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Understanding the United States intervention in Latin American countries is imperative in comprehending the current state of these countries. Historically, the United States’ intervention in Latin American countries have had a significant impact in different sectors such as military, economy, and government. Two specific countries which demonstrate such involvement by the US are Chile and Guatemala. By claiming that they wanted to prevent the spread of communism, the United States has defended its involvement in these countries which have resulted in various human rights violations, the maintenance of their economic instability, and other outcomes which have created more negative consequences for the intervened countries. The United States’ intervention in Latin American signified a form of neo-colonialism in the name of modernization which aimed to influence the countries government, leaders, and economy in order to benefit the United States. The case studies of Guatemala and Chile are crucial in understanding the impact US interventions had in Latin America.
For many years the US intervened in Guatemala having significantly negative effects on the treatment of Guatemalan people and their country. Previous to the election of President Juan Jose Arevalo in 1945, there were a series of dictators which were in allegiance with the US since the US supported their regimes while reaping the economic benefits allowed by these dictators (2nd group, 5/15/18). Manuel Estrada Cabrera who was a dictator from 1898 to 1920 made agreements with the United Fruit Company, a US corporation, which further displaced the indigenous population of Guatemala and allowed the corporation to control different sectors of Guatemala’s economy (2nd group, 5/15/18). The United Fruit Company gained control of the banana trade in Guatemala, the transportation industry and eventually owned about 550,000 acres of unused land (2nd group, 5/15/18). In 1931, Jorge Ubico was elected and marked the beginning of one of the most dangerous dictatorships which resulted in student protests and uprisings in 1944 (2nd group, 5/15/18). After the resignation of Ubico, Federico Ponce Vaides became the president and wanted to continue the programs and actions that Ubico had first established during his dictatorship (2nd group, 5/15/18). However, on October 1944 there was a revolutionary coup (2nd group, 5/15/18). Juan Jose Arevalo became the first democratically elected president in 1945 and during his term he established various socialist programs and believed in land reforms (2nd group, 5/15/18). He gave workers higher pay by establishing a minimum wage and allowed workers to unionize through the Labor Code of 1947 (2nd group, 5/15/18). In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz Guzman became the second democratically elected president (2nd group, 5/15/18). He continued Arevalo’s programs and in June 27, 1952 with the issuing of Decree 900 redistributed land to 500,000 landless peasants (2nd group, 5/15/18). Some of land that was redistributed was taken from the United Fruit Company which by 1950 had twice the amount of revenue as Guatemala (2nd group, 5/15/18). Secretary of State John Foster Dulles represented the United Fruit Company and Allen Dulles who was director of the CIA was on the company’s board and also owned shares of the company (2nd group, 5/15/18). As a result to the redistribution of their formerly owned land by Arbez, the Dulles brothers supported campaigns in Washington in order to convince politicians that Guatemala was under “threat” of communism (2nd group, 5/15/18). In 1953, President Eisenhower approved a $2.7 million budget to remove Arbenz from the Guatemalan presidency through the CIA (2nd group, 5/15/18). This signified a prominent US intervention that was no longer primarily economic, but aimed to influence the government and military. Called “Operation PBSUCCESS”, the CIA set off a series of intimidation tactics to scare the Guatemalan government (2nd group, 5/15/18). For example, the CIA gave assassination manuals to Guatemalan exiles, “The Army of Liberation” forces were stationed in the neighboring country of Nicaragua, and the United States began to trade arms with neighboring countries near Guatemala (2nd group, 5/15/18). Simultaneously, the United States prevented the importation of arms and weapons to Guatemala by their allied countries France and England (2nd group, 5/15/18). Guatemala as a result bought weapons from Czechoslovakia which added to the belief that it was becoming communist which was the reason given by the US for their intervention (2nd group, 5/15/18). In 1954, the US government and the CIA supported Carlos Castillo Armas to launch the Armas Invasion (2nd group, 5/15/18). During this operation, the CIA saturated the radio airwaves with “Voices of Liberation” which was a propaganda radio station broadcasted by fictional freedom fights in support of the US (2nd group, 5/15/18). The Invasion also included plans to blow up bridges, railways, and telegraph lines as a way to create inner chaos and civil distraught in Guatemala (2nd group, 5/15/18). The US eventually napalms a British cargo ship which was carrying Guatemalan exports (2nd group, 5/15/18). Nevertheless, the Armas did not win against the Guatemalan army, but were able to win the war through their use of propaganda which demoralized the Guatemalan army (2nd group, 5/15/18). On June 27, 1954 Arbenz resigned from presidency and Carlos Castillo Armas eventually gained power and provoked the Guatemalan Civil War which lasted from 1960 to 1996 and became Latin America’s longest civil war (2nd group, 5/15/18). During the civil war there was still an intervention in the country from the US and left-wing guerrilla groups fought against this intervention by fighting the US supported government military (2nd group, 5/15/18). After the coup of Arbenz, the US had gained government power through influence of the Guatemalan government. The support of the coup by the US, their intervention in Guatemala’s economy, and the aftermath of this intervention mainly affected Guatemala negatively. Guatemalan people were raped, tortured, and more than 500,000 people were displaced from their homes (2nd group, 5/15/18). US involvement in Guatemala was the reason behind several years of human rights violations through the training of the counterinsurgency and funding of military (2nd group, 5/15/18). Efrain Rios Montt gained power after a coup in 1982 and his time in power was one of the most violent and lethal periods during the civil war which included a genocide known as the “Silent Holocaust” where there were 200,000 estimated deaths with 83% of Mayans making up these deaths (2nd group, 5/15/18). This genocide was supported by the US and was justified as efforts to suppress the Leftist rebels (2nd group, 5/15/18). The US intervention in Guatemala allowed for a corrupt ruling class to control the country during the civil war causing human rights violations (2nd group, 5/15/18). US intervention through the United Fruit Company which held majoritarian control over Guatemala’s fruit and transportation sectors prevented the economic growth of Guatemala (2nd group, 5/15/18).
