Reagan Administration Foreign Policy in Latin Amer Essay

This essay has a total of 1923 words and 8 pages.

Reagan Administration Foreign Policy in Latin America

Throughout the Cold War the United States considered the installation in Latin America of
radical regimes-socialist, Marxist-Leninist, or "leftist" in any way- to be utterly
intolerable. Any such development would represent an advance for the communist cause and a
vital loss for the West. Acceptance of this outcome could weaken the credibility of the
United States as the leader of the west and as a rival for the USSR. In the eyes of Cold
Warriors, the consolidation of any left-wing regime in the Western Hemisphere would have
dire and perilous implications for U.S. national security and for the global distribution
of power. It was therefore crucial to resist this possibility by any means necessary in
countries such as Grenada, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

The 1st Prime Minister of Grenada was Eric Mathew Gairy, an energetic, charismatic, and
ultimately egomaniacal leader with personal interest in self-aggrandizement and
unidentified flying objects. The opposition of Gairy's movement to increase his own wealth
appeared with the foundation in 1972 of a movement called JEWEL, Joint Endeavor for
Welfare, Education, and Liberation of people, combined with the Movement for the
Assemblies of the People, MAP, to create the "New Jewel Movement," NJM, led by Maurice
Bishop and Bernard Courd. In the late 1970's NJM began to promote a vague Marxist-Leninist
ideology. While Gairy was in New York attempting to persuade the UN to establish an agency
for investigation of UFO's, the New Jewel Movement seized power in a near bloodless
takeover. Bishop became Prime Minister in what came to be known as People's Revolutionary
Government, PRG; Courd became Minister of Finance. Bernard Courd became increasingly
critical of Bishop and his national-democratic, reformist, and anti-imperialist PRG. He,
along with a number of military advisors and their troops, placed Bishop under house
arrest and eventually executed him.

The Reagan administration watched these events with mounting interest. On the day of
Bishop's murder, the US Ambassador to Grenada recommended that Washington evacuate all
Americans in Grenada. State Department Officials argued evacuation would be inadequate;
instead the island would have to be seized to save American lives and broader goals. On
October 23, a suicide attack by Islamic fundamentalist led to the massacre of 241 US
Marines in faraway Beirut. This provoked intense concern within the White House about the
possible taking of American hostages in Grenada. The next day Reagan signed an executive
order approving the invasion. A combined force of 1,900 US Marines and army airborne
troops launched an assault on Grenada. All significant military objectives were achieved
in roughly 36 hours. Reagan justified the operation as an effort to protect US citizens
whose safety was threatened because "a gang of leftist thugs" (Lake 182) had seized power
to forestall further chaos, and assist in restoration of democracy.

In El Salvador, a mountainous coffee-growing country of 5 million citizens was ruled by an
unholy alliance of large-scale landowners and military officers. Acceleration of
agriculture exports during the 1960's led to an increased concentration of rural holdings
by large-scale landowners and in turn increased the percentage of peasants who had no land
at all. A reformist challenge to the status quo came through the Christian Democratic
Party, under the leadership of Jose Duarte. As mayor of San Salvador, Duarte built strong
connections with intellectuals, professionals, and other middle-class groups that if the
military hadn't interfered and imposed dictatorial rule he would have surely won the
election for presidency in 1972. Fake elections in 1977 led to the installation of General
Carlos Humberto Romero as president, who imposed a law to defend and guarantee public
order. Duarte himself was imprisoned, tortured, and exiled but never fled to the hills. A
movement called the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front, FMLN, came to pose a major challenge
to El Salvador's right-wing regime; the FMLN developed considerable support among the
peasants of the countryside. In October 1979, a group of junior officers, Junta, ousted
Romero and attempted to implement long-needed reforms. The junta sought to support from
"popular organizations" (Gellman 57) and invited Christian Democrats to join the
government. Official repression persisted, however, and killings continued at the
astonishing rate of nearly 1,000 per month. Now looking undeniably conservative, a
beleaguered Duarte took over as titular head of the government. For most of the 1980's,
FMLN would carry on the struggle in a political stalemate.

Although the Carter Administration withdrew assistance to the Salvadoran regime because of
its human rights abuses, the Reagan White House devoted unmistakable support to the newly
installed government in its fight against the rebels. Though the uprising had fully
homegrown roots, Washington saw the conflict as a sign of alien communist agitation. As
explained by Secretary of State Haig, "Our problem with El Salvador is external
intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation in this hemisphere- nothing
more, nothing less" (Carothers 87). According to an analysis done by the State Department
in 1981, the Salvadoran insurgency represented a "textbook case" (Blachman 283) of
communist interference within the hemisphere. The logical corollary for U.S. policy was to
terminate this external intrusion of El Salvador. Some believed that Nicaragua was the
source of the dilemma in El Salvador. It was this accusation that would provide the
rationale for the renewal of U.S. activity within that troubled country.

In Nicaragua, the Somoza dynasty contained the seeds of its own destruction. Coming to
power in the wake of the U.S. occupations of 1916-1933, the Somoza family drew support
from several sources: the Guardia Nacional, the landed elite, and the United States.
Anastasio Sr., supported the U.S. conspiracy against Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954; and it
was Luis, the elder son, who encouraged the anti-Fidelista brigade as it set sail for Cuba
in 1961. Yet the regime began to weaken in the 1970. Self-seeking and corrupt, Anastasio
Jr. clamped an iron rule over the country but offended thoughtful Nicaraguans by his
excesses, most notable his extractions of windfall profits from the reconstruction of
Managua after an earthquake in 1972. Unlike El Salvador, where the existence of legal
institutions encouraged a reformist option, the near-complete absence of representative
institution in Nicaragua meant that opposition to Somoza could take only one form: armed
resistance. In the 1960's there emerged a guerrilla movement known as the Sandinista
National Liberation Front, FSLN. After years of fighting, the Somoza regime suddenly
collapsed in 1979, just as Batista had given way in Cuba two decades before. Once in
power, the youthful Sandinista proclaimed two broad policy goals. One called for the
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