Latin America – Guatemala – Cuba – Recent Changes in Latin America

Latin America

to introduce radical economic and social changes were always considered a threat to the United States and led her to intervene in the political affairs of the Latin American countries. These countries faced much the same problems as the developing countries of Asia and Africa and often suffered from political instability which had become a common feature of many developing countries’ political life. The US had vast economic interests in almost every country in

Latin America; in the case of some countries, the US companies almost totally dominated their economy. To maintain their domination, these companies, with the support of the US Government, encouraged undemocratic regimes with a powerful influence exercised by the army. The US policy, besides the threat it Always perceived from the radical regimes in Latin America, also began to see these regimes as being communist-inspired or under communist control and, therefore, a danger to her security. In many cases, the US interference in Latin America directly or through the CIA’s covert operations, was sought to be justified by an alleged communist threat, Very few countries in the region have had a continuous history of Elected governments since the end of the Second World War.

US Interventions against Radical Regimes

Since the late 1940s, in the political life of most Latin American countries radical and left-wing trends have become powerful. They have been able to form governments and introduce reforms, and stay in power for varying lengths of time, only to be, in most cases, overthrown through coups, almost invariably with the support of the US. The two major exceptions have been Mexico and Cuba. The case of the latter has already been mentioned in the context of the Cold War.


Guatemala, for over a hundred years, had been ruled by military dictators. The first free elections were held in 1944 and a reformist government came to power. From 1950, this government was led by Jacob   o Arbenz Guzman. It introduced many social and economic reforms in the country and expropriated the United Fruit Company, a US company which dominated the economy of Guatemala. This alarmed the US government. Dulles believed that the government of Arbenz was potentially communist. A US-supported military coup overthrew this government in 1954. The resentment against the US was so deep that when Richard Nixon, the then US Vice-President, visited Latin American countries in 1958, he was “greeted in city after city by angry, hostile, occasionally dangerous mobs”.


The most important event in Latin America in the 1950s which inspired radical and left-wing movements throughout the region was the revolution in Cuba. On 1 January 1959, after Batista, a military dictator who had been a close ally of the US, fled the country, Fidel Castro who had led the revolutionary movement formed the government. The revolution in Cuba had not been led by Cuban communists and Castro himself was not a communist. However, when the government started implementing radical land reforms and taking over foreign companies, the US government turned hostile to it. It was only in 1965 that the Organisations with which Castro and other Cuban revolutionaries were associated and the Cuban communists came together to form the Communist Party of Cuba. The US had been the main importer of Cuba’s sugar, which was Cuba’s main item of export. This was stopped. Gradually, the Cuban government established close links with the Soviet Union. Many attempts were made by the CIA—a member of the US Congress had some years ago listed 15 attempts-to assassinate Castro. The Bay of Pigs fiasco and the missile crisis during the presidency of Kennedy have been mentioned earlier. Against the heavy odds the Cuban revolution has survived for over forty years now.

One of the most inspiring leaders which the Cuban revolution produced was Che Guevara. He was born in Argentina but had joined Castro in 1956. He played a leading role in the revolutionary movement in Cuba which led to the fall of Batista’s dictatorship. He became a minister in the new Cuban government, but left Cuba in 1965 to help organise a revolution in Bolivia. He was captured and killed by Bolivian troops in 1967. He became a major source of inspiration to the radical youth in Latin America and elsewhere in the world.


An event which shocked the world in the 1970s was the overthrow of the government headed by Salvador Allende in Chile. One of the founders of the Chilean Socialist Party, he was elected President of Chile in 1970. Like other radical regimes in Latin America which had come to power in the past, Allende also started introducing radical land reforms and nationalising industries. On 11 September 1972 military junta headed by General Pinochet, again with the support of the CIA, overthrew the government of Allende. Allende himself was killed in his Presidential Palace while fighting. A brutal military regime was established in Chile which remained in power till recent Civilian rule was restored in Chile in 1990 when a democratically elected government came to power. There were demands to prosecute him for violation of human rights, including kidnapping, murder torture and corruption. He escaped prosecution because of the immunity he enjoyed as a senator. He went to Britain for medical treatment and was arrested there. He was supposed to be extradited to Spain to stand trial for human rights violation. He was however released by the British authorities on grounds of health. Back in Chile he was arrested, but the court declared him mentally unfit to stand trial. In 2006, he was again arrested, but before his trial could begin he died.

