A Short List of the Most Lethal CIA Interventions in Latin America


Gary G. Kohls, MD | Duty to Warn – TRANSCEND Media Service

10 of the Most Lethal CIA Interventions in Latin America – teleSUR 18 Sep 2016 (minimal editing by Gary G. Kohls)

Che Guevera, the revolutionary face of resistance against US homicidal interventions. Two years after leading a rebellion against Washington’s intervention in Bolivia, Che was murdered.

Note: In its 200 year history, the USA has intervened in, invaded or militarily occupied the following Western Hemisphere nations: Canada, Confederate States of America, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Surinam, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Grenada. The article below enlarges upon the 10 most lethal coups.

While the dates most associated with the Central Intelligence Agency are the 1953 coup against Iran’s Mohammed Mossadeq and the following year against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, the world’s most notorious–and possibly ignoble–spy agency actually was chartered on this day, 18 September, in 1947.

Since then, the CIA has played a role in hundreds of assassinations, military coups, and rebellions around the globe, from Argentina to Zaire.

Despite its championing of freedom, the CIA’s true objective has always been imperialist in nature. Whether oil in Iran or bananas in Guatemala, the U S has a material interest in every country in whose affairs it has meddled.

In order to meet its goals, the CIA recruits influential, intellectual and charismatic personalities. The agency also resorts to threats, kidnappings, torture, enforced disappearances and assassinations. The organization incites violence, uprisings and military rebellion, and causes economic chaos and misery to the people through scarcity of basic foods, etc.

The CIA has been exposed on a number of occasions through documented evidence, leaks of information and whistleblowing by active and former agents.

1) 1954 – Guatemala

In 1944, the violent US-backed dictatorship of Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a popular uprising. The people of Guatemala were sick and tired of the brutal injustices of his regime, although in reality Ubico was merely a puppet of the US-based United Fruit Company, and he obeyed Washington’s orders. They basically enslaved the population. They stripped campesinos and Indigenous people of their lands and forced them to work their own parcels and paid them bread crumbs. Those who dared to disobey were brutally punished by a police force working for the fruit company.

The victory of the uprising brought peace to the country but it only took 10 years for US President Dwight Eisenhower and two of his cabinet members – who also happened to be United Fruit Company insiders (Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Chief Allen Dulles) to implement a plan to overthrow the government.

In 1954, Eisenhower’s CIA launched the so-called Operation PBSuccess. The country’s capital, Guatemala City, was bombed by U.S. warplanes. The young Ernesto “Che” Guevara was there and witnessed the ordeal first hand. Hundreds of campesino leaders were executed and many campesino and Mayan Indigenous communities were completely wiped out. The brutal CIA intervention wasn’t complete until 200,000 had been killed. US companies were again enjoying huge profits in the Central American country and Washington was happy.

U.S.-backed and financed military tyrants of Guatemala 1954

2) 1959 – Haiti

Haiti is equally strategic to the United States as are the Dominican Republic and Cuba. So, Washington doesn’t hesitate when their brutal control appears to wane in the Caribbean. Under no circumstance, would the US allow governments in the region to lean to the left. When Haiti dared to do so, US President Eisenhower had his CIA step in to push them back to the right. Of course, Cuba is a rare example of resilience to U.S. efforts to achieve hegemony in the area. Since 1959, the Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro has repealed the relentless US attacks.

But in Haiti, the story is different. In 1959, popular discontent rose against the brutal puppet of the US, Francois Duvalier. The CIA stepped in and stopped it immediately. With the help of the intelligence agency, Duvalier wasted no time and created an army to violently repress the revolution. He and his heir to the regime, Jean Claude Duvalier, ordered massacres that were so horrendous that they defy words. Over 100,000 people were murdered. And in 1986, when a new but uncontrollable rebellion took over, a US Air Force plane rescued Jean Claude and took him to France where he lived in peaceful luxury.

US puppet Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier—a CIA murderer

3) 1964 – Brazil

The year of 1964 was one of incredible transformation in Brazil. Democratically-elected President Joao Goulart implemented his “Plan of Basic Reforms.” Even though the US had exerted much of its power through ensuring people weren’t lifted from ignorance and illiteracy, Brazil implemented real changes that made Washington very uncomfortable. Firstly, a tax reform was put in place that would hugely carve into the profits of the multinational corporations of the United States and its allies. Washington was also very unhappy with a reform by which land would be given back to their legitimate owners and would redistribute other lands to poor people.

It was now time to send in US President Lyndon Johnson’s CIA to take action against the government of Goulart, which they did in 1964. They put in power a brutal dictatorship that lasted 19 years. During this regime, thousands were tortured and hundreds executed. The CIA also made sure all those leaders who had leftist tendencies were eliminated, particularly Marxists.

