Re: Gunboat Diplomacy & Banana Republics

Maggie Jaffe (mjaffe@MAIL.SDSU.EDU)
Tue, 5 Aug 1997 13:30:45 -0800

Dear Sixties People:

Marty wrote:
"Really they can call it whatever they want but i hardly think this
operation qualifies as an "invasion" per se. I don't think the actions
of a few contract pilots and whatever else was done by cia assets in
the army is in the same class as Germany invading Poland, Germany
invading Russia, D-Day, the U.S. build-up in Vietnam, the Cambodian
"incursion," North Korea crossing the 38th parallel, even the Bay of
Pigs, etc. There was more silence and stealth to the operation in
gutaemala. By this reasoning then we invaded Nicaragua based on the
presence of cia contract pilots (hassenfuss)."

By comparing the invasions in Europe and Asia with the 1954 coup in
Guatemala, a country the size of New Jersey, Marty evades the larger issue,
namely the impact of "Gunboat Diplomacy" in *all* of Latin America. I
hardly know where to begin. President Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy"
appointed the US as "Guardian and Big Brother" of Central America,
collectively and pejoratively known as the "Banana Republics." The US
supplied weapons, trained the military, and supported some of the most
notorious dictators. My contention is that the fear of "another" Vietnam
War forced the US to curb the use of ground forces in Latin America in the
70s and 80s because of potential massive protests. Nevertheless, the
following is a capsule summary of US involvement in Central America,
excluding the Caribbean and most of South America. Besides military
involvement, the support of dictators by various churches, committed to
fighting communism, is also a lesson in extreme hypocrisy.
1932: Known as *La Matanza,* or The Slaughter, 30,000 campesinos were
killed in El Salvador.
1946: School for the Americas or "School of Coups," trained 45,000 Latin
American officers in counterinsurgency, terrorism, torture. Still operable?
1954: CIA-backed coup in Guatemala.
1960: Repeated intervention in Guatemala, the guerrilla forces are nearly
1965: US Marines land in Santa Domingo, the Dominican Republic.
1970: Dan Mitrione, an Indiana policeman, is executed by the Uruguayan
Tupamaros. Mitrione was accused of training Urugyuan and Brazilian police
in torture.
1972: CIA-backed coup in Chile, thousands "disappear."
1979: The fall of the Somoza and the beginning of the US-backed *Contras* war.
CIA Cocaine *Contra* Connection.
1980s: US support of Rios Montt in Guatemala, called the worst violator of
human rights in the western hemisphere by Amnesty International. Since
Guatemala has (had?) a 60% indigenous population, Montt and Company have
committed near genocide. Still, Montt is one of many military dictators.
Israeli advisors also trained troops here.
1970-1980s: Military and economic aid to El Salvador was 3 billion dollars
since 1980. In 1984, 65,000 civilians were murdered by the National Guard
and right-wing paramilitary forces, and two-thirds of the 750,000 people
who fled El Salvador ended up in the US.: many were deported back to join
the imprisoned or the disappeared. Archbishop Oscar Romero was gunned down
in 1980 while conducting mass, and many church workers, mostly Jesuits,
were assassinated. Three nuns and one layworker from the US were also
raped and murdered, their bodies found in a collective grave at a dumpsite.
In spite of this contradictory evidence, President Reagan's *National
Bipartisan Commission on Central America* (Macmillan, 1984) justified
massive military support to El Salvador because of their promise for
"democratic reform."
1989: US bombs Panama City at midnight, a densely populated city.
For more information, see *Inside Central America,* by Philip Berryman;
*With Friends Like These,* Cynthia Brown; *The Central America Fact Book,*
by Tom Barry and Deb Preusch; *Hidden Terrors: The Truth About US Police
Operations in Latin America,* by A. J. Langguth, to name just a few

Finally, Ernesto Cardenal's opening stanza from "Zero Hour" (*Zero Hour,*
New Directions, 1980), eloquently describes conditions in Central America,
and in Nicaragua particularly, as a result of "Gunboat Diplomacy."

Tropical nights in Central America,
with moonlit lagoons and volcanoes
and lights from presidential palaces,
barracks and sad curfew warnings.
"Often while smoking a cigarette
I've decided that a man should die,"
says Ubico smoking a cigarette . . .
In his pink-wedding-cake palace
Ubico has a head cold. Outside, the people
were dispersed with phosphorus bombs.
San Salvador laden with night and espionage,
with whispers in homes and boardinghouses
and screams in police stations.
Carias' palace stoned by the people.
A window of his office has been smashed,
and the police have fired upon the people.
And Managua the target of machine guns
from the chocolate-cookie palace
and steel helmets patrolling the streets.

Elsewhere in *Zero Hour,* Cardenal writes:
Like a river in Cleveland which is now flammable
language is also polluted.
The defoliation of Vietnam
is a Resource Control Program,
but it's also the defoliation of language.
And language avenges itself to communicate.
There are also crimes of the CIA in the realm of semantics.