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Revolution and Reaction in the Americas
Terms in this set (34)
The Mexican Revolution
During the Mexican Revolution, poor Mexicans rebelled against government policies that deprived them of land ownership.
Juan Perón Becomes President of Argentina
Juan Perón became president of Argentina. Perón's economic reforms made him popular among the nation's poor and working classes.
The Organization of American States Is Established
Thirty-five countries of the Americas formed the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS aims to strengthen democracy and protect human rights in its member nations.
General Augusto Pinochet Takes Control of Chile
A military coup removed Chilean president Salvador Allende from power. Within a year of the coup, General Augusto Pinochet took control of Chile's government and suppressed political opposition.
The Sandinistas Take Power in Nicaragua
For 40 years, Nicaragua was ruled by the Somoza family, which opposed communism. In 1979, the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front, founded by Carlos Fonseca, overthrew the Somoza dictatorship.
Vicente Fox Elected President of Mexico
Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) was elected president of Mexico in a free election. It was the first time in 90 years that a leader from a party other than Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won a Mexican election.
Lula Elected President of Brazil
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known simply as Lula) won the presidential election in Brazil by a large majority. Lula worked to end corruption in government, create economic stability, and reduce poverty.
Latin America's Diverse Nations
Latin American countries won their independence from European nations during the 1800s. The people of the newly formed countries hoped that social inequalities would decrease under independent governments. However, the path toward political progress has been long and difficult. Political instability, dictatorships, military rule, and foreign intervention have been major challenges to peace and prosperity. In this section, you'll learn about political movements in Latin America during the twentieth century.
Understanding Latin America
The term "Latin America" refers to Central and South America. More than 20 independent countries make up this region. It also includes a number of small islands that have remained territories of European countries or the United States.
Until 1500, Latin America was the home of indigenous peoples such as the Aztec, Maya, and Inca. European colonization, however, transformed the population of the region. After European settlers and their African slaves arrived, mixed ethnic groups and cultures emerged. Spanish, Portuguese, and French became the main languages. Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion, exerting a strong influence on political and social issues.
Many of the economic hardships that afflicted Latin America in the twentieth century had their origin in European colonization. Colonial policies were designed to benefit the colonizing nations at the expense of the colonies. Cash crops and oil from the Latin American countries made the colonizing nations rich. Some wealthy locals benefited from the colonial system, but poor farmers and workers were trapped in poverty.
Which of the following nations are not part of Latin America?
Economic Imperialism in Latin America
The legacy of the colonial system continued during the twentieth century. Land and wealth remained unfairly distributed to the wealthy. In addition, natural disasters such as droughts and floods destroyed crops, caused severe hardships for the poor, and threatened agricultural economies.
Another major cause of economic instability was foreign intervention. In the 1800s, US imperialism replaced European colonialism, which had far-reaching effects on the region.
As Latin American countries won their independence, the United States began to become more involved in their affairs. A nineteenth-century US policy known as the Monroe Doctrine had already stated that European interventions in Latin America would be seen as acts of aggression against the United States. In 1904, US president Theodore Roosevelt built on the policy of the Monroe Doctrine with his Roosevelt Corollary. This added policy authorized the use of military power to preserve US dominance in Latin America.
However, in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt retracted the Roosevelt Corollary. He stated that the United States would no longer intimidate Latin America with military intervention. Instead, his Good Neighbor Policy sought to foster peaceful and mutually beneficial relations with Latin American nations.
Despite President Franklin Roosevelt's policy, US intervention in Latin American affairs didn't stop. Why was the United States so concerned with Latin American political and economic affairs? One motive was to protect its own borders from potential threats. A more important reason, however, was supporting US businesses in the region. Latin America was a source of cheap oil, agricultural products, and raw materials for US industries. In addition, the region was largely unindustrialized and needed to import most manufactured products. That made it a valuable market for goods produced in the United States.
Big US companies such as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company dominated Latin American economies in the early twentieth century. Some of these companies manipulated corrupt governments to further their interests. These actions often fueled anti-US sentiments in those countries.
The Great Depression of the 1930s further aggravated income inequality in Latin America. It caused a sharp decline in demand for Latin American resources, which led to widespread poverty and public unrest.
After World War II ended in 1945, many Latin American nations attempted to industrialize. That way, they could manufacture their own goods and reduce their dependence on imports. However, many of these nations failed because industrialization proved to be too expensive. It not only burdened the economy but also channeled funds away from social welfare programs, leading to more income inequality. It also caused a neglect of traditional exports that provided profits in the past.
