Latin America Overview
The US has a long history of involvement with Latin America. I am focusing here on the past 50 or so years, revealing a disturbing pattern whereby whenever a Latin American government tries to alleviate the plight of its poor (the vast majority of Latin American's today still live in poverty), the US does its best to remove the government (typically through a military coup). The countries are then invariably ruled by some form of repressive dictatorship more acceptable to US interests.

The standard excuse for the US's actions in Latin America throughout the 50s - 80s was Cold War concerns, and some would claim that as this reason/excuse no longer exists today, this history is not relevant, as the CIA would not do such things today. However, the recent case of Venezuela gives cause for concern that this doesn't hold true.

A further concern is that, even if the political climate today is sufficiently improved such that the US is unable to so blatantly further its business interests at the expense of the Latin Americans as it has in the past, the fact remains that the US's actions over the past 30 years have left Latin America in a poor state, where many of the countries' peoples work as effective slaves to us in the West, often forced by the IMF / World Bank to do so in order to repay ridiculous debts, and not only do we do little to help, but we do our best to ensure they stay in this state and we make little effort to right the wrongs caused by our past actions which put these countries in the mess in the first place (the clearest case of this being Nicaragua, as can be see directly below).

Nicaragua View comments     
1979 Lonely Planet guide ( cached )
       Ruthless, repressive, pro-US and US-backed dictatorship of Somoza overthrown. New government 'Sandinistas' formed. The Sandinistas make dramatic improvements in nutrition, health care (reducing infant mortality to a third of the rate previously) and literacy (increasing literacy from 25% to 80%).           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       An Oxfam report entitled 'The Threat of a Good Example' (which sums up precisely the threat posed to the US by Nicaragua) on the Sandinistas concludes ' in Oxfam's experience of working in seventy-six developing countries, Nicaragua was to prove exceptional in the strength of that government commitment [to meeting the basic needs of the poor majority]'. This should be contrasted with Nicaragua's neighbours at the time (Guatemala and El Salvador) who, as this article reports, had 'military dictatorships responsible for the sheer institutionalisation of state terror, installed and propped up by the US. Tens of thousands of civilians were regularly slaughtered by government death squads trained and armed by the CIA. The vast majority of the populations were impoverished'.           
1983 Guardian article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       The CIA responds, under Reagan, by creating a paramilitary force to 'stop the flow of military supplies from Nicaragua to El Salvador' (despite little evidence of this actually occuring). The force grows to around 50,000 in the late 80s, and throughout the 80s mounts raids on Nicaragua, attacking schools and medical clinics, raping, kidnapping, torturing, massacres, mining harbours etc etc.           
1984 CNN article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Reagan publicly claims to stop aid to 'contras', however continues aid despite a congress ban, leading to Iran-contra scandal.           
1984 Lonely Planet guide ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Elections are held in Nicaragua and Sandinistas win with 67% of the vote. International observer teams comment that they are the fairest elections to have been held in Latin America in many years.           
1984 CNN article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Associated Press discloses a 90 page CIA-produced training manual called "Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare" giving advice for the contras on political assassinations, blackmailing, mob violence, kidnappings and blowing up public buildings, and calling for 'implicit terror'.           
1986 ICJ case summary ( cached )
       Nicaragua takes the case to the World Court in The Hague, who rule in their favour, ordering America to put a stop to its crime in Nicaragua and to pay massive reparations. America ignores the World Court's ruling, not paying a cent and escalating the war.           
1987 Timeline ( cached ) See also: 1 
       ICJ decides on the amount owed by the US to Nicaragua - $17 billion. US continues to ignore ruling.           
1987 UN resolution ( cached )
       UN General Assembly calls on US to comply with ICJ's judgement. US continues to ignore ruling. Call repeated in 1988.           
1988 Timeline ( cached )
       Reagan announces that he will no longer seek military aid for the Contras.           
1990 Timeline ( cached )
       Elections are held in Nicaragua, and the Sadistinas lose to the US-backed Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, after the US spends $9 million on her election campaign (including bribing the voters to vote for her).           
Today Oxfam article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Nicaragua is crippled by highest per capita debt in the world. If the US were simply to honour the World Court ruling, the debt would be paid off three-fold.           
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Guatemala View comments     
1901-1944 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Guatemala suffers under a succession of dictators all effectively belonging to the United Fruit Company, which is exempt from taxes and controls pretty much everything in the country.           
