The Cold War in Latin America and the Cuban Revolution

De Baripedia

The Cold War in Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

1944 - 1946: democratic wave[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There is a democratic crisis that seems to be blowing in Latin America, particularly in seven countries, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Haiti and Venezuela, where dictatorships are being overthrown to make way for democracy; only Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Paraguay continue to be in the hands of dictators.

In general, reformist parties are projected into power by urban middle classes and win with the support of communist and socialist parties.

With the war, there is a resumption of industrialization, but the entry of the United States into the Cold War will plunge Latin America into a long period of loss of democracy and military build-up.

1947: Opening stopped by the entry of the United States in the Cold War which reinforces the military power in Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The United States imposes the anti-Soviet policy to the other American nations in inter-American meetings that it dominates complementarily, it obtains the signature of the treaty of Rio[8][9] of mutual assistance making peace and indivisible in the Americas and that an armed attack or a mere threat against the American nations and an attack against all.

The United States considers itself attacked by the communists and the USSR, so all Latin American nations must follow them in this struggle.

The OAS has its headquarters in the Pan American Union building in Washington DC.

In 1948, the Organization of American States was created, even though the principle of non-interference and non-intervention is stipulated in the OAS, the organization is completely dominated by the United States, which passes a resolution specifying that communism is incompatible with democracy.

In 1960, the United States considered Latin America to be a possible prey to communism and a Soviet military attack, yet according to the Rio Treaty, any threat to a part of the Americas is a threat to the United States.

The United States Congress, in the name of the Monroe Doctrine, votes for military assistance to Latin American countries. This money is used to strengthen Latin American armies, but it is also used to finance the sale of American-made weapons to American nations.

This assistance is money that is going to be used by Latin American countries to buy arms from American industry.

There is also a whole army training program with the very rapid implementation of counter-insurgency programs, that is, counter-revolt programs coordinated by the United States.

From 1953 onwards, any claim to maintain a pro-democratic façade in the fight against the communist threat and US subversion disappeared and the aim of the US administration became to promote and consolidate anti-communist regimes in Latin America, even if they were the antithesis of democracy.

In the eyes of Washington, dictatorship has become the most effective form of government to fight communism.

From 1947: anti-democratic wave[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Ruling elites are taking advantage of this cold war. These elites felt threatened by the middle classes during the war, which took advantage of it to muzzle the middle classes and liquidate the opponents.

Tranvía en llamas frente al Capitolio Nacional durante el Bogotazo.

Duprisings lead to the establishment of dictatorships in Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela as well as Argentina and Guatemala.

In Colombia, the political violence of the fascist right-wing led in 1946 to the victory of a conservative government that would lead to the civil war known as La Violencia, in which at least 250,000 people died until 1954.

In countries without democratic coverage, real dynasties are established, such as Batista who reigns over Cuba between 1934 and 1959, the Duvalier father and son in Haiti, the Somoza in Nicaragua.

Only Uruguay remains a true democracy.

The Three Elements of the Anti-Communist Crusade in Latin America[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The "anti-democratic crusade" has three elements:

  • elimination of communist parties by making them illegal. From an estimated 400,000 members in 1947, the number was half that in 1952.
  • eviction of communists from the trade unions that come under the control of the state. Washington places AFL trade unionists in all its embassies to create anti-communist unions in America.
  • diplomatic exclusion and severing of diplomatic relations with the USSR in all the Americas.

The case of Guatemala[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán sur une fresque à Guatemala.
1954 Guatemalan “coup d’état”: the CIA memorandum (May 1975) which describes the role of the Agency in deposing the Guatemalan government of President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in June 1954. (1-5).

Guatemala symbolizes the attempt at democratic openness during and after the war and the methods used by the United States to force obedience in Latin America after the Cold War.

Guatemala is a small country with just over 3 million inhabitants, whose ¾ are Mayans, illiterate peasants who speak poor Spanish. The economy depends mainly on the export of coffee and bananas, the majority of the land is owned by the United Fruit Company.

In 1954, after 13 years of dictatorship, Juan Jose Arevalo was elected president of the republic with 85% of the votes with a program of democratization and modernization of the country.

The country adopts a new constitution inspired by that of Mexico and a modern labour code at the same time as a literacy campaign is carried out.

Succeeding Arevalo, Jacobo Arbenz, who is from the centre left, his goal is to make Guatemala an independent state with a capitalist economy.

He can only realize this project by carrying out an agrarian reform promulgated in 1952. This reform allows the expropriation of uncultivated land from large plantations with compensation from the government according to the value that the owners declared in the previous year's taxes.[10]

In 18 months, 700,000 hectares were distributed to 18,000 families. Immediately, there is opposition from the United Fruit Company because it owns huge tracts of land, 85% of which is uncultivated, which are reserves for its future expansion.

Operation PBSUCCESS: US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, the executor and the advocate of the 1954 Guatemalan “coup d’état” that deposed President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán.