Governments that borrowed heavily to industrialize ended up with huge debts. By the 1980s, Latin America was hit by a debt crisis. Because they were unable to repay their debts, many nations agreed to implement economic reforms. These reforms had been dictated by the United States and international organizations such as the World Bank. The reforms included lowering trade barriers, privatizing state-owned industries, and allowing foreign companies to set up operations in the country.
Latin Americans resented foreign control over their economic and political affairs. Their dissatisfaction often erupted into violent protests and rebellions. Governments were frequently overthrown and replaced with new ones as citizens sought economic prosperity and social equality.
Dictatorships in Latin America
In many Latin American countries, political and economic instability gave rise to military dictatorships and communist regimes. In this section, we'll look at the countries where dictators seized power using military force.
The Cold War and US Intervention
After World War II, two major rival powers emerged in the world: the United States and the Soviet Union. The growing rivalry between these two nations led to a period of tension known as the Cold War.
US leaders feared the spread of Soviet-style communism and the related policies of socialism. They worried that if communism and socialism spread into Latin America, American businesses in the region would be negatively affected. The United States tried to control Latin American politics in order to disrupt the rise of socialist and communist rulers. It backed rulers who helped US corporations. These rulers were often extremely corrupt and did not help the poor.
Latin Americans began to resent the United States for backing bad leaders. Many groups called for political reforms that would put an end to US interference. Revolutionaries fought US-friendly governments in several countries, including Cuba. However, the United States continued to intervene to prevent communism from spreading in other parts of Latin America.
Chile gained its independence from Spain in the early 1800s. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Chilean economy was devastated by the collapse of its two main exports, copper and nitrate. The price of copper and demand for nitrate fell dramatically. Chile was massively hit by hunger and remained one of the poorest Latin American nations from 1950 to 1970.
In 1970, Salvador Allende, a socialist, became the nation's president. Allende nationalized major industries and redistributed land to poor and landless Chileans. The United States opposed Allende's policies.
In 1973, the United States supported a military coup in Chile. A US-backed dictator, Augusto Pinochet, took control of Chile. Pinochet was a brutal ruler who violated citizens' human rights. He tortured and killed leftists and socialists, especially Allende's supporters. During Pinochet's reign of terror, thousands fled Chile. In 1989, free elections ended Pinochet's rule, and Chile transitioned to a democracy. In 2006, Chile elected its first female president, Michele Bachelet.
Nicaragua won its independence from Spain in 1821. From 1936 to 1979, the Somoza family led a repressive regime in Nicaragua. The family had a close relationship with the United States. During their 40-year reign, the family allowed and profited from corruption in government, which led to widespread poverty.
In 1979, a group of communist military rebels called the Sandinistas overthrew the Somozas. The Soviet Union, the Cold War rival of the United States, supported the rebels because they were communists. The United States feared Nicaragua would become a fully communist nation.
Throughout the 1980s, US presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush supported a group of armed revolutionaries called Contras. The Contras fought the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, leading to a civil war. The economy of Nicaragua shrank during the civil war, which lasted until the Sandinistas gave up power in 1990. Nicaraguans then elected President Violeta Chamorro in a free election. Chamorro brought peace to the country, but it still suffers from economic instability.
Military Regimes in South America
Between 1910 and 1920, a revolution in Mexico led to political reforms. These reforms addressed some of the concerns of the common people and also produced a new constitution. The Mexican Revolution served as model for other Latin American reform movements. Throughout the region, people wanted to overthrow the groups that controlled most of the money and power. Populist rebel leaders promised reforms such as ending support for US corporations, redistributing land to the poor and working classes, and providing state support for healthcare, housing, and education. However, in many cases, revolutions led to authoritarian governments that failed to address poverty and inequality. These governments often persecuted their opponents and violated human rights.
Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816. By the early twentieth century, Argentina was the richest nation in Latin America. It was ruled by a wealthy oligarchy. But the Great Depression devastated its economy.
In 1946, Juan Perón was elected president of Argentina. Perón reformed the economy to help the working class and the poor. He limited the number of foreign-controlled businesses and supported domestic industries. Perón and his wife, Eva, gained popularity because they worked to increase workers' wages and strengthen labor unions. But their welfare programs created a large amount of government debt. Perón died in 1974.
