I was unfamiliar with the term “dirty war” before this week’s readings. But it does make sense that if there are vague terms, a lack of cohesion, and if the enemy is within your own nation, that the only way to describe this type of war is with a word like “dirty.” Sure, there were reasons for war thrown around, the threat of communism, that democracy was just another way for elites to control the masses, but ultimately there were no clear, defined, reasons for the brutal killings of this time. Personal agendas played into these wars, and whole groups were targeted because they were thought to be against whatever agenda was in play at the moment. In fact, in many cases, if you weren’t actively supporting the regime, or the players with power, you were seen as a threat to be removed. Economic crises in Latin America further strengthened these tensions, as well as a sort of spillover of the Cold War: the United States and the Soviet Union offered military support to parts of Latin America attempting to establish dominance in the area.
What I thought was most interesting about this week’s readings is the role that students and youth played in the unrest. Young people had been without a voice up until the mid twentieth century, and now that they were discovering their power, they used it aggressively. Che Guevara was a prominent rallying figure for youth during this time. Protesting the authoritarianism that was ubiquitous both in the political sphere and in the home, Latin American youths often used violence and fear to get their message across. While this unified them as a powerful group, it often alienated them from those who were older and more conservative. Not only that but even those who desired change were afraid of these young idealists and the terror they left in their wake. In response, governments tightened their own security measures in an attempt to subdue these left-wing idealists. The outcome was horrible violence, distrust, and fear.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the cocaine thing. Dawson mentioned that some people consider the violence of Latin America to be uninterrupted since colonization. It’s hard sometimes to disagree.