The government is offering $627,000 in compensation. There is immediate opposition in Guatemala, but also from the United States, which is making accusations of communism.[11][12]

The US government acts on behalf of the United Fruit Company and demands 25 times the proposed compensation, accusing Arbenz of being a communist.

The idea is that the small nations of Central America are the links in a single chain and that if Guatemala falls the other nations will fall to the point of calling into question the Panama Canal, which could fall into Soviet hands.

The United States asks the OAS for a military intervention in Guatemala, which is refused, the CIA organizes an attack from Honduras at the same time as Guatemalan exiles organize a coup d'état.[13][14][15][16]

Arbenz is forced to resign, but he directly accuses the United Fruit Company and Washington of provoking anti-Yankee demonstrations throughout Latin America.

Eisenhower claimed victory against the communists and Moscow replaced Arbenz's government with a military dictatorship, expropriations were cancelled, trade unions were destroyed and suspected communists were arrested, even Victor Hugo's Les Misérables were banned[17] and 18,000 people will be executed leaving the United Fruit Company free.

In the Cold War period, there is a different example of trying to reform for the benefit of the people, which is Bolivia.

The Cuban Revolution[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Prelude[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Fidel Castro firma como Primer Ministro de Cuba el 16 de febrero de 1959.

At the end of 1958, the dictator Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro's guerrilla warfare representing the biggest failure of the United States.

In 1952, when Cubans were finally hoping for free elections, Batista staged a coup d'etat to retain power. His methods become increasingly violent and soon he has only the support of Washington, the army, the rural guard and his acolytes.

Almost all of the Cuban economy and its politics are in the hands of US corporations and Washington. In the case of Cuba, opposition to Batista is very diverse, ranging from Catholic parties to direct action groups.

First Steps[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

When in December 1956, the young lawyer Fidel Castro arrived in eastern Cuba with his brother Raul and Guevara, no one in Cuba believed that they could overthrow Batista.

They live hidden in the Siera Maestra mountain protected by the local peasants. At this time, it is the urban movements that are leading the fight against Batista.

Castro (right) with fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos entering Havana on January 8, 1959.

It is only from 1958 onwards that the guerreros under Castro's orders threatened Batista at the very moment when the United States gave up supplying Batista with the weapons that would allow this movement to grow.

The rebels behind Castro attacked the army more systematically and Batista responded with a repression that increasingly affected the middle classes. Supporters join the movement and the Communist Party stops considering them as adventurers.

At the same time, the army begins to release Batista allowing the guerreros to advance towards Havana on three separate fronts.

On December 31, 1958, Batista fled by plane, and three days later, Castro's troops entered Havana.

Although some of these guerreros are Marxist, Castro is not.

In January 1959, the revolutionaries did not really have a plan of government except for some general lines which were national independence, giving work to the 600,000 unemployed Cubans, improving living conditions in the countryside, lowering housing rents in the cities and developing education and public health especially in the countryside.

This programme, as in Guatemala, has nothing communist about it, but is opposed to Washington's interests.

Fidel Castro and his followers know that they will not allow themselves to be overthrown by Washington, the other thing is that they do not want to share power with other groups.

They are building coalitions to unite a majority of Cubans behind common goals, to curb corruption, democracy, social justice and national independence. Soon this coalition splits up and there is a struggle for control of power. Fidel Castro neutralizes all those who threaten him or overshadow his power by mobilizing the mob in a direct relationship with him.

At the same time, he chooses to retain and use the Communist Party to his advantage since it is the only non-corrupt party with a solid infrastructure and experience in popular mobilization.

The mobilization of the population behind Castro already began during the triumphal march that brought Castro from Santiago to Havana.

1959 - 1961: Creation or restructuring of mass organizations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

After 1959, Castro's populist method was disseminated through television and radio; he convinced audiences that he was acting for the people.

Very quickly, he creates mass organizations with the help of the Communist Party. First of all, there were organizations that already existed such as the Federation of University Students and the Federation of Cuban Workers.

"Long Live Socialism" CDR billboard in countryside on the way from Havana to Pinar del Río.
Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas.jpg

New mass organizations are created, a militia of 500,000 members for 6.7 million inhabitants called the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, serves to support the power and to eliminate the internal enemies. The mission of these organizations is to identify the enemies of the revolution and implement the government's social and health policies at the local level. Soon, most adults became part of CDRs.

In 1960, the Federation of Cuban Women was created to integrate women into the process. At the same time, the Association of Revolutionary Youth was created, and in 1961 the National Association of Small Farmers was created to organize the peasantry.

In the same way of this association, Castro and his relatives concentrated all the political power in their hands, all the democrats and moderates resigned.

There is no longer a congress, justice is aligned with the executive power under Fidel Castro, the press and the churches have come under government control, most private associations have disappeared; we are almost in a quasi-totalitarian, but not socialist, regime.

