and political turmoil. This period in Cuban history offers a fascinating insight into the dynamics of revolutionary change. Although brief, the 100-day government posed fundamental questions about sovereignty, justice and democracy that would continue to shape Cuba's destiny in the decades to come. It proved to be a precursor and catalyst for a longer period of revolutionary transformation that culminated in the rise of Fidel Castro and the final overthrow of the Batista regime in 1959.

Cuba's short-lived revolutionary government found itself under siege from all sides. As it attempted to introduce far-reaching reforms, it came up against stubborn resistance from powerful interest groups. The army, in particular, became a formidable adversary, marking the continuity of its influence and power in Cuban politics. The attempt to radically transform the nation was halted, and a military dictatorship once again took the reins of power. This transition marked a return to authoritarianism, the suppression of political freedoms and the centralisation of power. The revolutionary aspirations of the Cuban people faded in the face of the reality of a regime that seemed determined to maintain the status quo. This prolonged political instability and the violence that accompanied it became endemic features of the era. The Cuban people, having tasted the hope of political and social transformation, found themselves confronted with the harsh reality of inflexible and authoritarian military rule. Dreams of social justice, equality and democracy were put on hold, waiting for another opportunity to materialise. However, the desire for change, though suppressed, was not eradicated. Revolutionary energy and aspiration lay dormant beneath the surface, ready to re-emerge. The structural problems of inequality, repression and injustice continued under the military dictatorship, fuelling an underlying discontent that would eventually erupt decades later. The key lesson of this tumultuous period in Cuban history lies in the persistence of the revolutionary spirit. Though constrained and repressed, the desire for political and social transformation remains alive and powerful, a testament to the resilience and determination of the Cuban people. The political and social saga that unfolded during these years was the premise of a broader historical turning point that would ultimately manifest itself in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 under the leadership of Fidel Castro.

Cuba's 100-day revolutionary government was marked by an energetic effort to introduce radical social and economic reforms. Their commitment to addressing the country's deep inequalities was demonstrated through measures that, although briefly implemented, had a lasting impact on Cuba's social structure. One of the most notable initiatives was the granting of universal suffrage to women. This emblematic reform marked a decisive stage in the evolution of civil rights in Cuba. For the first time, women were able to participate actively in the political process, in recognition of their equal status in society. This was more than a symbolic step forward; it represented a substantial overhaul of the norms and values that had long dominated Cuban politics. The participation of women in public life promised to enrich democratic discourse and foster a more inclusive and balanced environment. Despite its short existence, the revolutionary government instilled a momentum for change. The inclusion of women in the electoral process was an important milestone, demonstrating the nation's capacity to evolve and transform, even in the face of instability and turmoil. Although the future still held challenges and obstacles, and the spectre of authoritarianism and repression had not been totally eradicated, the legacy of those 100 days of revolutionary government would remain engraved in the collective memory. It was irrefutable proof of the possibility of reform and renewal, a reminder of Cuba's inherent potential to reinvent itself and move towards a more just and equitable society. The right to vote for women, although introduced against a backdrop of political turbulence, symbolises a victory against oppression and inequality. It demonstrates the persistence of the aspiration for social justice through the tumultuous ages of Cuban history. It is a chapter that, though brief, makes an indelible contribution to the nation's rich and complex tapestry.

Cuba's 100-day revolutionary government not only marked a significant advance in civil rights, but also initiated substantial reforms in crucial sectors such as education and labour. It was a period when the desire for structural change was transformed into concrete action, and long-suppressed aspirations found space to flourish, despite the brevity of this revolutionary era. In the field of education, the autonomy granted to universities was revolutionary. This change not only reaffirmed academic independence, but also stimulated an intellectual and cultural efflorescence. Education became more accessible, less constrained by the shackles of authoritarianism and bureaucracy, and was thus able to evolve into a crucible of innovative ideas and social progress. In addition, the extension of workers' rights, particularly to those who worked in difficult conditions such as sugar cane cutters, symbolised an attempt to rectify deep-rooted injustices. The introduction of the minimum wage, paid holidays and improved working conditions were not mere concessions; they were a recognition of the vital role and dignity of workers in the country's economic and social structure. These reforms, although initiated in a context of intense turbulence, illuminated the possibilities for social and economic transformation. They have served as a testament to the country's ability to overcome its historical challenges and strive to achieve ideals of justice and equity. Every step taken, from empowering educational institutions to guaranteeing workers' rights, reinforced the spirit of renewal. Although the revolutionary government was short-lived, the momentum of these reforms instilled an energy that continued to resonate in the years that followed, a persistent echo of the possibility of progress and transformation in a nation searching for its identity and its path to justice and prosperity.