1944-1954 Article ( cached )
       The dictator Ubico is overthrown and Guatemala enjoys the 'Ten Years of Spring' with two popularly elected and reformist Presidents. President Arbenz permits free expression, legalized unions and diverse political parties, and initiates basic socio-economic reforms. One key program is a moderate land reform effort aimed at alleviating the suffering of the rural poor, by which only plantations of very high acreage are affected, and only in cases where a certain percentage of such acreage is in fact lying unused. In these extreme cases, the unused portions of the land are not expropriated, but simply purchased by the Guatemalan government at the same value declared on the owner's tax forms. The property is then resold at low rates to peasant cooperatives. To set an example, President Arbenz starts with his own lands.           
1953 Article ( cached )
       The land redistribution collides with the interests of the United Fruit Company, for whom 85% of the 550,000 acres they own are uncultivated. The US government demands extra compensation for the United Fruit Company over what was already given.           
1953 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Charles R. Burrows of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs writes 'Guatemala has become an increasing threat to the stability of Honduras and El Salvador. Its agrarian reform is a powerful propaganda weapon; its broad social program of aiding the workers and peasants in a victorious struggle against the upper classes and large foreign enterprises has a strong appeal to the populations of Central American neighbors where similar conditions prevail.'           
1954 CNN article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       CIA covert Operation PB Success successfully removes Arbenz from power.           
Book extract ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       Note that the CIA director at the time, Allen Dulles, had previously been United Fruit's president, and the previous CIA director and Under-secretary of State (General Walter Bedell Smith) was on the company's board of directors and became president following the overthrow.           
CNN transcript ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Allen Dulles' brother, John Dulles, who was Secretary of State at the time, also worked as a lawyer defending the United Fruit Company.           
1954 CNN article ( cached )
       Following the CIA coup, Guatemala plunges into a civil war and 40 years of American-trained death squads, torture, disappearances, mass executions, with an estimated toll of 100,000 victims.           
1963 Article ( cached )
       Concerned about an upcoming election in which former president Juan Jose Arevalo would be allowed to run and thus possibily elected, Kennedy supports another military coup. This ends any hopes for a democratic Guatemala.           
1983-1995 Article ( cached )
       Guatemala seeks to reduce infant mortality by regulating the marketing of infant formula by multinationals, in conformity with WHO guidelines and according to international codes. Infant mortality rates drop significantly.
However, one company, the Gerber Corp., refuses to comply. Guatemala spends five years trying to get it to comply, but then the company in 1993 threatens a WTO complaint and US sanctions.
Guatemala backs down in 1995 and Gerber Corp. is exempted from the regulation.
February 1999 Washington Post article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       A Historical Clarification Commission report concludes that US-backed security forces committed the vast majority of human rights abuses during the war, including torture, kidnapping and the murder of thousands of rural Mayans, contradicting years of official denial. The commission estimates over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed in the civil war, the most brutal armed conflict in Latin America history.           
March 1999 Washington Post article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 
       Clinton apologises to Guatemalans for decades of US policy in support of a murderous military that 'engaged in violent and widespread repression', costing the lives of some 100,000 civilians. That policy 'was wrong', the president declares, 'and the United States must not repeat that mistake'.           
Today 2002 HDR ( cached )
       Guatemala sits at 120th of the UN Human Development Index. out of 173 ranked countries.           
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El Salvador View comments     
1980-1992 Country profile ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       El Salvador is ravaged by a bitter civil war leaving around 70,000 dead. The US provides military funding during this period to the tune of $6 billion.           
1993 Guardian article ( cached )
       UN names the army officers who had committed the worst atrocities of the civil war. Two-thirds of them had been trained at the 'School of the Americas' in Georgia, the same school that trained soldiers to commit similar atrocities in Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, Chile, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico. The school still operates today under a different name.           
2002 BBC article ( cached )
       US involvement in El Salvador is being put forward by some in Washington as a model for a possible solution for Colombia's 30-year civil war. Look out Columbia!           
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Chile View comments     
1964 Church report ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       CIA spends three million dollars to influence the elections in order to prevent Allende being elected as president.           
1970 CNN Profile ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Socialist Allende elected as president, despite extensive CIA efforts (mainly through propaganda) to prevent him winning. He pursues a leftist program, establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and moving Chile closer to communist countries such as China, North Korea and North Vietnam, and nationalizing various industries, several of which have significant U.S. business interests. The US responds by continuing support of the opposition and working systematically to weaken Chile's economy.           