The ‘pau-de-arara’ was a preferred form of torture in Brazil, introduced by the CIA in the 60/80’s Operation Condor. Electric shocks were applied to limbs, genitals, anus, cigarettes put out on body, and beatings to unconsciousness. When the person passed out, they would throw a bucket of water over and continue the electrification, now multiplied many times over. Deaths were not uncommon during torture.

4) 1969 – Uruguay

During the sixties, revolutionary movements spread through Latin America. Uruguay was drowned in crises. The US saw influential socialist leaders emerge in this South American nation. Washington became obsessed with eliminating them, fearing the influence and power they were achieving.

Nelson Rockefeller went to Uruguay to observe first-hand how they were generating a growing “Yankee Go Home” sentiment. He returned to Washington to alert authorities that something needed to be done – and fast.

Of course, US President Richard Nixon’s CIA responded immediately. They sent their special agent Dan Mitrione. He trained security forces in the art of torture and other highly macabre practices that are indescribable in nature. And then the CIA put in power military dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry who ruled under direct order from Washington for the next 12 years, during which time he killed hundreds of people and tortured tens of thousands more. Repression was so brutal and Uruguayans were so traumatized and fearful that they no longer carried out their traditional dances, which symbolized happiness and victory.

5) 1971 – Bolivia

The vast Latin American natural resources are the envy of the greedy and powerful politicians of the US, who resort to any means possible to control them for their own benefit (and never for the people and countries whom they brutally exploit). During decades, U.S. multinational corporations enslaved people in vast regions of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. When those living under slavery conditions dared to rebel against their oppressors, they were annihilated in bulk. Che Guevara felt compelled to go to Bolivia to help the people revolt.

That was 1967. By then, US mining companies had enslaved entire communities, even banning children from going to school. Two years later, Che Guevara was murdered by (US President Richard Nixon’s) CIA. Once Che was out of the way, CIA officials established a military regime.

However, the people again turned on Washington. General Juan Jose Torres took power and implemented reforms to benefit workers and those living in poverty. Hope returned to Bolivia and its people, but the CIA would not allow this to continue. The agency recruited General Hugo Banzer. He led the coup against Torres and in 1971, he kicked off his violent dictatorship. He ordered the imprisonment and torture of a number of opposition leaders and the execution of hundreds of influential political leaders. He sent about 8,000 other leaders to jail and Washington was happy.

6) 1973 – Chile

Chilean President Salvador Allende was just another of the many victims of the many coups on democracy carried out by the United States (Note the date: 9/11/73)

Chile was another country brutally exploited by US corporations. US President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made sure the people lived in utter misery. The CIA used different tactics but the results were the same. The agency led a smear campaign against the government of Chile, as it is currently doing in Brazil and Venezuela. They used national and international media to demonize President Salvador Allende. They made sure people who had once been loyal to him because of his benevolent way of governing turned on him.

How you ask? The same way they’re doing it in Venezuela. By causing scarcity through extortion, through torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearances and by assassinating all those who refuse to bow to them. Washington was irritated beyond control after Allende nationalized natural resources, threatening the wealthy Chilean copper mining corporations. He made sure his people had access to housing and education. When Allende’s popularity was successfully undermined, the next step was to plan a coup against him. It would now be easy. And on September 11, 1973, Gen. Augusto Pinochet led the military to the presidential palace with the backing of the CIA, who provided him with the necessary weapons and armored vehicles.

War planes dropped bombs on the palace. Before he died, Allende told his people: “I tell you with certainty that that which we have planted in the good conscience of thousands and thousands of Chileans will not be shriveled forever. They are strong and they may be able to dominate us, but the social processes cannot be halted.”

Pinochet ruled for 17 years. He jailed 80,000 people, tortured 30,000 and murdered 3,200.

7) 1976 – Argentina

Newly released documents have revealed more about Henry Kissinger’s role in Argentina’s Dirty War.
Photograph by Steche / ullstein bild via Getty

Argentina endured arguably the bloodiest dictatorship of South America. Concentration camps, torture centers, massacres, massive rape of women and children, the beating of pregnant women, and the execution of boys and girls. In total, 30,000 people were executed. Behind it all: the CIA.

In 1973, Argentina was going through a political crisis so grave that President Juan Peron collapsed and died of a heart attack in 1974. His wife, Eva Peron, took power only to confront conflicts everywhere, even within her own Peronist party.

The CIA waited like a cat hunting its prey until 1976, when the situation they themselves provoked would be a walk in the park. The CIA approved of another right-wing military dictator-to-be, Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla, and the next step was a coup d’etat in the service of the United States.

