Indeed, South America’s history of prolonged violence and organized terror can be traced to reform ideology that filtered down through Europe and Soviet Russia in the 1920s. Colombia’s ten-year La Violencia period of mass murder and torture, for example, was triggered by the assassination of a leftist frontrunner in the country’s 1948 presidential election, and the outworking of seething tension that had built up between Conservatives and Liberals since the formation of Colombia’s Communist Party in 1930. In total, the conflict claimed 200,000 lives and laid the roots for Colombia’s propensity for savage violence that continues today.
Chile’s Operación Cóndor killing and disappearance of 80,000 students, intellectuals and labor leaders came soon after the 1973 overthrow of Salvatore Allende, the country’s communist president, as an attempt to wipe out any traces of socialist thought in South America. The program, put together by right-wing elements in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, with US support, called for sharing intelligence on socialist subversives to carry out kidnappings, tortures, and assassinations throughout South America extending into Italy and France.
During Argentina’s “Dirty War” period of state-sponsored violence lasting from 1976 to 1983, journalists, students, Marxists, Perónistas, unionists, guerrillas, activists, militants, and their sympathizers were systematically rounded up and killed. Here again, the brutal and protracted conflict was the effect of reform thinking that had penetrated the country.
Peru’s militant “Shining Path” element, fixed on bringing about Maoist communism, is responsible for a wave of terrorism in the 1980s and ’90s against citizens, elected leaders, union organizers, and other “class enemies”, and even other communist groups that did not share its extremism.
Latin America’s communist inclination is also an outworking of Mayan and Incan traditions, where an equal sharing of resources and responsibilities was the central characteristic of village life before the Spanish conquest. Individualism and power-seeking, and wealth and capital accumulation were rejected in favor of communal ownership and conforming to collective customs and goals.
One has to wonder what would have been for this region of the world had there not been interference. Would we have seen the patsy regimes, the civil wars, the pervasive poverty and illiteracy, the depravity, the culture of violence and revenge? Would there have been the appeal of communism, and the massive loss of life it produced, had these countries not been predestined for the conditions that make it attractive?
Where would Cuba be today were there not acts of domination and feelings of superiority over another people? Cuba is not the story of a communist suddenly seizing power, but of a country vandalized for centuries, which produced a string of revolutionaries who each tried to liberate Cuba from imperialist repression. Its history of tyranny and rebellion begins with Hatuey, a Native American chief who rose up against Spain’s conquest of Cuba in 1511 and was burned at the stake by the Spaniards. Spain enslaved Cubans in mining and sugarcane cutting, almost killing off the population through massacre, starvation and suicide, until Carlos de Céspedes, in 1868, launched a revolution, first seeking peaceful social reform, which the Spaniards refused, then complete independence by war. The conflict lasted 10 years, followed by another insurrection led by Antonio Maceo and Calixto García Iñiguez. Sixteen years later, in 1895, José Martí and Máximo Gómez gathered up another rebellion, also defeated. Cuba remained under despotic Spanish control until the US took the island by force in 1898, which began Cuba’s life as a protectorate under the US, and the installation of corrupt and oppressive tyrants until 1959, when another kind of tyrant took over.
A country’s propensity for revolution is a measure of its inner pain—and a people’s openness to communism is in proportion to how well capitalism serves them. Latin America is still tilted toward the left. Even after the fall of communism around them, 10 of the 18 nations that make up Central- and South-America proper are governed by left-leaning presidents, with the leaders of Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Ecuador the most aggressive in adopting what they call Twenty-first Century Socialism, calling for a softer, less severe implementation of communism’s principles.
The difference is that this push toward communism comes from the enfranchised rather than from the grassroots marginalized. There is no establishment power to defeat this time, only the outside world and the resistance it chooses to bring.