The events mentioned above indicate a major trend of developments in Latin America. The US has intervened in many more countries than have been mentioned above-in Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, etc. There have been too many military coups, mainly directed against elected governments which tried to introduce social and economic reforms.

Recently, the US sent troops to Haiti to restore Aristide, who had been elected president in 1990, but had been overthrown the next year. However, in 2004, he had to leave, when the US President announced that US marines would be sent there to, what he called, “restore peace”. One of the significant developments has been the change in the attitude of the Catholic clergy in Latin America. Traditionally hostile to all radical ideologies and movements, the church and the clergy have become more responsive to the need for social and economic reform. Many priests have actively involved themselves in radical social and political movements.

Recent Changes in Latin America

The US perceived as their legitimate rights to intervene, both overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of the Latin American countries. There Latin American countries were perceived by the US to have established radical regimes which meant regimes that sought to implement policies that were in the interest of the common people and diminished or eliminated the interests of the US companies in the economies of their respective countries. Cuba defeated the US sponsored invasion and in spite of serious economic problems that it faced due to the economic blockade foisted by the US, continued on the path it has chosen for itself. In most other countries the US succeeded in maintaining its hegemony. In recent years, however, the US has suffered considerable loss of influence in the region. The loss of US influence over Latin America has been increasing and the process appears to be irreversible. A large number of countries Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Guatemal, Chile, and others-now have elected government which may be broadly described as ‘leftist’. They have come to power through free and fair elections, replacing in most cases authoritarian and dictatorial regimes and are implementing in varying degrees programmes of radical social and economic development. One of the most charismatic leader to emerge in Latin America is Huga Chavez in Venezuela. He was elected president in 1998 and again in 1999 when a new constitution came in force. He was re-elected in 2000 but was deposed in a US-sponsored military coup in 2002. He was again elected in 2004 and 2006. He is an ardent supporter of Cuba (a close friend of Castro) and a staunch opponent of US domination. Venezuela, unlike Cuba, has the resources of possessing enormous oil resources which is an important factor that may enable Chavez to pursue his policies of social and economic change in Venezuela and to promoting in collaboration with other leaders of Latin American countries, close relations of cooperation of Latin America.


Many references have already been made to the rise and growth of the Non-Aligned Movement and the role played by it in international affairs. It arose at a time when many countries, particularly of Asia and Africa, had first emerged as independent states. They were deeply interested in preserving their own independence and playing an independent role in shaping the world and in speeding up the process of destruction of colonialism. The world had already been engulfed in the Cold War, with military alliances and race for weapons of mass destruction, which posed a threat to their independence as well as the survival of humanity. The world economic order in which they found themselves was based on gross inequalities and exploitation and the requirements of their development made fundamental changes in the world economic order a necessity. It was in these conditions that the Non-Aligned Movement emerged and shaped itself.

The Asian Relations Conference

While the Non-Aligned Movement was formally set up in 1961 when the first conference of non-aligned countries was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, its antecedents can be traced back to the early post-war years. The leaders of the Indian freedom movement convened the Asian Relations Conference in March 1947 in Delhi. At this Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was to become the first prime minister of independent India in a few months’ time, declared:

Far too long have we of Asia been petitioners in Western courts and chancelleries. That story must now belong to the past. We propose to stand on our own legs and to cooperate with all others who are prepared to cooperate with us. We do not intend to be the playthings of others…. The countries of Asia can no longer be used as pawns by others: they are bound to have their own policies in world-affairs.

He warned of the new dangers that threatened the world and said,

The West has … driven us into wars and conflicts without number and even now, the day after a terrible war, there is talk of further wars in the atomic age that is upon us. In this atomic age Asia will have to ru cffectively in the maintenance of peace.

