Meeting 12. Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s. Revolution in Cuba; the Missile Crisis. Argentina

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The Cold War

Meeting 12.

Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s. Revolution in Cuba; the Missile Crisis.

During WW II Argentina tried to remain neutral, although with more sympathy towards the Axis countries (military government). In effect USA imposed economic sanctions which lasted till 1949.

“With the advent of the Cold War, Argentina inaugurated the new political phenomenon of Perónism. The government of Argentine Army General President Juan Perón (1946–1955) sought to maintain an independent foreign policy, the so-called third position between capitalism and communism. Perón's third position was exemplified by his decision to support the United States in the event of a hemispheric threat while at the same time resuming relations with the Soviet Union and concluding important trade agreements with the Soviets. Argentina had not signed the Rio Pact by 1950, but the outbreak of the Korean War that June and a new $125 million loan from the Export-Import Bank led Perón to do so. Scholars have suggested that the ratification of the Rio Pact was a U.S. condition for the approval of the loan.” (ABC Clio)

Starting in 1950 Perón conducts openly anti-American policy; aims at anti-American economic imperialism. This is also seen in negative consequences of the Marshall Plan, and generally Argentina’s international situation.

In 1955 Peron’s government ends overthrown by a military coup. This results in over 30 year’s division between supporters and enemies of peronism.

The government of Arturo Frondizi (1958–1962), which faced the problem of Cuban revolt, attempted to maintain a neutral position toward the island nation.

At the 1962 Punta del Este Conference, Argentina abstained from the vote to suspend Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS). Under pressure from the military, however, Frondizi broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in February 1962.
“Relations between the United States and the government of Arturo Illia (1963–1966) had two dynamics. First, Illia decided to cancel oil contracts granted by Frondizi. That infuriated the United States, which eventually decided to suspend its economic aid to Argentina. Illia's oil policy generated sufficient backlash that both the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Developed (USAID) refused to grant credits to Argentina for two years.

Second, bilateral relations improved in the military arena. In 1964, Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States in which both countries agreed to cooperate in defense of the hemisphere. Along with Peru, Bolivia, the United States, Colombia, Paraguay, and Venezuela, Argentina participated in a joint military exercise that simulated a counterinsurgency war. Despite the military agreements, however, Argentina did not send troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965. During this time, Argentina continued its commercial agreements with the Soviet Union, although it condemned the Soviet-Cuban attempt to "export revolution."”(ABC Clio)

In 1960s and 70s we see the emerge of guerilla movements (Montoneros and the Revolutionary People's Army). This almost leads to a civil war.

In 1973 Peron returns, but this polarizes Argentina even more. In 1974, upon his death, the country witnessed the installation of one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America.


2 December Fidel Castro and his followers land in Cuba and begin the Cuban Revolution

Fidel Castro (1926-)

Cuban communist revolutionary leader. Son of a wealthy sugarcane planter. After the 1952 Cuban military coup by Fulgencio Batista, Castro and his Orthodoxo Party initiated resistance and attacked Santiago de Cuba. Castro was eventually imprisoned and let out in 1955 in effect of amnesty.

In 1955 in Mexico, where he found refuge, he established the July 26 Movement, with which he started a military and political campaign. He sides with the Argentinean leftist Ernesto “Che” Guevara. In the last days of 1958 Batista flees from Cuba and Castro enters Havana in January 1959.

In December 1961 Castro declares he is a Marxist-Leninist.

Castro’s Cuba is anti-American; in 1960s it joins Comecon and receives huge help from USSR.

10 March 1952 - General Fulgencio Batista's military coup (two months before elections)

“In the context of McCarthyism in America, the destruction of the Cuban democracy by Batista's rightist junta did not generate significant opposition in Washington. Indeed, the United States backed Batista as an ally in the Cold War” (ABC Clio)
Batista presents himself as a bulwark against Communism, what does not allow US to see him as a dictator undermining democratic principles. Cuba does not develop and there is no welfare for people.
By 1958 opposition grows in the East and in the center of Cuba

1959 Castro with “Che” Guevara lead revolution to success. US are not prepared to react properly. In February 1960 Castro turns to Moscow.

