Chapter 18 - Taking on Soviet-Cuban Imperialism in Latin America and Africa

American leftists with the Communist doctrine of seizing power based on Marxist-Leninist ideology and its deceptive evolutionary blueprint. A national front or coalition committed to the Kremlin’s cause would, with the support of Soviet and Cuban weapons and cadres, become a militant force moving from a coalition to a single hierarchical Communist Party with a supreme leader on the model of a Lenin or a Castro. The result would be a pro-Soviet Communist regime within the Kremlin’s global “Socialist Camp.” An increasingly totalitarian dictatorship and police state was being established in Nicaragua and appeared probable in Grenada and other states. Such a regime would nationalize and centralize all major properties, institutions, and political life. It would eliminate rivals, permit no dissent or free elections, speech, or travel, and would suppress free religious practices (e.g., Catholic and Protestant churches) and ethnic minorities (e.g., Miskito Indians). Beyond Latin America, the Soviet-Cuban axis extended its imperial drive across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, where 40,000 Cuban troops, transported by the Soviet Union and joined by thousands of Soviet and East European intelligence and military operatives, supported pro-Communist warfare in Angola and Mozambique.

Communist Fronts and Reagan’s Strategy and Opponents. Several key pro-Communist revolutionary fronts in Latin America were intertwined with the Soviet and Cuban military and intelligence (KGB and DGI) services. They included the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in Sandinista-run Nicaragua, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador, and Maurice Bishop’s New Jewel movement in Grenada. Each was committed to consolidating Communist dictatorial power at home and to subverting neighbors like Guatemala and Honduras with the larger goal of spreading armed revolution throughout the Caribbean, Central America and ultimately all of Latin America. Reagan’s directives, public statements and reports, and assistance programs focused on supporting resistance forces fighting against Soviet/Cuban aggression in Central America and Africa. Yet Reagan’s opponents in the Congress (backed by national media) imposed ever more cuts and restrictions (including the Boland and Clark amendments) that blocked such U.S. support. These actions precipitated the Iran-Contra “arms for hostages” effort which was presented by Reagan’s opponents as essentially a clear-cut crime and became a pejorative label for his freedom strategy that, in fact, successfully rolled back the Communist path in Latin America with new paths to reform, democracy, and peaceful progress.

1. Historical Context Before Reagan’s Presidency—Latin America Becomes a Central Front in the Cold War

As Latin America experienced aggressive Soviet-Cuban military buildups and support for pro-Communist armed insurgencies and intelligence-related “active measures” in the latter half of the 1970s Cold War “détente” period, Ronald Reagan argued for stronger U.S. policies in support of those resisting attack. While the United States had often proved inattentive to the histories, cultures, and democratic aspirations of the nations and peoples to the south, Reagan’s new 1980s Cold War strategy seized the moral and strategic high ground in working with governments and anti-Communist resistance forces as partners for freedom and progress. Together they sought the reforms and strengths necessary to break the Communists’ revolutionary momentum by offering a democratic alternative to the Soviet-Cuban false-flag “national liberation wars” and the realities of the totalitarian’s violent doctrines and practices.

 A review of the broader historical context of U.S.-Latin American relations and earlier Hemispheric threats is important to understanding what Reagan confronted and was able to achieve as president. In taking on Moscow, Havana, and their militant proxies, he overcame strong opposition from the U.S. Congress, media, and academia to provide critical economic, military and diplomatic support to freedom forces resisting the Communist threat. Like no other U.S. president or program, including John Kennedy’s 1961 Alliance for Progress, he opened the door to historic U.S. assistance programs, democratic reforms and peaceful progress that rolled back the Communist challenge and contributed significantly to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The United States and Latin America to the 1940s. During the nineteenth century, the U.S. Monroe Doctrine of 1823 held sway in keeping the Western Hemisphere off-limits to the imperial designs of Spain, Russia, and other European powers and the United States helped several South American nations, including Chile, to succeed in national liberation wars against Spanish colonial rule long before the Spanish-American War at the end of the century. In the twentieth century, the U.S. fought two world wars on central fronts in Europe and Asia and through the Pan-American Conference proclaimed a Second World War “safety zone” around the Western Hemisphere. Following U.S./Allied victory, and as the Soviet Cold War intensified, the 

[Book pg. 420]