Sept 11, 1973 BBC Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       CIA covert policies (at an expense of $8 million from 1970-73) lead to a coup d'etat in which Allende is killed and Pinochet brought to power.           
1973-1990 CNN Article ( cached )
       Pinochet leads country in brutal dictatorship, during which over 3,000 political opponents are killed or disappear.           
1997 Article ( cached )
       The US ends its 20 year moratorium on sales of advanced military equipment to Latin America (despite which it had remained the largest supplier of military equipment to the region) by offering to sell jet fighters to the Chilean military, the chief of whom is former dictator Pinochet.           
Sept 2000 CNN Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       CIA report released admitting that the CIA knowingly supported the Pinochet regime's brutalities, and revealing that the head of Pinochet's dreaded secret police (responsible for the assination of an American in Washington DC) was a paid CIA asset.           
Nov 2000 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       Non-violent demonstration held for the closing of the 'School of the Americas', a US Army-run school which has trained more than 60,000 Latin American military officers over the past 50 years, and which trained many of the officers involved in Pinochet's human rights abuses, and which still operates today under a different name. Most of the protestors are thrown in jail, including an 88-year old nun.           
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Venezuela View comments     
1998 CNN article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Chavez elected president. Promises to try to raise Venezuela's minimum wage, which stands at $175 a month, despite Venezuela's substantial oil wealth (the largest outside the middle east, being the US's second largest supplier of oil).           
1998-2002 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       Chavez makes major inroads into the resource base of the entrenched oligarchs. He tries to improve the 60-year old royalty agreement that pays as little as 1% to Venezuela while creating cash cows for Philips Petroleum and ExxonMobil, confirms the nationalization of the oil sector, and introduces significant land reforms which would see a change to the current situation where two percent of the population controls sixty percent of the land, and where 80% of the population live in poverty.
BBC article ( cached )
       He also puts in place a free and progressive Constitution.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       And succeeds in lowering infant mortality rates.           
Article ( cached )
       And passes 49 laws which not only bring forward land reform but also improve both the fairness and efficiency of the tax system, guarantee women's and indigenous people's rights, and introduce free healthcare and education up to university level.           
Dec 28, 2001 Examiner article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       San Francisco Examiner publishes an article speculating that the US may be planning a coup in Venezuela. The article also notes that Chavez has reduced inflation from 40 percent to 12 percent, generated economic growth of 4 percent, and increased primary school enrollment by 1 million students.           
Apr 11, 2002 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Chavez overthrown in a military coup reminiscent of previous CIA-coups in Guatemala, Chile, Brazil etc. US welcomes the coup and congratulates the military, while denying involvement. The coup collapses after two days however, and Chavez returns to power. BBC also notes that 'Since his election, President Chavez has been a thorn in the side of the United States - which gets much of its oil from Venezuela. In particular, US officials were angered because Mr Chavez was selling cheap oil to Fidel Castro in Cuba. Mr Chavez also condemned US bombing of civilians in Afghanistan.'           
NY Times article ( cached )
       Otto J. Reich, the US's assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, is in contact with Mr. Chavez's successor on the very day he takes over. Bush administration claims Reich was pleading with him not to dissolve the National Assembly.           
Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       As background on Reich, he served in the 1980s as the head of the State Departments Office of Public Diplomacy, an outfit set up by Lt. Col. Oliver North to further the illegal US funding and arming of the contra mercenary army in Nicaragua. An investigation concluded that Reich's office had 'engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities', using CIA and military resources to spread disinformation, vilify the Nicaraguan government and build support for the contras. The Pentagon also admits that Rogelio Pardo-Maurer, the Defense Department official responsible for Latin America, discussed the proposed coup in Washington with Gen. Lucas Romero Rincon, chief of the Venezuelan military command. Maurer spent the 1980s working in Washington as the chief spokesman for the Nicaraguan contras.           
Article ( cached )
       It is revealed that senior Bush administration aides, including Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich and White House advisor Elliott Abrams (both key players in the Reagan administrations covert network for supporting the contra terrorist war on Nicaragua in the 1980s), had met repeatedly in Washington with the coup's organizers.           
Article ( cached )
       Elliott Abrams is also known for his role in the 1973 coup in Chile, as well as his sponsorship of death squads in Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.           
Article ( cached )
       Washington Post writes 'Members of the country's diverse opposition had been visiting the U.S. Embassy here in recent weeks, hoping to enlist U.S. help in toppling Chavez. The visitors included active and retired members of the military, media leaders and opposition politicians.'. Administration spokesmen insist however that these officials repeatedly urged the coup plotters not to take extra-constitutional action.