The agrarian reform initiated by the revolutionary government was a bold attempt to rebalance the distribution of resources in a nation where land disparities were profound. In a Cuba marked by economic inequalities and concentrations of power, this reform symbolised a hope for justice and equity for rural farmers, who were often marginalised and under-represented. The central challenge of agrarian reform was to dismantle inequitable land structures and usher in an era of accessibility and shared ownership. Every hectare redistributed, every parcel of land made accessible to farmers who had previously been excluded, held out the promise of a future where wealth and opportunity were not the preserve of a narrow elite. However, the complexity inherent in implementing such ambitious reforms in an unstable political climate cannot be underestimated. Every step forward has been met with obstacles, every radical change has been resisted by entrenched interests, and political volatility has often compromised the continuity and delivery of the reforms. So, while these reforms have instilled a sense of hope and optimism, they have been short-lived. The years of instability that followed eroded much of the progress made, highlighting the precariousness of reforms in the absence of political and institutional stability. These reforms, while imperfect and temporary, nevertheless left an indelible legacy. They served as a poignant reminder of the nation's potential to aspire to fairness and justice, while highlighting the persistent challenges that stand in the way of achieving these lofty aspirations.

The 100-day revolutionary government was in a delicate situation. Its reforms were a necessary effort to tackle the systemic inequalities that plagued Cuban society. However, by introducing changes considered radical by one section of the population and insufficient by another, it found itself trapped between conflicting expectations and political pressure. Right-wing and extreme right-wing groups saw these reforms as a threat to their established interests. Land reform, universal suffrage for women and improved working conditions were seen as direct challenges to the consolidated power structure and wealth. For them, each progressive change symbolised a withdrawal of their grip on economic and social power, provoking fierce resistance. For the Marxist left, on the other hand, reforms were an insufficient response to deep-rooted inequality and social injustice. Poverty, inequality and political repression demanded bold and substantial measures. The Left called for a more profound transformation of the economic and political system - an overhaul that would go beyond the reforms introduced, tackling the very roots of social and economic disparities.

External opposition from the US government exacerbated the already tense situation in Cuba. The United States, as a major world power and Cuba's immediate neighbour, had considerable economic and strategic interests in the country and the region. The reforms initiated by the Cuban revolutionary government, although intended to remedy internal inequalities and promote social justice, were viewed with suspicion in Washington. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States was committed to the policy of "good neighbourliness", which advocated respect for the sovereignty of Latin American nations. In practice, however, Washington was often inclined to intervene in the affairs of the region's nations to protect its economic and political interests. Fears of a rise in left-wing and socialist ideologies, and their implementation through substantial reforms, were viewed with deep suspicion. As a result, the Cuban revolutionary government found itself in a precarious position. At home, it was besieged by opposition from various sectors of society. Abroad, it faced opposition and mistrust from the United States, a power that had the power to influence events in Cuba considerably. The fall of the revolutionary government and the return to military dictatorship can be understood in the context of these combined pressures. The ambitious reforms failed to win sufficient support, both nationally and internationally, to ensure their implementation and sustainability. Cuba then found itself in another period of authoritarianism, illustrating the complexity and volatility of the political landscape at the time and the difficulty of achieving progressive change in an environment of conflicting interests and geopolitical pressures.

