After the end of world war two, two superpowers emerged competing for world supremacy. These two countries were the Soviet Union and the United States of America. Sharing power is often a difficult and a challenging concept as these countries viewed one another with mistrust and suspicion. Attempting to gain significant control, either country made every effort to develop a strong center of influence. In response to the expansion of the Soviet Union, the United States developed a policy known as containment. The fundamental objective of this policy was to recognize and accept the existing communist nations in the world while denying any further development of communist states. The cold war was particularly intense in the South American region as it experienced a lot of unrest during this period. The doctrine of Communism and Marxism became very popular among these countries to an extent that some of them won elections, as witnessed in the election of Salvador Allenede of Chile in 1970 (Calean, 2007).
Immediately after the end of the Second World War, there was an optimistic relationship between the southern American nations which was manifested in the formation of the organization of American nations. The main objective of this organization was to address the security issues in the region. In addition, there was a charter that spelt out the mode of engagement between the different states. One outstanding provision of this charter stated that no nation would intervene in the internal affairs of member states. It prohibited all forms of intervention including military force and political or economic interventions (Black, 1986).
The popularity of communism in the South American region made the United States very uncomfortable. Since the development of the Monroe Doctrine, the government of the United States managed to maintain control and supremacy over other South American states because this region was strategic to its economic growth. The United States became allies of most of the militaries of these nations. While the containment policy was still in force, the United States was very aggressive in its policies which were propagated by the CIA and the army in reinforcing numerous military coups against communism in Latin American states. The application of this foreign policy by the United States government was against the principles of democracy and autonomy. This contemptuous of democratic principles is best explained by the way Henry Kissinger perceived the communist rule in Chile where he argued that the development of communism in Chile was as a result of its people being irresponsible.
In addition, he argued that such issues were so vital that the Chilean electorates could not make informed decisions on their own. Several issues explain the consequences and the scope of the involvement of the United States in the military coups across this region. One of these issues was the School of the America’s which was a military training school for South American states managed by the United States. The scope of this school was fairly limited until a revolution occurred in Cuba in 1959. This revolution orchestrated by Fidel Castro increased fears of communism spilling over to South American region. The closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union made the United States realize that their control and supremacy over these nations was not guaranteed. Moreover, the aid extended by Cuba to communist nations further made the united very uncomfortable (Black, 1986).
In response to this development, the United States changed the curriculum of this school from practical systems of nation building to techniques designed to dealing with insurgency. The success of this curriculum can be observed from the documents released by the United States army regarding this school. In particular, the army in 1993 released a document containing a list of individuals who have graduated from this school. This list revealed a very interesting scenario where most of the continent’s dictators were found to have graduated from this school. Additionally, the release of the instruction handbook used by the CIA in the school caused a lot of controversy. This book revealed that several counteractive strategies for insurgency taught by the military contravened international best practices and principles as contained in the Geneva Convention. As observed in these manuals, authoritarian administration with limited chances of turning into a communist nation was preferred over an unstable and democratic administration capable of becoming a communist state. This manual further justified all efforts applied to stop the escalation of communism regardless of whether these measures are real or probable. Such tactics as blackmailing, physical abuse, sham imprisonment were advocated by this manual (Haugaard, 1997).
This manual advocated for adverse treatment of legalized opposition power. Political party systems which has contrary ideologies to the national governments were labeled as threats and became the targets of intelligent forces into to neutralize them. Any ideology therefore that is perceived to contravene the position of the national government is associated with insurgency and is consequently neutralized. It also advocated for compilation of a black list containing the names of enemies and hostile leaders towards the military as well as their sympathizers who are arrested and detained. However, this blacklisting has severe effects as it could include names of innocent people as its specification is vague and subject to manipulation. Participating in ideals of democracy such as taking part in election campaign fund raising has been interpreted as insurgency. This manual justifies the role played by the United States and thereby legitimizing these roles indirectly. It advised the students that failure to abide and associate with the United States army or other troops from member countries is a sign of guerilla behavior. In addition in this text labeling government personalities as puppets of the United States clearly indicates the operation of insurgents. This is an ironic alteration as any individual standing out for the truth would be regarded as subversive and therefore should be neutralized for the survival of the state. These manuals also advocated for spying and use of civilian restriction. Such restriction measures included curfews, the use of identity cards, door-to-door searches and military checkpoints. These manuals also demystify the illusion that insurgents also pose legal privileges including the right to use attorneys or trial and suggest that the use of the law is only necessary when it is to the convenience of the state. Graduates from this school were influenced by this training as witnessed by the growing number of individuals who disappeared without following the due process of the law during the time of cold war (Calean, 2007).