In 1976, a military junta took power in Argentina. The junta arrested and tortured political opponents. Thousands of Argentinians were killed or "disappeared" in what came to be known as the "Dirty War." Many who vanished were young protestors. The demonstrations of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo brought worldwide attention to the political and social unrest in the nation.
In 1982, Argentina fought a brief war against Britain in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of the Falkland Islands. Soon after Argentina's defeat, the junta disbanded in 1983. Elections were held and democracy was restored.
Throughout the early twentieth century, violence and social inequality plagued El Salvador. During the Great Depression, the price of El Salvador's main export, coffee, dropped drastically. Coffee producers reduced wages and shrunk their workforce. Widespread unemployment and poverty led poor farmers and workers to revolt against the military government in 1932. The government responded with "death squads" that killed thousands of revolutionaries and ended the revolt.
Over the next 40 years, a series of military juntas controlled El Salvador. Reforms to assist poor farmers and the working class were limited.
Church leader Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out against human rights violations in El Salvador in the 1960s and 1970s. He became known as the "Voice of the Voiceless." Romero's activism coincided with the rise of a Latin American religious movement called liberation theology. Supporters of this movement interpret the Bible from the perspective of the poor. The movement was controversial because it encouraged Catholic priests and nuns to engage in political activism against the wealthy on behalf of the poor.
Romero's political stance eventually caused El Salvador's government to support his assassination in 1980. The military regime also attacked and killed many priests and nuns working to aid the poor. Romero's murder coincided with the start of a civil war that lasted until 1992. Throughout the civil war, the Salvadoran regime routinely violated human rights and massacred civilians. The nation remains politically unstable in the early twenty-first century.
the country where Archbishop Oscar Romero fought for social justice
the country ruled by military junta until the Falklands War of 1982
the country where Augusto Pinochet was a military dictator
The Transition to Democracy
The economic failures of the 1970s and 1980s exposed how ineffectively dictators and military juntas dealt with financial issues. In addition to their economic failures, these regimes had blatantly abused their power. The people of Latin American nations longed for peace and stability.
The presence of military and communist forces made it difficult to establish democracies in Latin American countries. However, in spite of the obstacles, many Latin American nations achieved this goal by the late 1980s and early 1990s.
For 71 years following the Mexican Revolution, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was the only political party in Mexico. The PRI held elections with only one candidate. The party controlled national and state politics. It increased its ties with the United States and with the oil industry, which led to strong economic growth during the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1968, university students protested Mexico's one-party system. Mexican police killed hundreds of student protestors on October 2, 1968. This event became known as the Tlatelolco Massacre.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mexico witnessed social, political, and economic reforms. But the disparity between the rich and the poor continued to increase. A growing population also contributed to rising unemployment. Many poor rural farmers migrated to cities, where homelessness and urban shacks continued the cycle of poverty for millions. In addition, scandals within the PRI and increasing government debt prevented Mexico from achieving political and economic stability.
In 2000, Vicente Fox defeated the PRI in a historic election. He lowered the unemployment rate and stabilized the economy. However, corruption and drug cartels continued to plague Mexican politics.
Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1822. Since that time, the nation has swung back and forth between military rule and democracy.
Military rulers controlled Brazil for 20 years, starting from the 1960s. During this period, Brazil's economy boomed because of increased investments. The nation also reduced its dependence on foreign imports and increased its use of natural resources. The improving economy helped the upper and middle classes. However, many people remained poor. In the 1985 election, democracy was restored to Brazil.
President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won the 2002 election. He reduced economic inequality by raising minimum wages and launching social welfare programs. Under da Silva, Brazil enjoyed steady economic growth and stability.
Haiti gained its independence from France in 1804 after a slave revolt. Throughout its history, Haiti has struggled without success to establish a stable democratic government.
In the early twentieth century, US troops occupied Haiti. The Haitian people resented US occupation, and many revolts followed. As the century progressed, a series of dictators and military juntas ruled Haiti.
In 1964, Francois Duvalier became dictator. Almost 30,000 Haitians were killed during his brutal regime. Many educated Haitians fled the country, leaving a widening social and economic divide. In 1971, Duvalier died, leaving his son in power. The Duvalier family ruled Haiti until 1986.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, was elected president of Haiti. Aristide's policies were aimed at limiting the military's power and ending human rights violations. However, he lost power in a military coup that killed thousands of Haitians.
Another military coup took place in 2004. In 2006, the United States and the United Nations sent troops to Haiti in a peacekeeping effort.