This time US President Richard Nixon’s nefarious Henry Kissinger would be in charge of supervising the brutal regime and genocide, massive human rights violations, enforced disappearances, child theft, among other heinous crimes followed according to plan.

8) 1980 – El Salvador

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero broke with Catholic tradition by caring for the poor. He paid for it with his life.

The people of El Salvador suffered no less than Argentina under the US intervention that was carried out by the CIA. Washington had already backed a brutal Salvadoran dictatorship that lasted 50 years from 1931 to 1981. Campesinos and the indigenous people were smashed without mercy. More than 40,000 were massacred.

Liberation theologians coming out of the catholic tradition tried to intervene in favor of the poor and oppressed. At this point in time, El Salvador was controlled by 13 mafia-style families who had expropriated about half of the national land and wealth. The 13 families were closely linked to Washington. And the CIA under US President Jimmy Carter and later, US President Ronald Reagan made sure the Salvadoran milita (and terrorist paramilitary goon squads) were very well trained in torture and equipped with enough lethal weapons to fully repress the poor and landless.

And when the CIA found out that Jesuit priests were helping out the masses, they made sure they were killed as well. The CIA asked Pope John Paul II to speak to Archbishop Óscar Romero to try to persuade him to desist with the peasant revolts. Romero refused to comply and so they murdered him while he was officiating mass in 1980. When the US intervention was over, 75,000 people had been murdered.

9) 1989 – Panama

CIA asset (for 30 years)and Washington-backed drug trafficker General Manuel Noriega (aka, “Pineapple Face” Noriega) was allowed to take power in Panama in 1983 after President Omar Torrijos was assassinated by a CIA plot. Torrijos’ capital crime was trying to take over control of the Panama Canal.

Later, when Noriega refused to obey US orders, an invasion, code-named “Operation Just Cause” was ordered by US President George H. W. Bush. The December 1989 invasion by US troops murdered 3,500 innocent Panamanians and displaced 20,000 more.

Noriega had been instrumental in the Iran-Contra affair that should have resulted in the resignation of US President Ronald Reagan because his CIA had circumvented Congress’ prohibition against providing the Nicaraguan contras with weapons that were to be used against the leftist Sandinista movement.

Noriega had helped the CIA obtain cocaine that was sent mainly to Los Angeles, where it was sold in the form of crack and served to poison vast Black communities, another of the devious objectives of the CIA. The money was used to buy arms in Iran. Noriega knew where too many bodies were buried and he had to be stopped.

Noriega was captured and he has been locked up – incognito – in a Miami jail ever since.

CIA agent and Washington-backed drug trafficker enraged the U.S. when he refused to obey their orders, prompting an invasion that left 3,500 innocent civilians dead.

10) 1990 – Peru

Finally, we arrive at Peru and US President George H. W. Bush’s CIA.

In Peru, Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990. The reason why his election is highly suspicious is because he was a mediocre person with no political influence and no charisma. But he was a CIA asset.

Fujimori appointed a fellow CIA asset, a lawyer named Vladimiro Montesinos to be his National Intelligence Service director. He created a paramilitary group to threaten, harass and “disappear” leftist and Marxist leaders.

Fujimori dissolved Congress and locked up all the members of the Supreme Court of Justice. The CIA helped him with his plan. They financed him and supervised all his atrocities. Today, Fujimori is in jail. He may know where some bodies are buried as well.

First we need to understand that the CIA continues to raise havoc across Latin America and, indeed, the rest of the world. However, these 10 cases may enlighten those who refuse to believe that the US is responsible for death and destruction across the globe. It also serves to show how they operate and can be easily detected in places wherever there is instability, hunger and chaos.

Instability, hunger and chaos is their specialty.

A 2015 march protesting U.S. troop presence in Peru. (Rael Mora/teleSUR)


Ed. note: The 10 sovereign Latin American nations that were discussed in some detail above were just the “Ten Most Lethal” CIA-led coups. The article did not discuss the following 13 militarily-invaded Latin American nations of Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Venezuela, Surinam, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Grenada. – GGK


Dr Gary Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA and a member of the TRANSCEND Network. In the decade prior to his retirement, he practiced what could best be described as “holistic (non-drug) and preventive mental health care”. Since his retirement, he has written a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, an alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American imperialism, friendly fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, and the dangers of Big Pharma, psychiatric drugging, the over-vaccinating of children and other movements that threaten American democracy, civility, health and longevity and the future of the planet. Many of his columns are archived at http://duluthreader.com/search?search_term=Duty+to+Warn&p=2; http://www.globalresearch.ca/author/gary-g-kohls; or at https://www.transcend.org/tms/search/?q=gary+kohls+articles; ggkohls@gmail.com

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 Jul 2018.

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