The making of American power (4): military dictatorships in Latin America

This week, I attended week 4 of an eight-week evening class at London”s City Literary Institute. The title is “The making of American power: US foreign policy from the Cold War to Trump” and our lecturer is Jack Gain.

Week 4 of the course was about the many interventions that the US has made in Central and South America to undermine governments that it did not like and support dictatorships that were more acceptable to the White House.

The course began with a video clip of a Congessional hearing with Elliott Abrams, the newly-appointed US Special Envoy to Venezuela who has a terrible record of support for fascist regimes in Latin America.

One of the countries we discussed was El Salvador and one of the incidents we recalled was the massacre at El Mozote. I have been there and this is a relevant extract from an account of my trip to Central America:

“Outside Perquin, we took an unmade road to a village called El Mozote which became infamous on 11 December 1981. On that day, in an operation called “Anvil And Hammer” [for more details click here], army troops persuaded people from the surrounding communities to come to the centre of this village where the men, woman and children were separated before around 800 of them were massacred. One of the few survivors, a woman called Rufina Amaya Marquez, was determined that everyone should learn about the atrocity and campaigned for it to be known nationally and internationally.

Today the village has constructed a memorial with silhouetted metal figures of a man, a woman, a boy and a girl holding hands. Behind these figures is a wall with plaques commemorating the names of many of the victims. We were told the story by a young woman called Estrella who was six at the time of the massacre. The pain was still evident in her voice and eyes and our guide Sandra chose not to translate the full descriptions of some of the macabre horrors that unfolded. It was a very moving account, but one of our group – a particularly pompous and portly man who will remain nameless – was chatting as Estrella spoke and Vee publicly and loudly rebuked him.”


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