Diplomacy and economic reforms[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

At the same time, the government sends Guevara to seek support in non-aligned and socialist countries.

The executive launched a vast programme of economic reforms in May 1959 and an agrarian reform that expropriated with compensation all properties of more than 40 hectares and redistributed them to cooperatives. Foreigners were forbidden to acquire new land.

In 1960, the private sector was nationalized, whether Cuban or foreign, ranging from oil, electricity, sugar, transport, commerce, small businesses.

Social Reforms[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The government also launched spectacular social reforms, including in 1960 the famous literacy campaign, after which illiteracy was practically eradicated, working conditions improved, wages increased and rents were lowered.

During the first years of the revolution, it was a real transformation, the poor settled in the beautiful homes of the Cuban refugees who had left for Miami, cows were killed en masse in order to give meat, and the nation was fundamentally transformed thanks to the programmes carried out to serve as a showcase and propel Cuba to the United Nations.

Attempts by the United States to suppress the revolution[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Photographie de deux hommes se serrant la main tandis que de nombreux observateurs applaudissent.
Fidel Castro meets Khrushchev in 1961.

For the United States, this is a disaster, they will do everything to suppress this revolution. In 1958, at the same time as they let Batista go, they try to find a replacement for him.

With Castro's victory, this is no longer possible, and relations with Eisenhower become strained. The land reform will have important consequences in the United States, because many lands were owned by the United Fruit Company or by private individuals while the communists break into the American government.

On the Cuban side, there is a conviction that no profound transformation can take place without changing relations with the United States. As early as 1960, there was a rise in tensions, with the CIA trying to assassinate Fidel Castro and trying to invade Cuba.

Soviet missiles boarding in Cuba.

The Cuban revolutionaries are getting closer to the Soviet Union, which in 1960 agrees to help Cuba economically. In October 1960, the Cubans expropriate all American assets and the United States imposes an embargo on Cuba which is still in effect.

In 1961, the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

In the United States Kennedy is elected president, but he will not change his policy towards Cuba and gives the "green light" to the Bay of Pigs invasion ending in a fiasco.[18][19][20][21][22][23] Almost all of the 1,300 invaders are imprisoned in Cuba and Castro takes advantage of this to arrest 100,000 suspects among the Cuban population.

In 1965, Castro declares Marxist-Leninist revolution. In 1962, Castro decided to install nuclear missiles in Cuba from the USSR. Without consulting the Cubans, Khrushchev agrees to withdraw his missiles against the promise not to invade the island.

Conclusion[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In the 1960s there was a rise of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in Latin America, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 the Cold War continued in Latin America at the cost of fundamental freedoms.

These are really very difficult years for Latin America of dictatorships, of neo-liberalism, Latin America is only going to open up after the Cold War.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

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  8. The treaty text hosted by the Organization of American States
  10. Paterson, Thomas G. et al (2009) ; American Foreign Relations: A History, Volume 2: Since 1895, Cengage Learning, ISBN 0547225695, p. 304
  11. Holly, Susan K., and David S. Patterson. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. U.S. G.P.O., 2003. url:
  12. Immerman, Richard H. The CIA in Guatemala: the Foreign Policy of Intervention. University of Texas, 1982. url:
  14. AA, teleSUR -. “Invasión De EE.UU. En Guatemala, Causas y Consecuencias.” TeleSUR, TeleSUR, 27 June 2019,
  15. Jiménez, Hugo Murillo. “LA INTERVENCION NORTEAMERICANA EN GUATEMALA EN 1954. DOS INTERPRETACIONES RECIENTES.” Anuario De Estudios Centroamericanos, vol. 11, no. 2, 1985, pp. 149–155.,
  16. Chúa, Luis Morales. “El Papel De Guatemala En Asambleas De La OEA.” Prensa Libre, 25 Aug. 2017,
  17. Le Livre noir de la CIA: Les archives dévoilées, Yvonnick Denoël
  18. Kornbluh, Peter. 1998. Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba. The New Press ISBN 1-56584-494-7 ISBN 978-1-56584-494-0
  19. Terrorismo "made in U.S.A." en el continente americano; una enciclopedia básica
  20. Higgins, Trumbull. 1987, 2008. The Perfect Failure: Kennedy, Eisenhower, and the CIA at the Bay of Pigs. Norton ISBN 0-393-30563-5, 978-0-393-30563-0
  21. Hunt, E. Howard. 1973. Give Us This Day. Arlington House ISBN 978-0-87000-228-1
  22. Johnson, Haynes. 1964, 1974. The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders' Story of Brigade 2506. W.W. Norton & Co ISBN 0-393-04263-4
  23. Jones, Howard. 2008. Bay of Pigs (Pivotal Moments in American History). OUP US ISBN 0-19-517383-X, 978-0-19-517383-3