History Today eBook: The Second World War

America and the Americas: The Politics of Paranoia

'America has not come to terms with its own history ... and regards Latin American nationalism as a conspiracy against its inevitable and popular domination of the western hemisphere.

The United States considers it to be of great importance that... the world community be made aware of the gravity of the actions of Cuba, the Soviet Union and other communist states who are carrying out what is clearly shown to be a well coordinated, covert effort to bring about the overthrow of El Salvador's established government and to impose in its place a communist regime with no popular support. US State Department, Report on Communist Support of Salvadorean Rebels, February1981).

Soon after this report was published it became clear that several La tin American and European states did not share the perspective of the Reagan administration on events in central America. Mexico and France emphasised the domestic roots of the crisis and called for a negotiated solution. The American press carried articles critical of the evidence of communist 'subversion' contained in the State Department report. Despite this response, however, the United States government continued to view the situation in Central America from the ideological perspective of the Cold War. In March 1982, Secretary of State Al Haig announced that Washington possessed 'incontrovertible proof' that insurgency in the region was being orchestrated from outside. This attitude reflected an established tradition in US diplomacy which regarded events in Latin America, unwelcome to the United States, as the product of a conspiracy masterminded from Europe. Historians such as David Brion Davis and Richard Hofstadter have noted a tenancy amongst certain groups in the United States, during periods of domestic tension, to attribute social and economic dislocation to the machinations of an external enemy. Thus the Populists at the end of the nineteenth century explained the depressed condition of farmers in terms of a 'vast conspiracy' by international capital to destroy American democracy.

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