Soviet Vice Premier Anastas Mikoyan visits Cuba and signs a trade agreement with Castro's government. The Soviets then began to replace the United States as Cuba's main trade and political partner. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev soon promised Cuba new machinery, oil, consumer goods, and a market for Cuban products now subject to American sanctions.

April 1961, U.S.-Cuban relations collapse completely, thanks to the abortive Bay of Pigs fiasco sponsored by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Result –closer contacts with USSR. Khrushchev proposes to install nuclear missiles on Cuba.

Khrushchev naively assumed that the missiles could be installed without U.S. detection. U.S. intelligence quickly discovered the activity, however, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the most dangerous confrontation between the two superpowers of the Cold War. President John F. Kennedy declared a naval quarantine against the island in October 1962. For nearly two weeks the world stood at the edge of a nuclear abyss. In the end, Kennedy and Khrushchev worked out an agreement in which the Soviets withdrew the missiles in return for U.S. promises not to invade Cuba and to withdraw Jupiter missiles from Turkey.


5 January The announcing of the Eisenhower Doctrine – a new US policy in the Middle East (appropriate legislation is signed on 9 March)


1 January Castro succeeds in Cuba

24 July Khrushchev-Nixon “Kitchen Debate”

15-27 September Khrushchev visits USA; meeting with Eisenhower at Camp David


17 March Eisenhower approves and signs a CIA plan to recapture power in Cuba by Cuban exiles

1 May USSR shots down U-2 plane capturing evidence of espionage and the pilot, Gary Powers

5 May Khrushchev announces the shooting down of the plane, but withholds information about the pilot

7 May US government admits U-2 plane was on a surveillance mission

16 May Eisenhower refuses to apologize for the U-2 plane missions. Khrushchev leaves the East-West summit in Paris resulting in its collapse

September-October Khrushchev attends the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Eisenhower refuses to meet with the Secretary General.

19 October USA puts ban on trade with Cuba


1 January USA break diplomatic relations with Cuba

17 April The Bay of Pigs futile invasion by Cuban exiles

3-4 June Khrushchev-Kennedy summit in Vienna

Cuban Missile Crisis
This international crisis was the closest that the two Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, came to full-scale nuclear war. In 1958 an indigenous revolutionary movement led by Fidel Castro seized power from Fulgencio Batista, a U.S. client who since 1933 had been dictator of the Caribbean island of Cuba, less than a hundred miles from the American coast. Although Castro initially declared that he was not a communist, in the spring of 1959 he covertly sought Soviet aid and military protection. American economic pressure and boycotts quickly gave him an excuse to move openly into the Soviet camp. In response, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) planned to assist Cuban exiles to attack the island and overthrow Castro. Initiated under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and inherited by his successor John F. Kennedy, the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion attempt proved a humiliating fiasco for the United States. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara continued to develop plans for a second invasion, and their advisors also devised various ingenious and often far-fetched schemes to overthrow or assassinate Castro, who not unnaturally sought further Soviet aid.

In mid-1961, as the concurrent Berlin Crisis intensified and culminated in the building of the Berlin Wall, military hard-liners in the Kremlin, frustrated for several years, succeeded in implementing a 34 percent increase in spending on conventional forces. Both the Bay of Pigs and Kennedy's bellicose inauguration rhetoric that his country would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," may have energized them. Despite claims of a missile gap between the Soviet Union and the United States, in practice the strategic missile imbalance greatly favored the United States, which had at least eight times as many nuclear warheads as its rival. Even American leaders were unaware of just how lopsidedly the nuclear situation favored them, believing the ratio to be only about three to one. The recent U.S. deployment of fifteen intermediate-range missiles in Turkey, directly threatening Soviet territory, further angered Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist Party's general secretary, making him eager to redress the balance. It seems that he also hoped to pressure the United States into making concessions on Berlin while he rebutted communist Chinese charges that the Soviets were only paper tigers who were unwilling to take concrete action to advance the cause of international revolution. In addition, Khrushchev apparently felt a romantic sense of solidarity with the new Cuban state, which reassured him and other old communists that their cause still possessed international vitality.

