CIA Meddling in Latin America -- 1954 to 2002
compiled by Steve Kangas
Guatemala - The CIA overthrows the democratically elected Jacob Arbenz in a military coup. Arbenz has threatened to nationalize the Rockefeller-owned United Fruit Company, in which CIA Director Allen Dulles also owns stock. Arbenz is replaced with a series of right-wing dictators whose bloodthirsty policies will kill over 100,000 Guatemalans in the next 40 years.
Haiti - The U.S. military helps "Papa Doc" Duvalier become dictator of Haiti. He creates his own private police force, the "Tonton Macoutes," who terrorize the population with machetes. They will kill over 100,000 during the Duvalier family reign. The U.S. does not protest their dismal human rights record.
The Bay of Pigs - The CIA sends 1,500 Cuban exiles to invade Castro's Cuba. But "Operation Mongoose" fails, due to poor planning, security and backing. The planners had imagined that the invasion will spark a popular uprising against Castro -- which never happens. A promised American air strike also never occurs. This is the CIA's first public setback, causing President Kennedy to fire CIA Director Allen Dulles.
["Before January 1959, Cuba's economy was dominated by US interests, which owned 40% of the sugar production, including seven of the ten largest estates, 90% of the telephone and electricity utilities, the oil refineries, most of the mining industry, and some of the banks." --Oxfam America, Cuba: Going Against the Grain]
["In February 1955, Vice President Richard Nixon traveled to Havana to embrace Batista at the despot's lavish private palace, praise 'the competence and stability' of his regime, award him a medal of honor, and compare him with Abraham Lincoln. Nixon hailed Batista's Cuba as a land that 'shares with us the same democratic ideals of peace, freedom and the dignity of man.'
"When he returned to Washington, the vice president reported to the cabinet that Batista was 'a very remarkable man ... older and wiser ... desirous of doing a good job for Cuba rather than Batista ... concerned about social progress...' And Nixon reported that Batista had vowed to 'deal with the Commies.'
"What Nixon omitted from his report was ... the rampant government corruption under Batista -- and the extreme poverty of most Cubans. The American vice president also ignored Batista's suspension of constitutional guarantees, his dissolution of the country's political parties, and his use of the police and army to murder political opponents. Twenty thousand Cubans reportedly died at the hands of Batista's thugs." --Don Fulsom, The Mob's President: Richard Nixon's Secret Ties to the Mafia]
Dominican Republic - The CIA assassinates Rafael Trujillo, a murderous dictator Washington has supported since 1930. Trujillo's business interests have grown so large (about 60 percent of the economy) that they have begun competing with American business interests.
Ecuador - The CIA-backed military forces the democratically elected President Jose Velasco to resign. Vice President Carlos Arosemana replaces him; the CIA fills the now vacant vice presidency with its own man.
Dominican Republic - The CIA overthrows the democratically elected Juan Bosch in a military coup. The CIA installs a repressive, right-wing junta.
Ecuador - A CIA-backed military coup overthrows President Arosemana, whose independent (not socialist) policies have become unacceptable to Washington. A military junta assumes command, cancels the 1964 elections, and begins abusing human rights.
Brazil - A CIA-backed military coup overthrows the democratically elected government of Joao Goulart. The junta that replaces it will, in the next two decades, become one of the most bloodthirsty in history. General Castelo Branco will create Latin America's first death squads, or bands of secret police who hunt down "communists" for torture, interrogation and murder. Often these "communists" are no more than Branco's political opponents. Later it is revealed that the CIA trains the death squads.
Dominican Republic - A popular rebellion breaks out, promising to reinstall Juan Bosch as the country's elected leader. The revolution is crushed when U.S. Marines land to uphold the military regime by force. The CIA directs everything behind the scenes.
Bolivia - A CIA-organized military operation captures legendary guerilla Che Guevara. The CIA wants to keep him alive for interrogation, but the Bolivian government executes him to prevent worldwide calls for clemency.
Uruguay - The notorious CIA torturer Dan Mitrione arrives in Uruguay, a country torn with political strife. Whereas right-wing forces previously used torture only as a last resort, Mitrione convinces them to use it as a routine, widespread practice. "The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect," is his motto. The torture techniques he teaches to the death squads rival the Nazis'. He eventually becomes so feared that revolutionaries will kidnap and murder him a year later.
Bolivia - After half a decade of CIA-inspired political turmoil, a CIA-backed military coup overthrows the leftist President Juan Torres. In the next two years, dictator Hugo Banzer will have over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, then tortured, raped and executed.
Haiti - "Papa Doc" Duvalier dies, leaving his 19-year old son "Baby Doc" Duvalier the dictator of Haiti. His son continues his bloody reign with full knowledge of the CIA.
Chile - The CIA overthrows and assassinates Salvador Allende, Latin America's first democratically elected socialist leader. The problems begin when Allende nationalizes American-owned firms in Chile. ITT offers the CIA $1 million for a coup (reportedly refused). The CIA replaces Allende with General Augusto Pinochet, who will torture and murder thousands of his own countrymen in a crackdown on labor leaders and the political left.
El Salvador - An idealistic group of young military officers, repulsed by the massacre of the poor, overthrows the right-wing government. However, the U.S. compels the inexperienced officers to include many of the old guard in key positions in their new government. Soon, things are back to "normal" -- the military government is repressing and killing poor civilian protesters. Many of the young military and civilian reformers, finding themselves powerless, resign in disgust.
Nicaragua - Anastasios Somoza II, the CIA-backed dictator, falls. The Marxist Sandinistas take over government, and they are initially popular because of their commitment to land and anti-poverty reform. Somoza had a murderous and hated personal army called the National Guard. Remnants of the Guard will become the Contras, who fight a CIA-backed guerilla war against the Sandinista government throughout the 1980s.
