Week Nine

I find the general topic of American intervention in Latin America to be intriguing, so this week’s reading was particularly interesting. Latin America essentially entered a new age of imperialism with the introduction of massive (typically American) companies. The example that is highlighted in this chapter is Guatemala. The UFCO at one point had a monopoly over banana production and at one point owned about 42% of land in the country- a fair amount of which was taken away from peasants. Dawson does note that it was difficult to protest against the company because it brought “material wealth, public services, and infrastructure”, therefore the pros of it’s presence outweighed the cons. It’s still hard to wrap my mind around how much power the UFCO held in Guatemala because they were also given a veto power to any sort of legislation proposed that could threaten their interests. However, what was even more aggravating, even though it didn’t come as a surprise was the USA’s involvement after Arbenz attempted to take back some of the power the UFCO had over the country. They painted him as a communist through propaganda (there’s that word again), so that he would lose credibility in the eyes of Americans which would help justify the USA’s interference. As Dawson mentions, Arbenz was anti-communist, but the Americans made him out to be pro-communist. This reminds me of how during WW2, the USA changed the way they depicted Stalin when they became allies and then once again after the war had ended. The USA portrays people in ways that help their interests (although they did have to work together in ww2 to stop Hitler and Stalin did some pretty terrible things). Returning to the situation between Arbenz/Guatemala and the USA, I think an important line from the reading about it is: “U.S government’s inablilty to distinguish nationalism from communism”. It can be looked at in multiple ways, did they United States really see the attempted land reform in Guatemala as communist? As it was during the McCarthyism era were they that afraid of anything that could slightly resemble socialism or communism? Or was it more that they created this image for justification to help the UFCO maintain their monopoly/power? Either way, the United States sought to break up Arbenz’s government and they succeeded. Another exmaple of the USA interfering in Latin American states for American economic interests- government or company, was in Panama. When Colombia denied a deal with the US in regards to the unfinished canal, the USA helped the Panama declare independence from Colombia and then signed a deal with them. As these two occurences, others listed in the reading and many more not mentioned show, the USA used other countries’ products (bananas), geography (canal), etc. and intervened in local politics for their own economic benefits.

One thought on “Week Nine”

  1. Hi Elena! I really really like your post, especially the part where you talk about the “U.S government’s inablilty to distinguish nationalism from communism”. This line from Dawson also caught my attention when I was doing the reading for this week. Just like you, I wonder whether the U.S. purposely identified Arbenz’s reform as communist with the intent to legitimize the U.S. presence in Guatemala as well as its meddling in the affairs of the country, or if the fear instilled by the Cold War truly spurred the U.S. to take down the enemy before it became too dangerous. My guess is that the U.S. government relied heavily on the help of the media in order to orchestrate the deliberate sabotage of Arbenz’s reform.
    The bottom line is that I asked myself the same questions, but I haven’t been able to find answers (sorry I’m not of much help to answer you either!). Hopefully Professor Murray will be able to enlighten us!

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