The article speculates - That a group of military officers (several of them graduates of the Pentagon's School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia) and wealthy businessmen would ignore Washingtons 'advice' and go ahead with a coup detat opposed by the US government defies all logic. Even if taken at face value, this absurd scenario would make the Bush administration an accomplice in the abortive attempt to overthrow an elected Latin American government. Though repeatedly notified that a coup was planned, it did nothing, by its own admission, to warn the Chavez government.
BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       A Defense Department official claims the administration's message was less categorical. "We were not discouraging people," the official said. "We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare,' and we weren't advocates saying, 'Here's some arms; we'll help you overthrow this guy.' We were not doing that."           
Apr 16, 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Chavez alleges a plane with US registration numbers was at an army airstrip on Venezuela's Orchila Island, one of five places he was held in captivity during his brief removal from power.           
Apr 18, 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Bush warns Chavez to learn from the turmoil that erupted in his country following his brief ousting and commit himself to democracy. So the US, encouraging if not involved in the miltary coup to replace the elected president with what looked like becoming a typical dictatorship, and with a record of many such coups to install dictatorships in the past (Guatemala, Chile, Iran, Brazil etc), is trying to tell Chavez to commit himself to democracy?           
Apr 21, 2002 The Age article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       An official investigation by the Venezuelan government reveals that two high-ranking US officers joined the Venezuelan military commanders who backed the coup at Fort Tiuna, the largest military base in Caracas, where President Hugo Chavez was forcibly taken after being captured by soldiers supporting the overthrow of his government.           
May 14, 2002 BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Chavez claims he has proof of US military involvement in the events in April, claiming he has radar images showing a foreign military vessel, a plane and a helicopter violating the country's waters and air space during the failed coup.           
Oct 6, 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Chavez claims to have foiled another plan to remove him from office through a coup.           
Oct 20, 2002 BBC article ( cached )
       Chavez claims to have escaped an assassination attempt against while returning from a trip to Europe.           
Dec 2002 Article ( cached )
       A 'strike' (in reality more like an employers lockout) organised by Venezuelas employers begins.           
Dec-Jan 2003 Article ( cached )
       For the two month duration of the strikes, the only commercials on Venezuelan TV were the opposition's relentless barrage of powerful and often witty anti-Chavez spots.           
Feb 3, 2003 BBC article ( cached )
       The strike ends after 63 days. Although some oil workers continue striking, oil output slowly returns to what is currently around half of pre-strike levels).           
January 2004 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 
       Washington awards coup plotter Gustavo Cisnero the Inter-American Economic Council's 'Prestigious Excellence in Leadership' award.           
Feb 3, 2004 Article ( cached ) reports that the Bush administration is planning another coup in Venezuela. While this information may not prove to be 100% reliable, keep this in mind as events pan out in Venezuela this year.           
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Brazil View comments     
1961 Article ( cached )
       Quadros elected president by a record margin. He mysteriously resigns, reportedly under military pressure. Goulart (previously vice-president) succeeds Quadros as president and aims to continue Quadros' independent foreign policy           
1962 Article ( cached )
       Like Quadros, Goulart is no communist - he is a millionaire land-owner and a Catholic who wears a medal of the Virgin around his neck. He recives a ticker-tape parade in New York City in April, and toasts the US Ambassador, "To the Yankee Victory!", after the "Cuban Missile Crisis" in October.           
1962 Article ( cached )
       Elections, Goulart wins despite the CIA spending close to $20 million in rigging them against him.           
1962-1964 Article ( cached )
       The CIA carries out a consistent propaganda campaign against Goulart which dates from at least the 1962 election operation and which includes the financing of mass urban demonstrations.           
Early 1964 Article ( cached )
       Goulart nationalises oil, expropriates unused land, and passes a law limiting the amount of profits multinationals could transmit out of the country.           
March 1964 Article ( cached )
       A CIA-backed military coup overthrows the government of Joao Goulart.           
1964 Article ( cached )
       Readers Digest reports on the coup - 'Seldom has a major nation come closer to the brink of disaster and yet recovered than did Brazil in its recent triumph over Red subversion. The communist drive for domination-marked by propaganda, infiltration, terror-was moving in high gear. Total surrender seemed imminent - and then the people said No!'           
