Latin American History and the “Dirty Wars”

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Introduction to Latin American history and the “Dirty Wars”

Violations of Human Rights always occurred in the LA countries from the beginning. But the XX century, because of the surge of so many revolutionary movements, was the scene of the most horrific abuses, only surpassed by the genocide practiced by the Spaniards upon their arrival. So, let’s start with the XX, the so called Cold War.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union (Capitalism against Communism) had a tremendous impact on Latin American countries, where thousands of people were caught in the middle of two factions: the guerrilla movements and the military governments.

When in 1959 the Marxist revolution took over Cuba, a new chapter opened in the history of LA. Without faith in capitalism and democracy, systems that had not helped the lower class, many opposition groups attempted to experiment with another social contract, following the Cuban model. The political conscience of the region was high, as high as people’s frustration with injustice and poverty. The lands were in the hands of a few landowners (and still are) and the dream of many revolutionary leaders was to implement a land reform. But this was unacceptable for the landowners, and something akin to “communism” for the United States.

This was the political and social arena in the second part of the XX century in the region. Latin America saw the emergence of numerous revolutionary movements, some armed with real weapons, others with just talk; some violent, some pacifist.: Montoneros, MRP in Argentina., Farabundo Marti in Salvador, Shining Path and Tumac Amaru in Perú, Sandinistas in Nicaragua, to mention a few of them, all of them following a Marxist ideology (Most of them are defaced now except for the Maoist guerrillas in Colombia and Tupac Amaru in small regions of Peru). Of course we cannot forget the Mexican revolution, at the beginning of the XX century, and the most recent movement, the Zapatistas, in the south of Mexico. But for different reasons, they don’t have much in common with the other movements, typical of the second part of the century.

When talking about the Dirty Wars between the sixties and the nineties, we are referring to:

a.) The opposition between small leftist movement and the whole machinery of the army, that is to say, these were not civil wars as we conceive them; b) the brutal reaction of the military governments whose actions amounted in some cases to real genocide, killing or making disappear thousand of innocent people; c) the procedures used by the military, which can be qualified as “state terrorism” through the use of death squads, which gave these conflicts the name “Dirty Wars”.

This was one of the most successful –and horrific- operations in Latin America, and one of the most unknown by the American people whose tax money went to finance the repressive governments in Latin America. These military governments where allied not only to the U.S. but to the powerful landowners of each country and, in some cases such as in Argentina, to the Catholic church (In other countries there was schism in the church, and some priests favored the Theology of Liberation and their “option for the poor”-they were also victims of the state’s persecution). In any case, the mission of the military class in power was to “clean” the countries from “subversives”, “communists”, the “enemies of the country”, and whoever opposed the government. Their real agenda was to project the oligarchy in power, that is, the elite who ruled the countries. But it was necessary to protect the foreign interests in the region as well. If the ruling class was counting on the support of the U.S., they had to protect their interests , such as the copper mines in Chile, the export business in Argentina, the fruit in Central America, and so on.

Dirty War
It is true that the guerrilla movements received logistical support from Cuba and financial support...
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