In January 2010, a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. Millions of people were left homeless as entire cities were leveled. Haiti has not yet recovered from this disaster, and political instability remains. While some groups want to hold free elections and institute a democratic government, opponents continue to delay the process. The United States remains active in Haitian affairs, and international relief workers continue their efforts to rebuild the nation.
Latin America in the Twenty-First Century
In the twenty-first century, political and economic conditions have improved in Latin America. However, several issues and challenges to economic and social stability remain. This section will examine some of these issues
Industrialization and economic reforms have helped reduce poverty in Latin America. Profits from exports have helped to provide for health care, education, and social programs. Trade agreements, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have proved beneficial. These agreements support private businesses and help expand trade by eliminating tariffs.
Nations rich in natural resources, such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela, are developing competitive economies. Some nations, like Brazil, have successfully industrialized. Brazil is the only Latin American country in BRICS, a group of large developing economies that have high economic growth rates.
However, countries that have not switched from agricultural economies to industrialized economies continue to struggle. Income inequality remains high in these nations.
In countries throughout Latin America, people are migrating to cities for jobs, education, access to health care, and modern conveniences. As a result, cities are experiencing a population boom.
People who cannot afford to live in the city often settle in areas around it. These settlements contain makeshift shacks with no water, sanitation, or modern conveniences. Brazilian slums, known as favelas, are the largest in Latin America. International aid groups are trying to ease the poverty in these overcrowded settlements, which are plagued by pollution and disease.
Challenges and Possibilities in
Let's look at some of the major challenges that modern-day Latin American countries face.
In many parts of Latin America, forests are cleared for farming, agribusiness, and mining. The effects of this economic activity on the environment are severe. Deforestation alters local weather patterns and contributes to global climate change. It also impacts indigenous tribes who live in forested areas and have had little contact with modern societies. As habitats are destroyed, many animal and plant species are at risk of extinction. Medicinal plants yet to be discovered by western medicine may be lost to humanity as the forests are cleared.
The Status of Women
Another problem is the unequal treatment of women. Because Latin American women lack education and job opportunities, they lag behind men. While some countries such as Chile have elected women to political offices, women's access to high-paying jobs is limited. Women are expected to play traditional roles in many societies.
Another issue that affects women is teen pregnancy. The Catholic Church does not approve of birth control, which makes it difficult to prevent teenage motherhood. Almost 20 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year in Latin America. Many teenage mothers drop out of school. In addition, lack of a proper diet and medical care lead to low infant birth weight and higher rates of women dying in childbirth.
The illegal drug trade is another challenge in parts of Latin America. Since the late 1960s, the sale of illegal drugs has been a source of money for some groups. Drug cartels are active in Colombia, Bolivia, and Panama.
In the 1980s, drug cartels became so wealthy and powerful that some of them controlled and influenced governments. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared a "war on drugs." Many people involved in drug trading, including national leaders, were arrested.
Open trade agreements between countries make it easier to transport illegal substances. A large number of the illegal drugs from Latin America are sold in the United States.
The illegal activities of drug cartels have led to a refugee crisis. Many people flee the cartel-controlled areas hoping to escape drug lords and drug-related violence. These refugees move to the United States or to other Latin American nations.
Latin America and the
The United States and Latin America are still economically interdependent. The United States continues to provide financial aid and military support to the region's governments, and it accepts refugees. Several countries rely on US assistance to fight drug cartels. They also look to US businesses for investment in their economies.
However, because of past US intervention, some tensions remain. Several governments in Latin America reject US assistance. Two major examples are the governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, which have adopted socialist policies to tackle poverty.
Mexico has faced many problems throughout its history. A single political party dominated the political scene for most of the twentieth century. While the country became strong under single party rule, citizens could not participate freely in politics. Tribal minorities face violence and discrimination. Drug cartels wield considerable power, and organized crime and corruption is widespread.
In recent times, the government has used the military to fight drug-related and other organized crimes. However, the military has violated people's human rights, and many members of the military and police are linked to criminal groups. So, the country has not made much progress against crime.
Many of Mexico's criminal groups have international wings. The biggest markets for drugs are the United States and other Latin American countries. One solution to the drug problem would be for the government to clamp down on criminal activity by guarding the borders and placing more checks on foreign trade. Instead of using the military, the government should try to rebuild the police force with a strict selection process. The government should also encourage the media to expose organized crime, and it should pass laws to protect journalists.
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