U.S. Clandestine Operations in Chile

1970–1973

Authored by: Lubna Z. Qureshi

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  June  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415888479
eBook ISBN: 9781135070991
Adobe ISBN: 9781135071028

10.4324/9781135070991.ch32

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Abstract

During the Cold War, U.S. policymakers followed events in Latin America with grave concern. Washington justified their frequent interventions in Latin American affairs with the argument that, if it did not do so, Moscow would quickly step in. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 gave this argument some substance. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev regarded his Cuban counterpart, the communist Fidel Castro, as a vital collaborator in his challenge to the capitalist super-power. For Khrushchev, communist Cuba would serve as an example for the rest of the developing world. Aid arrived in Cuba in the form of economic assistance, but military hardware from the Soviet Union also came, including nuclear missiles. Understandably, President John F. Kennedy and his advisors could not tolerate the presence of nuclear missiles ninety miles away from Florida. At the same time, it remains questionable whether Cuba would have accepted Soviet missiles, or if Khrushchev would even have offered them, had Castro not felt so threatened by the United States. 1 In other historical instances of American intervention, policy-makers offered far less substantial evidence of Soviet involvement to defend their actions. One example was the 1954 overthrow of the democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala. While Arbenz was merely a socialist with a commitment to reform, Washington mistook him for a communist proxy for Moscow. 2 Still, some policymakers may have found such a mistake convenient to make, even though honest errors were always possible in an appraisal of the Guatemalan political scene.

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