Early in 1962, Khrushchev offered Soviet nuclear missiles, under the control of Soviet technicians and troops, to Castro, who accepted and oversaw their secret installation. Khrushchev apparently believed that these would deter American plans to invade Cuba. Rather optimistically, he calculated that Kennedy and his advisors would find the prospect of nuclear war over the Cuban missiles so horrifying that, despite their chagrin, once the missiles were in place they would accept their presence in Cuba.

The Bay of Pigs fiasco followed by Khrushchev's June 1961 summit meeting with Kennedy at Vienna apparently convinced the Soviet leader that Kennedy was weak and would be easily intimidated. So confident was Khrushchev that when Kennedy administration officials warned in July and August 1962 that the United States would respond strongly should the Soviets deploy nuclear or other significant weaponry in Cuba, he implicitly denied any intention of doing so. Admittedly, by this time the missiles had already been secretly dispatched, and their installation was at least a partial fait accompli. At this stage of his career, moreover, Khrushchev's behavior tended to be somewhat erratic. In any case, he miscalculated. Instead of treating the Cuban missiles as deterrent weapons, the Kennedy administration regarded them as evidence of Soviet aggressiveness and refused to accept their presence.

In October 1962, U-2 reconnaissance planes provided Kennedy with photographic evidence that Soviet officials had installed intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Cuba. When the president learned on 16 October 1962 of the presence of the missiles, he summoned a secret Executive Committee of eighteen top advisors, among them chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell D. Taylor, CIA Director John McCone, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the president's brother and closest advisor, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to decide on the American response. President Kennedy also included senior members of the broader foreign policy establishment, including former Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett and former Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

Whatever the logical justification for Khrushchev's behavior, politically it would have been almost impossible for any American president to accept the situation. The American military calculated that the missiles would increase Soviet nuclear striking force against the continental United States by 50 percent. Since U.S. officials underestimated their numbers, in reality they would have doubled or even tripled Soviet striking capabilities, reducing the existing American numerical advantage to a ratio of merely two or three to one. Kennedy, however, viewed the missiles less as a genuine military threat than as a test of his credibility and leadership. Taylor, speaking for the U.S. military, initially favored launching air strikes to destroy the missile installations, a course of action that would almost certainly have killed substantial numbers of Soviet troops, was unlikely to eliminate all the missiles, and might well have provoked full-scale nuclear war. So might another option, that of invasion by U.S. ground forces. Discussions continued for several days. Eventually, on 22 October, Kennedy publicly announced the presence of the missiles in Cuba, demanded that the Soviet Union remove them, and announced the imposition of a naval blockade around the island.

Several tense days ensued, in the course of which on 27 October Soviet antiaircraft batteries on Cuba shot down—apparently without specific authorization from Kremlin leaders, whom this episode greatly alarmed—a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. Seeking to avoid further escalation of the crisis, Kennedy refused to follow Taylor's advice to retaliate militarily and deliberately refrained from action. After some hesitation, Khrushchev acquiesced in the removal of the missiles, once his ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, secretly obtained an unpublicized pledge from Robert Kennedy that his brother would shortly remove the missiles in Turkey. Provided that the Soviet missiles were removed and not replaced, the United States also promised not to mount another invasion of Cuba.

Recently released tapes of conversations among President Kennedy and his advisors reveal that to avoid nuclear war, he was prepared to make even greater concessions to the Soviets, including taking the issue to the United Nations and openly trading Turkish missiles for those in Cuba. In so doing, he parted company with some of his more hard-line advisors. Showing considerable statesmanship, Kennedy deliberately refrained from emphasizing Khrushchev's humiliation, although other administration officials were privately less diplomatic and celebrated their victory to the press.

