Ideologies of Reactionary Military Governments in Latin America


The Cold War ravaged various countries in Latin America while subjecting others to dictatorship and insurgency. Latin American countries had military governments driven by communist reaction.  Chile was the best example of Latin American countries subjected to dictatorship and suppression of political parties and the prosecution of dissidents. The Chilean dictatorship was a bureaucratic authoritarian regime. Chile had the strongest and oldest communist party in the hemisphere owing to its participation in electoral coalitions with other parties since 1930s. This kind of party frustrated efforts of armed revolution fore-fronted by the Chilean socialist coalition. Upon winning the 1978 election, the Chilean Socialist Coalition aimed at achieving social transformation like nationalizing Chilean copper, steel, and coal, coupled with numerous banks and land reforms. Under the leadership of Allende, the Chilean Socialist Party faced strong opposition from the losing parties that allied with CIA to receive money. The CIA pushed for a firm and continuing policy and wanted to overthrow Allende through a coup that was the bloodiest in Latin American history. Majority of those killed were buried in massive graves never to be heard (Chasteen 311). The United States was against Allende’s government and did all it could to cut off international credit. The outcomes of denied international credit to Chile was evident in triple-digit inflation as a result of the Popular Unity Party’s imposed price freezes, and increases in wages to raise poor Chilean’s living standards. In pursuit of the previous dictatorship regime, Chilean Army was used to kill Allende and overthrow his government with the assistance of the US. The Chilean military ruled for seventeen years. Jimmy Carter emphasized human rights as a criterion for US foreign policy. Peru was the only exception as its revolution intentions were not communist or capitalist. The government had a sincere desire to serve the Peru’s poor majority amounting to old-fashioned nationalism. Argentina had remained a sophisticated nation that was distinct from countries like Chile. Argentina encouraged multi-partyism and was never a dictatorial government. In Argentina, the military organized a coup aimed at identifying the country with the other Latin American nations. The implications were political instability and severe economic and political instability. \

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Latin American countries were dependent on agricultural exports particularly bananas and coffee. Argentina’s major agricultural focus was on wheat and cheap wheat. The national wealth in these countries was under the control of landowners who were very powerful. Agriculture stimulated rapid economic growth. The military-controlled governments used paralysis of the working-class reaction to facilitate the implementation of their long-term plans. In Chile, the military government paralyzed the working class reaction to completely restructure the Chilean economy. While Allende advocated for people to work within constitutional restraints (Chasteen 311), the military government in Chile did not free the market from restrictions imposed by successive governments (Fisher, Kidnappings 14). The success of the military controlled government in Chile involved exacting a conclusive defeat on working class policies and organizations. For instance, the military attempted to immobilize any resistance through intervention efforts such as freezing trade union funds, and immobilizing any resistance from national trade union organization (Fisher, Kidnappings 15). The military government in Argentina made prescriptions to free the market from the restrictions imposed by successive governments. For instance, all taxes that discriminated against the export of agricultural products were removed for the expansion of agriculture (Fisher, Kidnappings 14). In the end, agriculture stagnated, the interior regions of Argentina were severely affected, and there was increased unemployment. The new industrialization failed to replace the traditional Argentinian agriculture as Argentina experienced severe deterioration in terms of shortage of capital and crises in balance of payments (Fisher, Mothers 2).

The military-controlled governments perpetrated human rights violations. In Chile, the military engaged in massive killing of the followers. The US Policy in Latin America supported the killings in countries like Chile where people who supported Allende’s government were gathered into Santiago Soccer Stadium and were subjected to torture and murder. The suppression of political dissidence in Chile resulted in a political genocide aimed at eliminating Allende and all his followers, while suppressing their revolutionary and reformatory ideals. During the coups, in Argentina, many people fell victims of kidnappings. The armed forces and officers were installed in each public institution and offices (Fisher, Kidnappings 18). The use of armed forces was to reinforce the family as the base of the society, thus justifying the kidnapping of pregnant women and children. However, the families of kidnapped people were subjected to obstruction, threats, and intimidation aimed at halting their search for information. In Argentina, women, regardless of their class remained oppressed regardless of their class. The severe oppression subjected the women to dual exploitation of patriarchy and dependent capitalism

Like the military-controlled government in Chile, the Argentinian government used local military to perform the coup. The military took over the governments and subjected the nation to suppressive military control. This military control did combine the longstanding trends of nationalism and liberalism in predictable ways.

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  1. Chasteen, Ch. 9 “Reaction,” and pp. 309-322
  2. Jo Fisher, Introduction, “Historical Background,” Ch. 1 “The Kidnappings,” in Mothers of the Disappeared (1989), pp. 1-31; Glossary, pp. xii-xiv. In Readings as “Fisher, Mothers.”
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