Origins of the Cold War: An International History

By Melvyn P. Leffler; David S. Painter | Go to book overview

15

THE IMPACT OF THE COLD WAR ON LATIN AMERICA

Leslie Bethell and Ian Roxborough

Historians, political scientists, economists, and sociologists are increasingly interested in studying the interaction between domestic and international trends. As the United States and the Soviet Union became locked into a Cold War relationship, leaders in both nations sought to expand their influence and power. But as we have seen in the cases of many European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries, the desires and demands of the Great Powers often collided with the aspirations, hopes, and needs of indigenous peoples and local groups. The latter often sought to use the Soviet-American rivalry to enhance their own interests and agendas.

In this suggestive article, Leslie Bethell and Ian Roxborough sketch the confluence of internal and external factors on postwar social, economic, and political developments in Latin America.* The Second World War spurred the economic growth and political mobilization of Latin American societies. However indirectly associated to the allied war effort, large numbers of people especially among the lower and middle classes were affected by the democratic discourse and ideological fervor that inspired the struggle against fascism. Miners, factory workers, and some rural laborers organized, joined unions, supported new democratic parties, and injected strength into Communist movements. Entrenched elites and traditional authorities, including the Church, felt threatened. They looked for outside assistance to thwart the left, preserve stability, and spur economic growth. They used the Cold War to consolidate their power and perpetuate their rule. The United States, Bethell and Roxborough argue, was their accomplice.

* These ideas are elaborated upon in their new book, Leslie Bethell and Ian Roxborough (eds), Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War, 1944-1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

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