Differential Effects of American Destabilization Policy in Chile in the 1970s and Cuba in the 1990s
Just three years after taking office in 1970, Chile’s military removed the leftist President Salvador Allende from power. In Cuba, nearly forty years after his ascension to power in 1959, Fidel Castro continues to control a communist regime. In Chile in the early 1970s and in Cuba in the early 1990s, the United States exasperated severe economic crises. In addition, the United States attempted to foster political opposition to create ‘coup climates’ to overthrow both leaders. The similarities in these histories end there. Chile’s open, democratic political system allowed the U.S. to polarize the nation, paving the way for Pinochet’s U.S. backed military regime. In Cuba, however, thirty years of tight communist control negated the effectiveness of America’s effort to sow political dissent. This paper explores the impact of explicit American policy to overthrow both leaders, and proposes that divergent political, economic, and military structures contributed to vastly different outcomes.
The Nixon administration sought to uphold a “cool but correct” diplomatic stance toward Chile. The fact that Allende was democratically elected forced the Nixon administration to be less explicitly aggressive about their role in Chile, causing them to turn to economics as a primary method for destabilizing the nation. The U.S. sought to “isolate, weaken and destabilize Chile until the country was ungovernable” in order to create a ‘coup climate.’ Essentially, the U.S. began a long term strategy to destabilize the Chilean government economically, politically, and militarily, looking to exploit all possible weaknesses.
Chile was “deeply dependent on financial, industrial, and commercial relations with the United States.” For example, U.S. businesses created two thirds of the $1.6 in foreign investment, and two U.S. copper corporations alone controlled 80 percent of the Chilean copper industry. Under their destabilization strategy, the U.S. undertook economic measures designed to make the Chilean economy “scream.” The Nixon administration sought to terminate and reduce financing for U.S. exports and guarantees for corporate investment, lobby private investors to curb economic interests, bring “maximum feasible influence on the multilateral banks to cut their lending to Chile,” terminate bilateral economic aid programs, and dump U.S. copper holdings onto the international market, and lower prices. In addition to implementing direct economic measures, the Nixon administration also used its influence to affect the policies of international economic players. For example, “US officials worked behind the scenes to assure” that the World Bank denied 21 million livestock improvement credit and future loans to Chile. The U.S. also blocked negotiations, and putting pressure against Chile in the Paris Club debt negotiations regarding the $1...