Bandung Conference

By the end of the 1940s, the Western countries’ military alliance, NATO, had been set up, and in the early 1950s, military alliances had begun to be formed in Asia. The Cold War was being extended throughout the world leading to tensions and conflicts. In this context India, along with China, enunciated the Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful coexistence. These principles were incorporated in the preamble to an agreement which India and China signed in 1954. They became integral to the Non-Aligned Movement.
Many outstanding leaders had emerged in Asia in the early 1950s who wanted to build the unity of Asian and African countries to bring about the end of colonialism and imperialism and to keep themselves aloof from Cold War confrontations. In 1955 Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia hosted a conference of Asian and African countries at Bandung from 17 to 24 April. The conference was attended by 29 Asian and African countries. Among the outstanding leaders who participated in this conference were Jawaharlal Nehru, China’s Prime Minister, Chou En Lai and Gamal Abdel Nasser, then prime minister, and later president, of Egypt. Although the conference was attended by many countries including Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand, who were members of the US-sponsored military alliances, the communique unanimously adopted at this conference clearly stated ideas which expressed some of the fundamental principles of non-alignment. The Bandung Conference was a major milestone in the history of the Non-Aligned Movement. It was also the biggest conference of the countries of Asia and Africa representing half of the population of the world.

Belgrade Conference

From the mid-1950s, leaders of some non-aligned countries had started holding meetings. Gradually, the idea grew that a conference of all non-aligned countries should be held. The 1960 session of the UN General Assembly was a historic one. Seventeen newly independent countries of Africa were admitted to the United Nations that year. The growing members of new nations, recently become free, brought about significant changes in the United Nations which became a truly international Organisation at which, in course of time, almost every country in the world was represented. At this time, when the process of ending colonialism had been accelerated, the United Nations started playing a crucial role in furthering that process. On 14 December 1960, the United Nations adopted the historic  “Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries Peoples”. This historic session of the United Nations was attend by leaders of five leading non-aligned nations-Jawaharlal Neh. of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Nasser of Egypt, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nkrumah of Ghana. They took the historic decision of convening a conference of all non-aligned countries in the following year.


The new international economic order should be founded on full respect for the following principles:
(a) Sovereign equality of States, self-determination of all peoples
inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.
(b) The broadest cooperation of all the States members of the international community, based on equity, whereby the prevailing disparities in the world may be banished and prosperity secured for all.
(c) Full and effective participation on the basis of equality of all countries in the solving of world economic problems in the common interest of all countries, bearing in mind the necessity to ensure the accelerated development of all the developing countries, while devoting particular attention to the adoption of special measures in favour of the least developed, land-locked and island developing countries most seriously affected by economic crises and natural calamities without losing sight of the interests of other developing countries.
(d) The right of every country to adopt the economic and social system that it deems the most appropriate for its own development and not to be subjected to discrimination of any kind as a result.
(e) Full permanent sovereignty of every State over its natural resources and all economic activities. In order to safeguard these resources, each State is entitled to exercise effective control over them and their exploitation with means suitable to its own situation, including the right to nationalization or transfer of ownership to its nationals, this right being an expression of the full permanent sovereignty of the State. No may be subjected to economic, political or any other type of coercion prevent the free and full exercise of this inalienable right
(f) The right of all States, territories and peoples under foreign occupation alien and colonial domination or apartheid to  restitution and full compensation for the exploitation and depletion of, and damages to, the natural resources and all other resources of those States, territories and peoples…. [Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations
on 1 May 1974]
The first conference of heads of state or governments of non – aligned countries was held at Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from 1 to 6 September 1961. It was attended by 25 countries as full members. These member countries were Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma (now Myanmar), Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Republic of Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, the Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Republic (then comprising Egypt and Syria), Yemen and Yugoslavia. Algeria had not yet become independent but the provisional government set up by the FLN was admitted as a full member, as later SWAPO and PLO were admitted as full members. The conference adopted a declaration which stated that “the principles of peaceful coexistence are the only alternative to the Cold War and “to a possible general catastrophe” and that lasting peace would be achieved only in a world where the domination of colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism in all their manifestations is radically eliminated”. The conference also addressed letters to Nikita Khrushchev, the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, and John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, and urged them to resume negotiations aimed at reducing the risk of war and at ensuring peace.