Newly opened Soviet documentary evidence has demonstrated that the Cuban situation was even more dire than most involved then realized. Forty-two thousand well-equipped Soviet troops were already on the island, far more than the 10,000 troops that American officials had estimated. Moreover, although Kennedy's advisors believed that some of the missiles might already be armed, they failed to realize that no less than 158 short- and intermediate-range warheads on the island, whose use Castro urged should the United States invade, were already operational and that 42 of these could have reached American territory. A bellicose Castro was also hoping to shoot down additional U-2 planes and provoke a major confrontation. The potential for a trigger-happy military officer to set off a full-scale nuclear war almost certainly existed, retrospectively chilling evidence of the dangers inherent in these weapons.
ABC Clio Priscilla Roberts

7 February USA enforces trade embargo on Cuba

14 October Beginning of the Cuban missile crisis. U-2 plane discovers construction of Soviet missile bases in Cuba

22 October J. F. Kennedy announces information about Soviet installations in Cuba and introduces quarantine on arms shipments to Cuba

28 October Khrushchev agrees to withdraw missiles in return for US guarantees not to invade Cuba

20 November Kennedy announces the end of US blockade of Cuba


20 June Establishment of a hotline between the White House and the Kremlin

26 June Kennedy’s speech: “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

5 August USA, Britain and USSR sign a partial nuclear test ban treaty


15 October Leonid Brezhnev replaces Khrushchev as Secretary General of the CPSU

16 October First Chinese atomic bomb test



4 September Salvador Allende, the candidate of the Popular Unity coalition of leftist parties wins the election by a small majority of 36.2%; Chilean economy is in deep crisi, however Allende manages to increase GDP by 8.6% in the first year and beat down inflation from 34.9% to 22.1%. Industrial output grows by 12%.

Allende’s government is opposed by the wealthy part of the society and results in diplomatic and economic US pressure on Chile.


Castro’s visit to Chile and his tour of the country raises doubts about possible Chilean road to ‘Cuban’ type of government.


Wrong monetary policy leads to devaluation of the currency and inflation reaching 140%

October first confrontational strike is backed by US administration (Nixon)

9 October truck-owners initiate a strike supported by CIA with $ 2 million (announced by

Confederación Nacional del Transporte with support of right wing party ‘Partia Y Libertad’) paralyzes the state with 40000 striking and 56000 vehicles stopping

Further strikes are backed by students, small business, and unions worsening the economic situation.


March Allende’s ‘Popular Unity’ Coalition wins elections with 43.2% gain. Yet Allende’s coalition party – ‘Christian Democrats’ leave him forming opposition coalition

Confederación Democrática with the ‘National Party’, thus paralyzing the legislative and the executive. Attempts to destabilize the situation by CIA are not entirely successful ($ 8 million)

26 May Chile’s Supreme Court issues a resolution denouncing the government’s "disruption of the legality of the nation"

29 June Unsuccessful coup attempt by Colonel Roberto Souper (known as Tanquetanzo coup)

July General strike

22 August Constitutional crisis, when Chamber of Deputies accuses Allende’s government of unconstitutional acts and passes a resolution: “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy”, calling for the military to put an end to the breaches of the constitution by the government

24 August Augusto Pinochet replaces Carlos Prats as Army Commander-in-chief

11 September 7:00 a.m. a beginning of a military coup d'état initiated by the Navy, followed by other forces. Allende’s attempts to secure help fail, as all turn away from him. By 9:00 the army is in control of the whole state, while Allende still refuses to resign. He also refuses to find shelter in an industrial district San Joaquin under the cover of the Socialist Party and remains in his palace. At noon the palace is attacked from land (Pinochet’s orders) and from the air. Allende is killed.

The worst violence occurred in the first few months after the coup, with the number of suspected leftists killed or “disappeared” soon reaching into the thousands. In the days immediately following the coup, the National Stadium was used as a concentration camp holding 40,000 prisoners. Approximately 130,000 individuals were arrested in a three-year period, with the number of dead and "disappeared" reaching into the thousands within the first few months.

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