The United States played an influential, if less direct, role in Cuban political events at the time. Its intervention was not military, but took the form of diplomacy and political manipulation that facilitated Fulgencio Batista's rise to power. Fulgencio Batista, an army officer who had been involved in the overthrow of Gerardo Machado, was a political ally favourable to the United States. The United States, concerned about its economic and political interests in Cuba, saw Batista as a potential ally who could stabilise the country's political situation and protect its interests. Batista came to power against a backdrop of civil unrest and political transformation, and established an authoritarian regime that repressed opposition and consolidated power. The United States supported Batista, even though he was a dictator, because it saw him as a bulwark against instability and communism. This highlights the complexities of US relations with Latin America, where geopolitical and economic concerns have often taken precedence over democratic principles and human rights. American support for Batista had long-lasting implications, ultimately leading to the Cuban revolution of 1959 led by Fidel Castro, and to a marked deterioration in relations between Cuba and the United States in the decades that followed.

Batista's reign was characterised by political repression, censorship and corruption. US support was crucial in keeping Batista in power, due to US economic and strategic interests in Cuba. However, his authoritarian rule and endemic corruption fuelled widespread discontent among the Cuban people. It was against this backdrop of discontent that Fidel Castro and his revolutionary movement gained popularity. Castro, along with other notable revolutionary figures such as Che Guevara, orchestrated a well-organised guerrilla war against the Batista regime. After several years of struggle, the revolutionaries succeeded in overthrowing Batista on 1 January 1959. Castro's victory marked the beginning of a radical transformation of Cuban society. Major economic and social reforms, including the nationalisation of companies and land reform, were put in place. However, these changes led to a definitive break with the United States, which imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in response to the nationalisation of American property. Under Castro's leadership, Cuba aligned itself with the Soviet Union, marking a significant departure from its previous alignment with the United States. This geopolitical reality contributed to the tension of the Cold War, particularly during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. So the Cuban revolution was not only significant for Cuba, it had major international repercussions, changing the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War and influencing US policy in Latin America for years to come.

The case of Brazil: military coup and fascist regime[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Brazil's recent political history has been marked by alternations between authoritarian regimes and democratic periods. A look at the chronology of events gives a clear picture of these transitions and their impact on the country.

The Estado Novo period began in 1937 when Getúlio Vargas, who had already been in power since the 1930 revolution, established an authoritarian regime. This regime was characterised by the centralisation of power, severe repression of opponents and the introduction of censorship. Paradoxically, Vargas also managed to implement substantial reforms that helped modernise the economy and improve conditions for Brazilian workers. The end of the Estado Novo in 1945 paved the way for a democratic era in Brazil. Several presidents were elected during this period, including Vargas himself, who returned to power in 1951 in a democratic election. His term of office ended tragically with his suicide in 1954, marking another tumultuous chapter in the country's political history.

Brazilian democracy suffered a brutal blow in 1964 when a military coup ousted President João Goulart from power. What followed was a two-decade military dictatorship characterised by political repression, censorship and flagrant human rights abuses. Despite the oppressive climate, this period also saw a rapid economic boom, albeit accompanied by rising debt and inequality. The country returned to democracy in 1985, marking the end of the military dictatorship. Brazil adopted a new constitution in 1988, laying the foundations for a renewed and more inclusive democracy. However, the country continues to face persistent challenges such as corruption, social and economic inequality and other structural problems.

Brazil's political evolution over the 20th century is a tale of sharp contrasts, mixing authoritarianism and democracy, progress and repression. Each period has left an indelible mark on the social, political and economic fabric of the country, contributing to the complexity and richness of Brazilian history.

Economic context[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Brazilian economy is both robust and diversified, characterised by a thriving agricultural sector, particularly coffee production, and expanding industrial and service sectors. Coffee plantations, mainly controlled by an elite of landowners, have long been the mainstay of Brazilian exports. However, the concentration of wealth and power has left agricultural workers, including immigrants and internal migrants, in a precarious situation. Despite these inequalities, Brazil has gradually diversified its economy. Industrialisation and the development of the service sector have positioned the country as a key emerging economy, while resource extraction, particularly oil, has consolidated its stature on the world stage. However, inequalities persist, rooted in the unbalanced distribution of wealth and resources. A large part of the population remains on the margins, especially coffee workers, who are often denied access to education, health and other essential services. The challenge for Brazil is to transform these structural inequalities into a more balanced and inclusive economy. Reforms in agriculture, education and the redistribution of wealth are crucial to changing this.

