Week 11: The Terror

Fujimori’s 1992  Autogolpe, is a really interesting case of de-democratization. It seems that he suspended the constitution  in order to amass power in one swift sweep. Or i guess it is more accurate to say that he dissolved the other branches of government in order to concentrate power in the executive.  What’s very interesting about this is that it seems to be a maneuver to gain support from the people in his fight against the Sendero Luminoso. Subsequently, I doubt such a move would have increased his support if it were not in the context of civil strife. As Dawson notes, all this also happens in the context of the cold war, although it formally ended in 1991, is a very important point. Looking across the region at this time, we can truly see the influence that the international context had. Along these lines, Dawson points out that Latin America was the region most used as a proxy of the cold war. After the Cuban revolution, the United States was irrationally fearful of further communist revolutions in the region. As is so, they subsequently tried to repress further revolutions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay and many others. After the successful revolution in Nicaragua, they claimed that it posed “the threat of a good example” and proceeded to attack the Sandinistas through their brutal proxy army, the Contra.

The reading about the massacre in Peru has me feeling uneasy. Not only due to the brutality of the events, although that is obviously part of it, but because if the complexities of the Latin American situation that it brings to light. First off all, the reading states that “guerrilla movements are not “peasant movements.” They are born in the cities, among intellectuals and middle-class.” This complicates things because it changes the image of peasant led revolutions that aimed to better the lives of its participants. The reading points to Cuba(although not in this context) it is a valid example of this statement. Fidel Castro was indeed part of the upper middle class, a lawyer from an affluent family. Without passing judgement on the ensuing regime, it is sad to think of how many people lost their lives in the process of the Cuban revolution. Or, more relevant to this week’s readings is Sendero Luminoso’s leadership. Abimael Guzmán was indeed a middle class person. Did he really understand the lives of the poor enough to lead many of them to their death? In all these revolutions it seems that the poor suffer most. As the reading states, “the peasants are coerced by those who think they are the masters of history and absolute truth. The fact is that the struggle between the guerrillas and the armed forces is really a settling of accounts between privileged sectors of society, and the peasant masses are used cynically and brutally by those who say they want to “liberate” them.” I cannot come to a conclusion on these points right  now as they require much more thought. But they are indeed perplexing questions. One last random thought: the reading says that “In the Andes, the Devil merges with the image of the stranger,” is this a cultural thing or some sort of colonial trauma?

My question for this week is as follows: were Latin American revolutions indeed a battle between affluent members of society, in which the poor were used as cannon fodder. Or were they truly trying to achieve a better life for the majority of society which had for so long been ignored. Do the means justify the ends?

2 thoughts on “Week 11: The Terror

  1. Christiana Tse

    I think its interesting that you mention how in hindsight we can see the full extent of Western influence with Latin American affairs and how we need to be factoring in the role that nations like the U.S. played. To answer your question, I think that depending on the perspective you take or specific event you examine it can be either answer that you mention or even both. Do the means justify the ends? Another good question where I feel there is no clear ‘correct’ answer to – were the outcomes achieved what was intended? Does that change how we justify actions? Lots of questions to deliberate!

  2. AntoninFinch

    I found your thoughts on the Cold War and its influence on Latin America interesting. The way in which the US exerted its influence in a rush to suppress any notion of communist ideas in Latin America really created a chaotic environment. This environment, it can be argued, was the perfect setting for the violence that ensued in the 60s and 70s, as well as the war on drugs that is currently ongoing.


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