King's College London
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Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed

The politics and suffering of the region

Front cover of pamphlet showing soldiers standing over people lying on the ground.Cindy Jaquith [et al]. Panama: the truth about the US invasion (New York, 1990) Copyright © 1990 by Pathfinder Press. Reproduced by permission.In the 20th century, Latin America (and particularly Central America) became, like other regions around the world, a theatre of conflict for the Cold War superpowers. Soviet and US-backed governments and insurgencies clashed in both overt and covert operations.

Arguments differ on whether US policy was justified as a continuation of the 19th century Monroe Doctrine, whereby the USA would ensure that Latin America was not subject to outside oppression - in this case communism and the Soviet Union - or whether the 20th century's predominant superpower used conflicts to furnish its own economic, strategic and political ends. What is not disputed is that many lives were lost in these conflicts, innocent people were displaced and human rights violations occurred on a massive scale.

Sovereign nations that were already struggling with their own internal differences and conflicts became a battleground for the superpowers' ideologies to tragic effect. Governments - legitimate or otherwise - of many Latin American countries were supported directly or indirectly by US aid, training and resources and the USA gave support to military coups in Argentina and Brazil, amongst others.

The pamphlets listed below are concerned with three Cold War conflicts in Central America in the 1980s: Nicaragua, where US-backed contras fought the left-wing 'Sandinistas'; Panama, which the USA invaded in 1989, when their former ally Manuel Noriega became persona non grata; and El Salvador, where human rights violations occurred on a huge scale, with right-wing death squads running wild.

The authors of these pamphlets are drawn from across the political spectrum: Jeane Kirkpatrick was ambassador to the United Nations under Ronald Reagan, while a speech by Fidel Castro is included in the pamphlet on Panama.

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