In 1930, Brazil was in the grip of the First Republic, a government which, despite its stated aspiration for order and progress, was mired in political instability and economic distress. The republican ideals that had once inspired optimism were now eclipsed by the reality of a nation in crisis, struggling to maintain cohesion and prosperity. The electoral system, to which only a small fraction of the population had access, was a particular source of tension. The exclusion of the majority of the population from the decision-making process fuelled a deep sense of discontent and exclusion. Each election was a stinging reminder of the inequalities and divisions that characterised Brazilian society at the time. Against this backdrop, the presidential crisis of 1930 was not just a political confrontation, but also a manifestation of growing frustration and disillusionment. The disputed election results crystallised collective bitterness, transforming a political quarrel into a decisive turning point for the nation. It was in this electric atmosphere that the military coup of 1930 took root, sweeping away the First Republic and ushering in the era of the Estado Novo. A regime which, under the cloak of fascism, promised order but hindered freedom, evoked progress but imposed repression. A living paradox, the reflection of a

Three of Brazil's 17 states refused to accept the results of the presidential election, leading to uprisings and unrest. In response, the military staged a coup and overthrew the civilian government, handing power to Getúlio Vargas, a cattle farmer and governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. This event marked the beginning of the Estado Novo regime and an era of authoritarian rule in Brazil. By 1930, Brazil's political fabric was torn by deep tensions. The discord was catalysed by controversial presidential elections, the results of which were rejected by three of the country's seventeen states. This rebellion against central authority was not simply a political quarrel; it reflected deep-seated mistrust and fractures within Brazilian society. The dissident states were in turmoil, their refusal to accept the election results having turned into palpable uprisings. The streets were the scene of popular frustration, and tension was mounting, threatening to erupt into open conflict. It was against this stormy backdrop that the military, presenting themselves as the guardians of order and stability, orchestrated a coup d'état. They dismantled the civilian government, echoing the frustrations and demands of a population that felt betrayed by its leaders. Getúlio Vargas, then governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and a cattle farmer by profession, was installed in power. His ascension marked the tumultuous end of the First Republic and the sinister beginning of the Estado Novo. Vargas was a complex figure, embodying both the population's aspirations for change and the oppressive characteristics of the authoritarian regime that was taking hold. The Estado Novo, with Vargas at its head, carried within it a contradiction - promising the restoration of order while repressing freedom, proposing to embody progress while muzzling dissent. Brazil had entered a new era, where power was centralised and authority unchallenged. A country torn between its tumultuous past and an uncertain future, guided by a leader who embodied the nation's deepest tensions.

Political landscape[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Brazil, with its rich geographical and cultural diversity, has always been the scene of constantly changing political dynamics, influenced by shifts in regional economic power. In the early post-colonial days, the sugar economy predominated, and the north-east of Brazil, as the heart of this industry, was the seat of power. The sugar barons, endowed with wealth and influence, shaped national policies according to their interests. However, like all evolving nations, Brazil did not remain fixed in this configuration. The economic topography evolved, influencing and being influenced by patterns of migration, investment and technological innovation. As the century progressed, a new economic powerhouse emerged in the south - centred around Rio de Janeiro. Coffee and livestock became the mainstays of the south's rise to power. The region became a crossroads of economic opportunity, attracting investment, talent and, inevitably, political power. It was no longer the north-east, but the south that dictated the tone of national politics. In this shifting mosaic of economic and political power, figures like Getúlio Vargas emerged. Vargas was the product and reflection of this transition - a man whose rise to power was as much down to his own political skill as to the shifting winds of the Brazilian economy. The political stability of the South, anchored in its economic rise, also marked a change in the political texture of Brazil. The struggles and conflicts that had marked the nation's early days subsided, replaced by a more consolidated and centralised form of governance.

Once Getúlio Vargas was installed as President, he wasted no time in deploying an authoritarian regime of notable strength. The rise to power marked by the military coup quickly turned into an administration that tolerated little opposition. Left-wing groups, particularly socialists and communists, were Vargas' first targets. He eradicated their activities, putting an abrupt end to any challenge or criticism from this faction.

