A brief history of America’s imperialist involvement in South America. Pt. 1

Justin Higginbotham

December 14, 2020

For over a century the United States has forced itself into the regimes and elections of South American countries. The continent has proven to be a target of the United Stated for its vast natural resources and the tendency for its countries to attempt to nationalize them. Nearly every country in South America has had the United States meddle in its affairs. It would be impossible to tell the full story of the United States imperialism in South America, but it is important to break one’s perception of their own nation in order to begin to understand its history.


In Guatemala in 1944, the pro-worker and anti-colonialist Leftist President Jacobo Arbenz was democratically elected only to soon be overthrown in a US-funded and supported Coup. This followed decades of revolt and resistance from the workers and peasants against the capitalist and landowning class. This included what is now known as Chiquita Brands International, who would use coercion and violence against their workers. The coup led to the US installment of the far-right authoritarian leader Carlos Castillo Armas who had led 480 trained US CIA operatives to depose the former President Arbenz. Armas’ government killed thousands, crushing unions, silencing the press, hunting communists, and rolling back popular leftist policies. Armas was eventually assassinated by a member of his own presidential guard who had come to sympathize with the Guatemalan leftist movement after witnessing the atrocities caused by Armas first hand. Sadly, the destruction caused by Armas continued after his death, the nation spiraling into continuous chaos and civil war.


In 1957, the Duvalier dynasty began, a far-right dictatorship supported by multiple US presidents, including President Ronald Reagan, for their strong anti-communist sentiment. In 1985, a rebellion against the authoritarian regime was staged, and President Jean-Claude Duvalier who had lost even the support of the US was deposed and fled to France on an Air Force One flight. This led to the democratic election of Leftist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was then s deposed in a military coup only eight months after his election. It is widely suspected that the US had a strong role in the deposition of President Aristide since the coup’s leaders received military training in the United States.


In 1970, President Salvador Allende, the first Marxist president elected in a liberal democracy in Latin America, assumed power. The results of the election were met with an economic war declaration by President Richard Nixon, causing Chile’s economy to suffer. On September 11th, 1973, with the country in disarray, a military-led coup with backing and support from the CIA was staged against the democratically elected President Allende. As La Moneda is surrounded, In Allende’s speech archived by Marxists.org titled “Last Words to The Nation” Allende gives one last speech declaringWorkers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Go forward knowing that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again and free men will walk through them to construct a better society.” Soon after his speech, he proves his vow “I will pay for the loyalty of the people with my life. And I say to them that I am certain that the seeds which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever.” to be an honest one. Following his death was the rise of Augusto Pinochet, a far-right neoliberal fascist dictator who would rule Chile for decades. Under Pinochet’s regime, opposing political parties were systematically persecuted and freedom of speech was suppressed, resulting in 3,000 dead, tens of thousands tortured, and 200,000 exiled. Eventually, in 1990, democracy in Chile was restored with Pinochet’s resignation.


In 1973, the US-backed and supported a military coup against the democratically elected president, making the new President Juan Maria Bordaberry the dictator of Uruguay. Under his reign, Unions and political enemies were murdered and imprisoned, bringing criticism and attention from human rights organizations worldwide. Uruguay eventually restored its democracy through the 1984 Uruguayan general election. 

Over a century of US involvement in Latin America, and it still has not ended. As America continues to force itself into the affairs of other nations, its consequences inevitably will shine through. These are barely a handful of the vast number of Latin American countries that have been meddled with by the US, and those countries still represent only a fraction of the nations worldwide that the US has tampered with.  It is imperative that we as Americans educate ourselves on the actions of our government and its consequences.

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