According to these manuals, communism is considered as a form of pseudo-religion. They also argue that democracy is stronger than communism. These ideas exposed by the manuals have fueled religious wars between communistic and democratic doctrines. These documentations promote the existence of democratic crusaders as they are perceived as defenders of genuine faith and that their duty therefore includes eliminating Marxist and Lenin inferior doctrines. These beliefs explains why the military employed brutal force assassinate insurgents arguing that they have fallen into communist trap and that it would be very difficult for them to recognize their errors therefore allowing them to live would be disastrous. Away from this school, the United States also had foreign bases to offer instructions and advice to their militaries. These institutions instructed their graduates that their first enemy was internal and not external. The United States provided training to foreign militaries which eventually conquered civilian governments. Moreover, after this takeover, they continued to support these administrations through operation condor which was a systematic intelligent network. This strategy became one of the greatest and systematic campaigns performed by the state to eliminate opposition ideologies against governments. Upon its conclusion, over 50,000 individuals had been murdered, 400, 000 imprisoned and another 30,000 disappeared completely (Blum, 2003).
Despite the concerns of abuses of human rights resulting from these operations, the United States continued to support this strategy. The United States provided the nations involved in operation condor with modern communication devices and therefore making sure that the intelligence systems of the participating nations maintained a close contact with one another. A number of communications were conducted over the network including torture mechanisms and the identification of insurgent locations. The United States were particularly determined to stop the growth of communism and provided all forms of support to reach this end. For instance, Chile had the largest percentage of the intervention from the United States. They were particularly attracted to Chile as a result of the Marxist Chilean leader Salvador Allende. The United States developed interest in Chile because Salvador was a communist and has a strong relation with Cuba. Determined to stop Salvador’s grip to power, the United States campaigned against Salvador by using print and broadcast media through the CIA. The CIA executed this technique by using propaganda arguing that the election of Salvador would mean encouraging violence. Eventually, Salvador lost to Eduardo Frei in the 1963 election through the assistance of the United States by underwriting the campaign expenses incurred during the elections (Blum, 2003).
In 1970, he bounced back and was elected becoming the first Marxist leader to hold such an office. This election brought a lot of problems and challenges to the United States. This was because the United States was concerned about a possible partnership between Chile and Cuba to influence more nations to pursue communism. In addition, the United States was particularly concerned about the consequences of this election in the face of their argument that free electorates would never imagine electing a communist. Upon realizing these challenges, the United States undertook several steps to undermine the administration of Salvador by using its economic supremacy to hamper reform efforts proposed during the campaigns. This was propagated by the administration of Richard Nixon through Richard Helmes, the then director of the CIA who made every effort to ensure that the Chilean economy shrunk. This strategy has now become an example of how the United States influences the activities of autonomous countries. The Chilean economy was completely hampered by the United States by persuading the World Bank to withdraw financial assistance to Chile (Black, 1986).
Continuing with their efforts, the United States aided the change of command when Augusto Pinochet successfully overthrew Salvador in 1973. The United States supported the administration of Pinochet by spreading propaganda portraying Pinochet’s administration in good light. They also reopened the channels of aid assistance that were once frozen during Salvador’s tenure in office. These financial aids assisted the Chilean economy to reach a neo-liberal state as desired by the United States. Under this emerging economy, poverty increased to its all time highs with economically advantaged individuals continuing to flourish. However, the extent of human right abuses in Chile forced the United States to disassociate itself from the administration of Pinochet. Despite the continued international and internal pressure for the United States to cut links with Pinochet, it maintained close association with this regime only disapproving it in public. Most of the administrations supported by the United States gave out special deals to American investors in return for the support. However, the natives viewed this special treatment for American businesses as damaging the local economy. The Gross Domestic Product tremendously reduced inflicting suffering to the native populace. In particular, the wages drastically declined (Kornbluh, 2003).
Since the end of the cold war, most southern American nations have been reluctant in engage in blatant politics. The international community has also not been supportive of coups and in the unlikely event that one occurs, they would withdraw their support. The United States still has a lot of influence on the operation of foreign militaries within the region but with a different goal currently. This has been particularly observed in the war against drugs where the united states spend a lot of money on countries producing drugs for shipment into the United States. The united states are involved in training of military personnel from these countries in order to effectively counter drug abuse. However, the financial support of other states in the war against drugs has been a controversial topic. Many people argue that this involvement has hidden agenda. Some scholars argue that the war on drugs has by the United States contributes to an ethically segregated and economically disadvantaged lower class domestically while serving the interest of the nation with regards to economy and security overseas (Chomsky, 2003).
Currently most South American nations try to disassociate with the United States. This has been particularly spear headed by Venezuela through Hugo Chavez. During the cold war period, Hugo Chavez would be a perfect example of those leaders who would have been neutralized. Despite the existing relations between Venezuela and the United States as a result of the strategic significance of Venezuela, these relations have been tense. The continued influence and dominance of the United States in the region is a matter that would be keenly watched in the future. Although most of these nations have moved closer to sovereignty free from American influence, it remains to be seen whether the United States would surrender its standing of influence in the region having gained this position during the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.
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Calean (2007).The Effects of America’s Involvement in South America during the Cold
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Chomsky, N. (2003). Hegemony or Survival. (Eds). New York: Metropolitan Books.
Haugaard, L. (1997). Declassified Army and CIA Manuals Used in Latin America: an
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Kornbluh, P. (2003). The Pinochet File. New York: The National Security.