Friday, July 10, 2015

Inter-American Relations and Regional Disputes

Aaron Coy Moulton, "Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard: The Transnational, International Conflicts in the Greater Caribbean Basin, 1944-1954." Journal of Cold War History 15, 2 (2015): 135-154.


Incorporating previously-untapped Dominican, Costa Rican, and Cuban sources, this article reveals how the international Cold War and US policy towards Guatemala overlapped with long-standing regional conflicts in the greater Caribbean basin. During the post-war democratic openings, exiles with patron presidents or dictators composed two loosely-formed networks seeking to destabilise opposing governments. The resulting inter-American conflicts contributed to critical events in the region, most notably US officials’ Cold War-influenced policy to overthrow the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz in the early 1950s. These conflicts persisted and continued overlapping with the international Cold War while often challenging US officials’ Cold War goals.

This is a good article, and I think has considerable contemporary relevance. The argument is that we always tend to see the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in a rigid Cold War/big powers manner. A more accurate view considers how leaders in different countries were working against each other in purely Latin American alliances.

This article addresses this oversight by demonstrating how the US-sponsored overthrow of the Arbenz government in 1954 represented one of various interAmerican regional conflicts throughout the greater Caribbean basin in the 1940s and 1950s. During the democratic openings of the mid-1940s, Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, Honduran dictator Tiburcio Carı´as, and Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo monitored movements of anti-dictatorial exiles into Guatemala and Venezuela who networked with students, journalists, and political leaders in support of a transnational anti-fascist ideal. Simultaneously, dissident Guatemalan and Venezuelan exiles reached out to Somoza, Carı´as, and Trujillo in a transnational and anti-communist opposition to the Guatemalan Revolution and the Venezuelan government of Ro´mulo Betancourt and the Accio´n Democra´tica party. What emerged were two loosely-formed transnational networks which ‘Latin Americanised’ the region’s foreign relations by pursuing conspiracies against one another against US officials’ policies. A ‘revolutionary’ network of anti-dictatorial exiles with patron presidents serving as regional proponents carried the ideals of the post-war democratic openings into the 1950s and actively challenged dictatorial and military regimes. A ‘counter-revolutionary’ network of dissident exiles with patron dictators and military regimes as regional proponents sought to repress and eliminate their opposition through intelligence-sharing and a series of coup plots.

Good points. I wouldn't say they've really been ignored, but they are downplayed, It is definitely important, though, to better understand how Latin American leaders defined "anti-Communism" and how it affected their behavior.

In Latin America today, this is relevant because in the United States we have a fairly rigid sense of "leftist," which masks the different ways it is defined in Latin America and how regional disputes influence how Latin American leaders act. You can dive deeper and see where Venezuelan opposition leaders go, how student leaders interact across countries, etc.


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