Vargas's government was characterised by a firm grip, where censorship and the suppression of opposition were commonplace. However, it was not only the Left that was in his sights. The fascist right, or the Integralists, secretly funded by Mussolini's Italy, soon felt the heat of Vargas's repression. He was determined to consolidate his power and eliminate any potential threat to his regime. Brazil, under Vargas, experienced an era of authoritarianism, where the voice of opposition was stifled and freedom of expression severely curtailed. His regime was not only characterised by its authoritarian nature, but also by the way in which he systematically annihilated his political enemies, thereby guaranteeing his unchallenged grip on the country. This political repression and consolidation of power was not unlike the totalitarian tendencies seen elsewhere in the world at the same time. With an iron fist, Vargas transformed Brazil's political structure, leaving an indelible mark on the country's political landscape.

The establishment of the Estado Novo by Getúlio Vargas in 1937 marked a dark turning point in Brazilian political history. Inspired by the authoritarian regimes of Mussolini in Italy and Salazar in Portugal, Vargas set about reshaping Brazil according to a highly centralised and authoritarian vision. Democracy, already fragile and contested, was swept away, giving way to a state that exercised absolute control over the nation. Political parties, once the diverse and sometimes tumultuous voice of democracy, were banned. Freedom of expression and civil rights, essential foundations of any free society, were severely curtailed. Estado Novo embodied a corporatist state where every aspect of life, from the economy to culture, was subject to strict state regulation and control. Vargas built his regime on the back of the army. The military, with its rigid hierarchy and strict discipline, was a natural ally for a leader whose vision of power was so absolute. Under the Novo State, Brazil was a nation where the government dictated not only policy, but also the daily lives of its citizens. Repression, censorship and surveillance were omnipresent. Dissenting voices were quickly silenced and any opposition was forcefully suppressed. This oppressive atmosphere lasted until 1945. By then, widespread discontent and increased opposition had arisen, fuelled by years of repression and a deep desire for freedom and democracy. The fall of the Estado Novo was not just the end of an authoritarian regime. It also represented an awakening for a nation suffocated by tyranny and control. As Brazil moved towards the restoration of democracy, it would have to embark on a painful process of reconciliation and reconstruction, in which the scars left by years of authoritarianism would have to be healed and the nation would have to find its voice once again.

The Estado Novo dictatorship in Brazil, established by Getúlio Vargas in the 1930s, is one of the darkest chapters in Brazilian political history. Authoritarianism and pervasive state control were the defining characteristics of this era, in stark contrast to the dynamic and diverse nature of Brazilian society. An ardent nationalism permeated the rhetoric and politics of the regime, seeking to forge a unified national identity. Yet it was a narrowly defined nationalism, shaped by the regime's authoritarian vision, far removed from the pluralistic and inclusive ideals that characterise a healthy democracy. The army was revered and elevated to the status of guardian of the nation. In the shadows of barracks and military parades, the army became a pillar of the regime, enforcing its will and repressing any dissent. The economy was not immune to state control. Government control penetrated every sector, every business. Trade unions, once the voice of the workers, were muzzled, transformed into instruments of the state. Private companies operated under the watchful eye of the government, their independence and initiative hampered by rigid regulation and tight control. Censorship and repression were the tools of choice to muzzle any opposition. The press, artists, intellectuals - any dissenting voice was either silenced or stifled by relentless censorship. Prisons filled up with those who dared to speak out, and fear permeated every corner of society. The Estado Novo was not just a political regime; it was an attack on freedom, individuality and diversity. It was a world where the state did not just govern; it invaded every aspect of life, every thought, every dream. In the years of the Estado Novo, Brazil was not a free nation, but a nation enslaved by its own government, waiting for the moment of its liberation.