Basic Objectives

The basic objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement were laid down at the first conference itself. Some of these objectives were later elaborated and made more specific. The most important objectives included ending of imperialism and colonialism, promotion of international peace and security and disarmament, creation of a New International Economic Order, ending of racism and racial discrimination, and ending of information imperialism.
During the past forty-seven years, the membership of the Non – Aligned Movement has increased to 118. South Africa had become the 109th member in 1994. Almost all of them are members of the United Nations and thus constitute about sixty per cent of the total membership of the United Nations. All countries of Africa. members of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Charter of the Organisation of African Unity has as one of its principles Affirmation of a policy of non-alignment with regard to all blocs’. Fourteen summit conferences of the Non-Aligned Movement have been held.
Belgrade (1961), Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970), Algiers (1973). Colombo (1976), Havana (1979), Delhi (1983), Harare (1986). Belgrade (1989) and Jakarta (1992). Cartagena de India s – Columbia (1995), Durban (1998) Kuala Lumpur (2003) and Havana (2006). At the Fourth Summit conference held at Algiers, it was decided to establish a Coordinating Bureau which was later charged with the task of coordinating their joint activities aimed at the implementation of the programmes adopted at the summit conferences, at ministerial conferences, at meetings of groups of non-aligned countries in the United Nations and at other meetings of the non-aligned countries.
There were doubts about the relevance and future of the Non – Aligned Movement after the end of the Cold War. These doubts were set at rest at the Tenth Summit held at Jakarta in 1992. This was the first summit which was held in the new world situation. The Tenth Summit, as the Jakarta Message adopted by the heads of state or governments of the Non-Aligned Movement stated, was held at “a time of profound change and rapid transition, a time of great promise as well as grave challenge, a time of opportunity amidst pervasive uncertainty”. It stressed that the improvements in the international political climate had vindicated the validity and relevance of nonalignment. Pointing out that the world was still far from being a peaceful, just and secure place”, it stated:

Simmering disputes, violent conflicts, aggression and foreign occupation, interference in the internal affairs of States, policies of hegemony and domination, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, new forms of racism and narrowly conceived nationalism are major and dangerous obstacles to harmonious coexistence among States and peoples and have even led to the disintegration of States and societies.

The message reiterated the commitment of the Non-Aligned Movement to the shaping of a new international order, free from war, poverty, intolerance and injustice, a world based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and genuine interdependence, a world which takes into account the diversity of social systems and cultures”.

The period after the Jakarta summit was one of far reaching changes in the world situation which gave rise to questions regarding the relevance of the movement. There was an acceleration in the process of globalisation and the spread of free market economies that accompanied it. The problem of terrorism was also becoming an important issue in many regions. There was also the manifestation of the consequences of the world which was believed to have become ‘unipolar’, such as ‘unilateralism’ and the proclamation of the right by the sole superpower and its allies to interfere in the affairs of other countries and the effect ‘regime change’. The Kuala Lumpur Summit (2003) laid emphasis on the revitalisation of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Havana Summit (2006) in its declaration reaffirmed it “commitments to the ideals, principles and purposes upon which the movement was founded”. “On a political level”, it said, “there is a need to promote the good of creating a multipolar world order, based on respect for the application of the principles of International Law and the UN Charter and the reinforcement of multilateralism.” It further stated, “Now more than ever it is essential that our nations remain united and steadfast and are increasingly active in order to successfully confront unilateralism and interventionism.” The Declaration asserted the principles by which the nations associated with the movement will be guided. Some of these principles were,
1. “No State of group of States has the right to intervene either directly of indirectly, whatever the motives, in the internal affairs of any other State.”
2. “Rejection of attempts at regime change.”
3. “Rejection and opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. In this context, terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of people under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation.”

The membership of the Non-Aligned Movement comprises almost all the developing countries of the world and notwithstanding differences on some specific issues, there are many issues, including the fulfilment of the right to development, that bind them together and make for the continuing relevance of the movement.

Latin America

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