El Salvador - The Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, pleads with President Carter "Christian to Christian" to stop aiding the military government slaughtering his people. Carter refuses. Shortly afterwards, right-wing leader Roberto D'Aubuisson has Romero shot through the heart while saying Mass. The country soon dissolves into civil war, with the peasants in the hills fighting against the military government. The CIA and U.S. Armed Forces supply the government with overwhelming military and intelligence superiority. CIA-trained death squads roam the countryside, committing atrocities like that of El Mazote in 1982, where they massacre between 700 and 1000 men, women and children. By 1992, some 63,000 Salvadorans will be killed.
Iran/Contra Begins - The CIA begins selling arms to Iran at high prices, using the profits to arm the Contras fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. President Reagan vows that the Sandinistas will be "pressured" until "they say 'uncle.'" The CIA's Freedom Fighter's Manual disbursed to the Contras includes instruction on economic sabotage, propaganda, extortion, bribery, blackmail, interrogation, torture, murder and political assassination.
Honduras - The CIA gives Honduran military officers the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual - 1983, which teaches how to torture people. Honduras' notorious "Battalion 316" then uses these techniques, with the CIA's full knowledge, on thousands of leftist dissidents. At least 184 are murdered.
The Boland Amendment - The last of a series of Boland Amendments is passed. These amendments have reduced CIA aid to the Contras; the last one cuts it off completely. However, CIA Director William Casey is already prepared to "hand off" the operation to Colonel Oliver North, who illegally continues supplying the Contras through the CIA's informal, secret, and self-financing network. This includes "humanitarian aid" donated by Adolph Coors and William Simon, and military aid funded by Iranian arms sales.
Eugene Hasenfus - Nicaragua shoots down a C-123 transport plane carrying military supplies to the Contras. The lone survivor, Eugene Hasenfus, turns out to be a CIA employee, as are the two dead pilots. The airplane belongs to Southern Air Transport, a CIA front. The incident makes a mockery of President Reagan's claims that the CIA is not illegally arming the Contras.
Iran/Contra Scandal - Although the details have long been known, the Iran/Contra scandal finally captures the media's attention in 1986. Congress holds hearings, and several key figures (like Oliver North) lie under oath to protect the intelligence community. CIA Director William Casey dies of brain cancer before Congress can question him. All reforms enacted by Congress after the scandal are purely cosmetic.
Haiti - Rising popular revolt in Haiti means that "Baby Doc" Duvalier will remain "President for Life" only if he has a short one. The U.S., which hates instability in a puppet country, flies the despotic Duvalier to the South of France for a comfortable retirement. The CIA then rigs the upcoming elections in favor of another right-wing military strongman. However, violence keeps the country in political turmoil for another four years. The CIA tries to strengthen the military by creating the National Intelligence Service (SIN), which suppresses popular revolt through torture and assassination.
Panama - The U.S. invades Panama to overthrow a dictator of its own making, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega has been on the CIA's payroll since 1966, and has been transporting drugs with the CIA's knowledge since 1972. By the late 80s, Noriega's growing independence and intransigence have angered Washington ... so out he goes.
Haiti - Competing against 10 comparatively wealthy candidates, leftist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide captures 68 percent of the vote. After only eight months in power, however, the CIA-backed military deposes him. More military dictators brutalize the country, as thousands of Haitian refugees escape the turmoil in barely seaworthy boats. As popular opinion calls for Aristide's return, the CIA begins a disinformation campaign painting the courageous priest as mentally unstable.
Haiti - The chaos in Haiti grows so bad that President Clinton
has no choice but to remove the Haitian military dictator, Raoul Cedras,
on threat of U.S. invasion. The U.S. occupiers do not arrest Haiti's
military leaders for crimes against humanity, but instead ensure their
safety and rich retirements. Aristide is returned to power only after
being forced to accept an agenda favorable to the country's ruling
Venezuela - The CIA attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela. According to intelligence analyst Wayne Madsen, "the CIA provided Special Operations Group personnel, headed by a lieutenant colonel on loan from the U.S. Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to help organize the coup." Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has irritated the U.S. with his 2001 Hydrocarbon Law, which doubles royalties on foreign oil companies and requires a majority government stake in future joint ventures. Soldiers supporting the coup take control of the presidential palace, arrest Chavez and fly him to the Venezuelan island of La Orchil, where he is imprisoned. Businessman Pedro Carmona claims power. In his first move as president, he dissolves the democratically elected National Assembly, the Supreme Court and other key institutions, while arresting Chavez supporters. The U.S. immediately recognizes the Carmona government. However, the coup soon unravels when thousands of anti-coup protesters surround the presidential palace demanding Hugo Chavez's reinstatement. Two days later, Hugo Chavez triumphantly returns to office.
"Essentially a conservative organization, the CIA maintains secret liaison with local security services wherever it operates. Its stations are universally part of the official communities of the host countries. Case officers live comfortable lives among the economic elite; even 'outside' or 'deep cover' case officers are part of that elite. They become conditioned to the mentality of the authoritarian figures, the police chiefs, with whom they work and socialize, and eventually share their resentment of revolutionaries who threaten the status quo. They are ill at ease with democracies and popular movements -- too fickle and hard to predict." --John Stockwell, former CIA Chief of the Angola Task Force, "In Search of Enemies"
"I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar crooked fingers out of the business of these nations, so full of depressed exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own design and want ... that they fight and work for." --David Shoup, former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and member of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, speaking at Pierce College, 14 May 1966