Article ( cached )
       The Washington Post reports a rather different story - 'In 1964, with US Ambassador Lincoln Gordon's promises of immediate recognition and petroleum support, and with a US Navy task force - an aircraft carrier, destroyers, guided missiles - in Brazilian coastal waters, US-armed elements in the military advance upon Rio with troops and tanks. Not wanting to be responsible for bloodshed among Brazilians, Goulart refuses to call on loyalist forces and flees to Uruguay.'           
1964-1985 Article ( cached )
       All the features of military dictatorship which Latin America has come to know are instituted. According to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, '[General Castelo Branco] shuts down Congress, virtually extinguishes political opposition, suspends habeas corpus for "political crimes", forbids by law criticism of the dictator, takes over labor unions, institutes police and military firing into protesting crowds, burns down peasant homes, brutalizes priests, ...'.           
Article ( cached )
       Amnesty International reports on the regime in Brazil - 'Tortures range from simple but brutal blows from a truncheon to electric shocks. Often the torture is more refined: the end of a reed is placed in the anus of a naked man hanging suspended downwards on the pau de arara [parrot's perch] and a piece of cotton soaked in petrol is lit at the other end of the reed. Pregnant women have been forced to watch their husbands being tortured. Other wives have been hung naked beside their husbands and given electric shocks on the sexual parts of their body, while subjected to the worst kind of obscenities. Children have been tortured before their parents and vice versa. At least one child, the three month old baby of Virgilio Gomes da Silva was reported to have died under police torture. The length of sessions depends upon the resistance capacity of the victims and have sometimes continued for days at a time.'           
Article ( cached )
       The official Washington line was ... yes, it's unfortunate that democracy has been overthrown in Brazil ... but, still, the country has been saved from communism.           
2003 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 
       Bush's brother Jeb recently made a big contribution to the Cancun World Trade talks, defending the US's tariff on orange juice which protects Florida's citrus industry. Back in the year 1985, the US imported half a billion gallons of orange juice from Brazil, and 20 million gallons from the rest of the world. These figures now stand at 150 million gallons and 100 million gallons respectively as a result of the tariffs.

A further family member, brother Marvin Bush, may be able to explain Jeb's interest in these subsidies - he holds 30,000 shares in a business which is directly dependent on continued Brazilian tariffs to keep its business.
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Bolivia View comments     
1951 Lonely Planet guide ( cached )
       The populist Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), under the leadership of Victor Paz Estenssoro, prevails in the general elections but is stymied by a last-minute coup.           
1952 Lonely Planet guide ( cached )
       The coup provokes a popular armed revolt which becomes known as the April Revolution of 1952. The military is subsequently defeated and Paz Estenssoro returned to power.           
US govt report ( cached )
       The MNR introduces universal adult suffrage, carries out a sweeping land reform, promotes rural education, and nationalizes the country's largest tin mines.           
1957 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 5 6 
       Notorious ex-gestapo captain Klaus Barbie, convicted with the death penalty for his war crimes, escapes to Bolivia with assistance from the American Counter-Intelligence Corps (CIC). Here he works as a US agent, assisting a succession of military regimes during the 70s and 80s, teaching soldiers torture techniques and helping protect the flourishing cocaine trade before finally being deported to France to face his crimes in 1983.           
1964 Lonely Planet guide ( cached ) See also: 1 
       A military junta headed by General Ren Barrientos overthrows the MNR. Military regimes subsequently come and go with monotonous regularity until the election of the leftist civilian Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) under Dr Hernn Siles Zuazo in 1982.           
1967 Declassified docs + chronology ( cached )
       Che Guevara, having gone to Bolivia in the hopes of starting a revolution to overthrow the military government, is captured and executed by Bolivian soldiers trained, equipped and guided by US Green Beret and CIA operatives.           
1985 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 
       Zuazo is defeated in elections by Paz Estenssoro, who immediately seeks to curb the stratospheric inflation levels (at one point reaching 35,000% annually) and implements austerity measures under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in exchange for partial relief of Bolivia's crushing foreign debt.           
1998 Article ( cached ) See also: 1 2 3 4 
       California-based conglomerate Bechtel privatizes water in parts of Bolivia (helped by IMF pressure on the government to allow the privatization), even going so far as to force the Bolivian government to forbid Bolivians to draw water from their own local wells. This results in skyrocketing water prices in a country that is already desperately poor.

The people revolt against Bechtel, and so the Bolivian government shoots hundreds of protesters in the streets to protect itself and its corporate benefactor. Bechtel eventually withdraws from Bolivia, but now is suing the nation for $25 million in lost potential profits.
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