In the 1930s, Brazil was mired in a deep political and economic crisis, exacerbated by the global instability of the Great Depression. In 1930, Getúlio Vargas seized power in a military coup, ending the country's First Republic. Vargas, who hailed from the south of the country and represented growing agrarian interests, brought about a dynamic change in Brazil's political landscape. In 1937, Vargas established the Estado Novo, an authoritarian regime inspired by the European fascist governments of the time. This regime abolished political parties, introduced censorship and exercised strict control over the country. Vargas used the army to reinforce his rule and eliminate his opponents, while promoting a strong sense of nationalism. State intervention in the economy became more profound under Estado Novo. The state played a central role in regulating industry and agriculture. Despite political repression, Vargas also introduced social and economic reforms aimed at modernising the country and improving living conditions for the working classes. The Novo State came to an end in 1945 under domestic and international pressure for democratisation, particularly after the Second World War, when Brazil found itself on the side of the Allies. Vargas was forced to resign and the country began a transition to democracy. However, Vargas returned to power in 1951, this time by democratic means. His second term was marked by intense political tensions and, faced with insurmountable opposition, he committed suicide in 1954. The Vargas era, including the Estado Novo and his second term, had a profound impact on Brazil. Despite his authoritarianism, the reforms he initiated helped to modernise the country. Brazil subsequently experienced periods of political instability, alternating between democracy and authoritarian regimes, before stabilising as a democracy in the last decades of the 20th century.

Understanding Coups d'Etat and Populism in Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The outbreak of the global financial crisis in 1929 was an economic shock that devastated companies and the economy as a whole. American companies, which were heavily invested and operated internationally, were not spared. The effects of the crisis were particularly felt in Latin America, a region where US companies had substantial interests. With the collapse of the stock market and the credit crunch, many companies faced reduced liquidity and lower demand for their products and services. This was exacerbated by the rapid fall in commodity prices, a key component of the economies of many Latin American countries. Foreign investment, particularly from the US, has dried up as US companies and banks struggle to survive. For US companies operating in Latin America, this meant reduced revenues, lower profit margins and, in many cases, unprofitable operations. Capital was difficult to obtain, and without adequate financing, many were unable to maintain normal operations. As a result, many companies downsized, suspended operations or went bankrupt. This period also marked a significant decline in economic relations between the United States and Latin America. Protectionist policies adopted by nations to protect their domestic economies exacerbated the situation, reducing international trade and investment. However, despite the severity of the crisis, it has also served as a catalyst for significant economic and regulatory change. Governments around the world, including those in Latin America, adopted new policies to regulate economic activity, stabilise financial markets and promote economic recovery.

The crisis of 1929 highlighted the vulnerabilities and flaws inherent in the economic liberalism of the time. This model, predominant in the years leading up to the Great Depression, promoted a minimal role for the state in the economy, leaving the market free to evolve without significant government interference. This system of economic liberalism tended to favour landowners, industrialists and the financial sector, encouraging the accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of these elites. Mechanisms of regulation and control were weak or non-existent, allowing these groups to prosper often at the expense of the working classes. Workers, on the other hand, were in a precarious position. They faced low wages, poor working conditions and had little or no social security or legal protections. Their rights and freedoms were often neglected, and economic and social inequalities increased. The Great Depression amplified these problems. As markets collapsed, unemployment soared and businesses failed, the structural weaknesses of economic liberalism became undeniable. The state, traditionally a marginal player in the economy, suddenly found itself at the centre of the attempt to resolve the crisis. This marked a turning point in the understanding and practice of economic liberalism. Governments around the world, under pressure from economic and social realities, began to adopt more interventionist policies. The state took on a more active role in regulating the economy, protecting workers and stabilising financial markets.

The crisis of 1929 exposed the structural weaknesses of the economic liberalism model of the time. A particularly striking feature of this model was the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of economic elites, such as hacendados, industrialists and bankers. Workers, on the other hand, often lacked sufficient protection and rights, and suffered the most serious consequences of these inequalities. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and economic insecurity, the population, faced with massive economic distress, often looked for strong leadership to restore stability and order. In several Latin American countries, charismatic figures have emerged, proposing authoritarian or populist alternatives to the liberalism that previously prevailed. In the United States, the response to the crisis was also characterised by increased state intervention. Under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal marked a significant break with the previous laissez-faire liberalism. The government adopted a series of measures to stimulate economic growth, create jobs and protect the most vulnerable citizens. This involved tighter regulation of financial markets, an expansion of workers' rights and social welfare initiatives. The need to reassure and unify the population in this period of crisis revealed the importance of nationalism. Leaders have turned to nationalist ideas and symbols to bring their nations together and build a sense of solidarity and social cohesion.