The US also intervened in Chile for similar reasons. Before the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, Eduardo Frei was president (1st group, 5/31/18). During his presidency he faced opposition from the left who criticized him as not being aggressive enough in regards to systemic reform (2nd group, 5/15/18). Although Frei sought to nationalize the industry in what was termed “Frei’s Chileanization”, many felt that his approach was still not enough (2nd group, 5/15/18). In 1970, Allende who was a Marxist ran for presidency with the point that he would aim to have Chile no longer dependent on US’s goods (2nd group, 5/15/18). Dependency theory describes how goods created by the US are cheaper than the same good created in Chile making it hard for Chilean’s in the same industry as these US goods to compete (2nd group, 5/15/18). Since it was well known that Allende was a Marxist and his efforts to nationalize industries in Chile threatened US investment, President Nixon and his secretary of state kept an eye on the elections due to their fear that if Allende gained the presidency this would signify the start of a spread of communism, an end to Chile’s dependency of the US, and an obstacle to the spread of global capitalism (1st and 2nd group, 5/15/18). This signified the US’s first point of intervention in Chile. The CIA launched efforts to prevent Allende from gaining presidency by trying to pressure the Chilean Congress to not choose Allende as president (1st group, 5/15/18). This was known as the Track 1 strategy. Track 2 strategy was to support a possible military coup which would prevent Allende from taking office (1st group, 5/15/18). The CIA funded Allende’s opposition and although this was not a successful coup it did result in the death of the commander in chief of the Chilean army (1st group, 5/15/18). Nevertheless, Allende became Chile’s first socialist president and the first democratically elected president (1st group, 5/15/18). During his presidency, Allende established socialist policies which caused economic decline in Chile (2nd group, 5/15/18). Nonetheless, through efforts of nationalization of industry the working class buying power increased, children drank milk daily, items like radios and stoves became more common in working class homes, and there was construction of housing for the poor (1st group, 5/15/18). However some still criticized Allende’s efforts as not being quick enough to “radicalize the nation” (1st group, 5/15/18). The Chilean Middle and Upper class were “less pleased” as they were forced to sell their state during this nationalization process (1st group, 5/15/18).
After, Allende became president the US started its second intervention. The US government and the CIA looked for plans to remove Allende from the presidency through a military coup (2nd group, 5/15/18). However, the General of the Chilean army Rene Schneider would not cooperate with the US to overthrow Allende because he believed that the military should not be involved with government politics (2nd group, 5/15/18). Schneider was assassinated and there is evidence which supports the claim that the CIA was involved with his assassination (2nd group, 5/15/18). The US’s third form of intervention was through the destabilization of the Chilean economy (2nd group, 5/15/18). Although under Allende’s presidency the Chilean economy was still facing setbacks, the US intervened by funding conservative groups who did not support Allende in order to contribute to the downfall of the economy (2nd group, 5/15/18). The fourth US intervention was the coup which removed Allende from power (2nd group, 5/15/18). On September 11, 1973 Allende committed suicide after the military surrounded the presidential palace and although the CIA does not state responsibility for the coup there is evidence of their involvement (2nd group, 5/15/18). After the US’s intervention and the coup of Allende, Augusto Pinochet became dictator (2nd group, 5/15/18). During his rule, Pinochet aimed to destroy the politically left and a re-establishing of a free market (2nd group, 5/15/18). However, this led to assassinations and tutoring of anyone who opposed him and his ideologies (2nd group, 5/15/18). Although he acted on various human rights violations, his economic policies created lower inflation and overall improved Chile’s economy (2nd group, 5/15/18). However, this economic prosperity should not be used to overlook the human rights violations that also prospered during this Pinochet presidency. Eventually in 1998, Spain requested Pinochet’s extradition and was found guilty during the trial of several human rights offenses. During this trial it was also found that the US government and the CIA were involved in the coup of Allende (2nd group, 5/15/18). Overall, Chile had the potential to become a successful socialist country if it wasn’t for the US intervention (1st group, 5/15/18)
US intervention in Chile and Guatemala demonstrate the negative impact US intervention in Latin America had overall. In many of these interventions human rights violations were a consequence. Latin American people were killed, raped, tortured, and displaced in the name of preventing the spread of communism. Similar outcomes occurred in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Bolivia demonstrating that although there were some benefits like the Chilean economy improving under the rule of Pinochet, the negatives outweighed the taking of livelihoods.