Cold War reaches Latin America

Pax Americana

South America 1962.1028

Cold War reaches Latin America

South America in WWII, the Cold War, and today (28 October 1962)

Historical Map of South American nations

Less than a month after the signing of the Rio Pact in 1948 - and while the Organization of American States Charter was being finalized in Bogota - civil war broke out in Colombia between pro-US Conservatives and groups which increasingly saw themselves as Communist. Ten years later, Fidel Castro led a successful revolution in Cuba, adopting Communism to gain Soviet support for his new regime. When Castro agreed to host Soviet missiles in his country, he provoked a crisis which briefly made Cuba the focal point of the Cold War.

Main Events

Organization of American States

The Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) was drawn up and signed at the Ninth International Conference of American States at Bogota, Columbia, by the United States and the independent nations of South and Central America. The treaty would come into effect on 13 December 1951, with the birth of the OAS - an organization focused on regional solidarity and cooperation in the Americas.

La Violencia

On 9 April 1948, the popular Colombian Liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated, provoking rioting in Bogotá which killed as many as 3000 people. This was followed by conflict in the countryside between Conservative and Liberal peasants, leading to the deaths of some 200,000 and forcing around a million more to abandon their homes. The violence was mostly brought to an end when the government declared an amnesty in 1953, but some bandoleros (armed groups) held out until 1958.

Opening Yanomami country

In 1951, a joint Venezuelan-French team discovered the source of the Orinoco River, clarifying the border between Venezuela and Brazil. The surrounding region was inhabited by the Yanomami, who lived in relative isolation among several hundred autonomous villages but would soon see an influx of outsiders - missionaries, farmers, cattle ranchers, gold-miners, and government representatives. Both Brazil and Venezuela would set up reserves in the territory in the early 1990s, but were only partially successful in protecting the Yanomami population from losses to disease, malnutrition, and violence.

Overthrow of Batista

Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces mounted their final offensive against Fulgencio Batista's despotic Cuban government, mounting multiple attacks on government troops in Oriente province while rebel columns under Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos emerged to the west and advanced on Santa Clara. When he received news of the fall of Santa Clara on 31 December 1958, Batista fled by air for the Dominican Republic in the early hours of 1 January. The next day, Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana, while Santiago de Cuba surrendered to Castro.

Founding of Brasília

After over a century of planning to move Brazil's capital from Rio de Janeiro into the interior and following four years of construction, the city of Brasília was inaugurated as the national capital of Brazil. Due to this move, the former Federal District around the city of Rio de Janeiro became the short-lived state of Guanabara. A carefully designed modern city, Brasília would eventually be chosen as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its modernist architecture and uniquely artistic urban planning.

13 November Revolution

A group of left-wing junior military officers led a revolt against the autocratic government of General Ydigoras Fuentes in Guatemala - who had seized power in 1958 - but were defeated. The surviving officers fled to the eastern hills to start the 13 November Revolutionary Movement (MR-13). This insurgency would mark the beginning of 36 years of civil war in Guatemala.

Renewal of Esequiba dispute

At a United Nations discussion on independence for British Guiana, Venezuela alleged that the 1899 Arbitral Award was invalid and reasserted its claim on Guayana Esequiba - the region west of the Essequibo River.

Trinidad & Tobago independent

Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from the United Kingdom, with politician and historian Eric Eustace Williams becoming its first prime minister. Williams would continue to serve in this role until his death in 1981.

Cuban Missile Crisis

On 14 October 1962, the United States obtained photographs of Soviet ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba from one of their U-2 spy planes. Four days later, US President John F. Kennedy notified the nation and initiated a naval blockade of Cuba. This led to an 11-day confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union, ultimately resulting in the Soviets withdrawing their missiles from Cuba in return for a secret withdrawal of US missiles from Turkey.

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