Brief Sketch of US Intervention in Central America

Brief Sketch of US Intervention in Central America

Below you will find a breakdown of US intervention in several Central American countries. We have included this graphic in conjunction with our research in the RGV to contextualize the immigrant refugee crisis. Intervention by the US, in addition to a long legacy of colonization in Central America, has led to the very problem that the US has selectively dubbed, “the illegal immigrant crisis”. These graphics aim to provide readers with a preliminary breakdown of intervention by the US in just the past few decades. 

map-honduras-360x270-cb1351019525Honduras

  • In 2005, left-wing Manuel Zelaya was democratically elected as President of Honduras. The country joined ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas, a regional economic partnership backed by Cuba and the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela.
  • In 2009, Zelaya was overthrown in a “constitutional” coup d’état and forced into exile. The new, right-wing regime crushed mass struggles against the coup. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed of the US role: “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.” (1)

Sources

  1. Weisbrot, Mark 2014. “Hard choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath”, Al Jazeera America, September 29, viewed November 5, 2014, <http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/9/hillary-clinton-honduraslatinamericaforeignpolicy.html>.

map-guatemala-360x270-cb1351714355Guatemala

  • In 1950, Jacobo Árbenz was democratically elected as President of Guatemala. His government’s land-reform efforts threatened major landowners, including the US-based United Fruit Company, today Chiquita Brands International. The left-wing Guatemalan Party of Labor (the former Communist Party) was legalized.
  • In 1954, Árbenz was ousted in a US-backed military coup d’état.
  • In 1960, General Miguel Fuentes’ junta provided training facilities for more than one thousand anti-Castro Cubans; in 1961, air bases were provided for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a 1961 US attempt to oust Cuba’s revolutionary government. (1)
  • In 1966, US special forces began training forerunners to the infamous Guatemalan death squads (such as the “White Hand” and the Anticommunist Secret Army). (2)
  • In 1976, a massive earthquake devastated much of the country. Partly in reaction to the government’s negligent response, left-wing groups, including the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP) and Revolutionary Organization of the People in Arms (ORPA), grew.
  • In the 1970s, the junta began scorched-earth counterinsurgency campaigns, including genocide of indigenous peoples in mountain regions actively supporting the rebels. US military assistance to the government continued.
  • In 1977, with escalating international condemnation of the junta’s human rights abuses, the Carter administration was forced to halt US military aid. That resumed a few years later under the Reagan administration.
  • The civil war continued until a 1996 negotiated settlement and claimed more than 200,000 lives (3), with more than 400,000 fleeing the country (4).

Source (unless noted otherwise)

LaFeber, Walter 1984. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, expanded edition (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company).

  1. Jones, Howard 2008. The Bay of Pigs, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press).
  2. Nairn, Allan 1984. “Behind the Death Squads”, The Progressive, May, p. 21.
  3. 2012. “Timeline: Guatemala”, BBC News, July 3, viewed November 4, 2014, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1215811.stm>.
  4. Smith, James 2006. “Guatemala: Economic Migrants Replace Political Refugees”, Migration Information Source, April 1, viewed November 4, 2014, <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/guatemala-economic-migrants-replace-political-refugees>.

map-el-salvador-360x270-cb1316028800El Salvador

  • In March 1931, Alberto Araujo was democratically elected as President of El Salvador.
  • In December, 1931, Araujo was deposed in a US-backed military coup d’état.
  • In 1979, the Revolutionary Government Junta (JRG) toppled the existing regime and attempted to co-opt growing mass opposition struggles. By December 1980, Christian Democratic leader José Napoleón Duarte heads the JRG.
  • To prevent “another Nicaragua”, where the dictator Somoza had recently been defeated by the Sandinistas, the Carter administration welcomed the new JRG and increased military backing.
  • In 1980, the popular Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) is founded. In January, 1981, the FMLN begins military offensives against the state.
  • The Reagan administration dramatically expanded US backing for the JRG.
  • Duarte and his successors presided over a campaign of massive human rights abuses, by both the US-trained military and right-wing death squads. The civil war ultimately claimed 75,000 lives (1) and forced the migration of more than 25% of the country’s total population (2).
  • That conflict ended with a negotiated settlement in 1992.

Source (unless noted otherwise)

Armstrong, Robert and Shenk, Janet 1982. El Salvador: the Face of Revolution (Boston: South End Press).

  1. Sullivan, Kevin and Jordan, Mary 2004. “In Central America, Reagan Remains A Polarizing Figure”,  Washington Post, June 10, viewed November 4, 2014, <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29546-2004Jun9.html>.
  2. Gammage, Sarah 2007. “El Salvador: Despite End to Civil War, Emigration Continues”, Migration Information Source, July 26, viewed November 4, 2014, <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/el-salvador-despite-end-civil-war-emigration-continues>.

 


map-nicaragua-360x270-cb1351014212Nicaragua

  • In 1961, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was founded by Carlos Fonseca to overthrow the longstanding, US-backed, Somoza family dictatorship.
  • In 1972, a massive, devastating earthquake, and the government’s negligent response, led to significant FSLN growth.
  • In 1979, President Anastasio Somoza was finally ousted by the Sandinistas.
  • In 1981, the Reagan administration began supporting armed, counter-revolutionary opposition to the Sandinistas – the “contras”.
  • In 1983, the US Congress slashed federal funding for the contras. Nonetheless, the Reagan administration continued that support through covert, illegal means, leading to the Iran-Contra affair in the later 1980s.
  • In 1984, the Sandinistas won the general democratic elections.
  • In 1990, the Sandinistas were defeated in the elections. This has been attributed to popular exhaustion from a decade of US and contra terrorist campaigns.
  • More than 30,000 people were killed in the contra conflict. (1)

Source (unless noted otherwise)

Bendaña, Alejandro 2004. “The Rise and Fall of the FSLN”, NACLA Report on the Americas, May/Jun2004, Vol. 37, Issue 6, p21-42.

LaFeber, Walter 1984. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America, expanded edition (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company).

  1. Uhlig, Mark A. 1990. “Cease-Fire Begins in Nicaragua As the Contras Agree to Disarm”, New York Times, April 20, viewed November 4, 2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/20/world/cease-fire-begins-in-nicaragua-as-the-contras-agree-to-disarm.html>.