Populism is often characterised by its ambivalence. On the one hand, it can offer a voice to people who feel neglected or marginalised by political and economic elites. In this context, populist leaders can mobilise broad popular support by responding to the frustrations and concerns of the masses. They are able to maintain social peace temporarily by presenting themselves as champions of "ordinary people" against corrupt and out-of-touch elites. On the other hand, populism can also be critical. Although populist leaders often promise radical change and the righting of perceived wrongs, they can actually reinforce existing structures of power and inequality. The reforms initiated under populist regimes are often superficial and fail to address the root causes of inequality and injustice. Sometimes these reforms are more focused on consolidating power in the hands of the populist leader than on improving the living conditions of the people they claim to represent. The illusion of change and representation can be maintained by skilful rhetoric and effective communication strategies. However, beneath the surface, structures of power and inequality often remain unchanged. This can lead to subsequent disillusionment among populist supporters, when bold promises of change and justice turn out to be insufficient or unattainable.

These dynamics have been observed in a number of historical and geographical contexts. Small farmers and the working class are often the most vulnerable to the devastating effects of economic crises. Their livelihoods are directly linked to an economy that, in times of crisis, becomes uncertain and precarious. In this context, the promise of populism, with its guarantees of economic recovery and fairness, can appear seductive. Socialist and Communist parties have historically sought to represent these groups. They often propose radical reforms to rebalance economic and political power, with an emphasis on protecting workers and small farmers. However, in times of crisis, these parties and movements can be marginalised or absorbed by more powerful populist forces. Populism, in its various manifestations, often presents a unified vision of the nation and proposes a quick fix to complex economic and social problems. This can lead to the suppression or co-option of smaller, more specialised groups and parties. Populist discourse tends to unite diverse groups under a national banner, setting aside specific demands and identities of class, region or profession.

The shortcomings and flaws of economic liberalism were exposed, and with them the profound inequalities that characterised these societies.

The crisis shook confidence in the existing economic system and highlighted the need for structural reform. Leaders who could articulate a convincing vision of a unified and prosperous nation gained ground. In many cases, they adopted nationalist ideologies, promising to restore dignity, power and prosperity to the nations they led. These ideologies sometimes led to an increase in authoritarianism. Populist leaders, armed with the urgency of the crisis, often consolidated power in their own hands, marginalising competing political forces and establishing regimes which, while popular, were often marked by the restriction of civil liberties and the concentration of power. However, it is also important to recognise that in some contexts, this period of crisis led to substantial and necessary reforms. In the United States, for example, the Roosevelt administration introduced the New Deal, a set of programmes and policies that not only helped to stabilise the economy, but also laid the foundations for a more robust social safety net.

The social unrest that followed the Great Depression created an urgent need for stability and reform. In response, governments oscillated between authoritarianism and populism to maintain control and ensure social peace. Populism, in particular, appeared to be a mechanism for appeasing the masses and avoiding revolution, a strategy illustrated by political developments in Cuba in 1933. The populist movement, however, was not content with rhetoric; it required a certain substantiality in the implementation of policies in order to be effective. This often involved the introduction of social legislation to protect the rights of workers and the poor, a necessary step to alleviate the pervasive social unrest of the time. However, although these measures succeeded in temporarily easing social tensions, they did not eliminate the underlying problems of inequality and injustice. The seeds of discontent remained, latent but alive, and re-emerged with a vengeance after the Second World War. A new era of political and social mobilisation was about to begin. Small peasants in rural areas and socialist and communist parties and unions in urban areas were particularly hard hit by the continuing repercussions of the Great Depression. While the state had managed to suppress or integrate some of these groups into larger, national political structures, the social protection offered was often inadequate. The basic problems of economic inequality, social justice and human rights remained unresolved.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]