“They talk about who lost and who won. Human reason won. Mankind won.” These words were spoken by the Soviet leader, Khrushchev, after the Cuban Missile Crists of 1962. President Kennedy felt the same. Both men knew that for ten days they had been close to bringing death to millions of people. They began working harder to make such dangerous situations less likely.
In August 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union signed a treaty agreeing to stop testing new nuclear weapons in the atmosphere or under water. They also set up a special telephone link between Washington and Moscow. On this “hotline” American and Soviet leaders could talk directly to one another. In future any dangerous crisis would be dealt with more quickly and with less risk of misunderstanding.
The hotline proved its value in 1967. War broke out between Israel and Egypt. The United States was friendly with Israel, and the Soviet Union with Egypt. But both took great care not to let these friendships drag them into fighting one another.
By then Kennedy was dead and Khrushchev had been removed from power. But new American and Russian leaders went on trying to reduce tension. Even the long and bloody war in Vietnam was not allowed to interfere with “detente,” as these moves were called.
The Chinese communist leader, Mao Zedong, attacked detente. He accused Soviet leaders of “revisionism” —that is, of altering some of communism’s most important ideas. He declared that the only way to deal with American capitalism was to be ready to fight it to the death. But a lot of the arguing about whether Russians or Chinese were the best communists was just a smoke-screen biding the real quarrel between them, which was about land. The Chinese claimed that almost one million square miles of the Soviet Union were rightfully theirs’. Big armies watched and sometimes fought on the long frontier between the two countries.
The enmity between China and the Soviet Union had important effects on both countries’ relations with the United States in the early 1970s. Detente between the Soviet Union and the United States went on.
And detente between the United States and China began.
In May 1972, President Nixon flew to Moscow to sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) with the Russians. The idea of SALT was to slow down the arms race. It was intended to save both countries money as well as to make war between them less likely. Each agreed how many missiles of various types the other should have, how many submarines to fire them from, and so on.
The first sign that China, too, was interested in detente with the United Scatcs came in 1970. For years the Chinese government had made it very difficult for anyone from western countries to visit China. But in 1970 it invited an American table – tennis team to play there. The American government, correctly, took this as a hint that the Chinese wanted to settle some of their differences with the United States.
The man behind the Chinese move was Zhou Enlai, China’s Prime Minister. Zhou believed that China needed friends on the international scene, especially while the Soviet Union was so unfriendly. He persuaded Mao Zedong to try to end the twenty – ycar-old feud with the United States.
President Nixon’s adviser, Henry Kissinger, flew to China for secret meetings with Zhou. Late in 1971 the United States agreed to communist China joining the United Nations, something it had vetoed for
President ‘ixoti with Zhou Enlai in (‘hitw, 1972.
years. In February 1972, Nixon flew to China to meet Mao. Mao was still suspicious of the Americans. But in the years that followed China and the United States made important agreements on trade and other matters, especially after Mao’s death in 1976.
As China and the United States became more friendly, tension grew again between Russians and Americans. Russians still feared that the United States wanted to wipe out communism. Americans still feared that the Soviet Union wanted to conquer the world. American fears grew7 stronger when Russian soldiers marched into the Soviet Union’s neighbor, Afghanistan, in December 1979. Because of the Soviet action, Congress refused to renew the SALT agreement.
Both the Soviet Union and the United States had continued to develop new and more deadly nuclear missiles during the years of detente. Attempts were made to slow down this arms race. But neither side would stop while it felt that the other was ahead. In the early 1980s, detente looked dead.
In their rivalry with the Soviet Union, American governments never forgot the lesson of the Marshall Plan. They knew that communism is often most attractive to the people of countries where food is short and life is hard. From the 1950s onwards, therefore, they spent millions of dollars on modernizing farms, constructing power stations and building roads in countries as far apart as Turkey and Colombia, Pakistan and Chile. The idea of this “foreign aid” was to give poor people all over the world better lives, partly out of a genuine desire to help them but partly also to win new friends and supporters for the United States.
Foreign aid did not always take the shape of food, machines or money. Sometimes human skills were sent, in the form of teachers and technical experts. Soon after John F. Kennedy became President he started a new scheme of this kind when he set up an organization called the Peace Corps.
The idea of the Peace Corps was to use the enthusiasm and the skills of young Americans to help the people of “underdeveloped”-that is poor-nations to help themselves. All members of the Peace Corps were volunteers, who agreed to work for twro years in the poor countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some Americans disliked the scheme. They said that the idea of sending immature young Americans to show the people of distant lands how to live was both naive and arrogant. But others thought the scheme worthwhile and exciting. “These kids represent something many of us thought had disappeared from America,” said a New York psychologist, “ — the old frontier spirit.”
Whoever was right, the Peace Corps achieved at least one thing —for a while it gave a human face to the bare financial statistics of American foreign aid.
In 1950 the population of the United States included fewer than four million resident “Ilis – panics”-rhat is, people originating from Spanishspeaking countries. By the mid 1980s this number had increased to 17.6 million and was still rising fast. In some parts of the United States, especially in the South and West, it became more common to hear Spanish being spoken on the streets than English.
Illegal immigrants caught by U. S. border officials.
Reformers accused the United States of helping to keep these groups of wealthy tyrants in power. There was some truth in this. The American government often seemed more concerned with suppressing communism in Latin America than with improving conditions of life there. In 1954, for example, the American secret service (the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA) encouraged the overthrow of a reforming government in Guatemala. When Guatemala’s deposed President asked the United Nations to look into this, the Americans used their Security Council veto to prevent an investigation.
About 60 percent of the United States’ resident I lispanics came originally from Mexico. The remainder came from other Latin American countries, such as Cuba and Colombia. The newcomers’ usual reasons for coming were the same as those of earlier immigrants from Europe – to escape from poverty or political persecution in their homelands.
The increase in the number of Hispanics was partly the result of an important change in the American immigration system. The old immigration laws, which dated back to the 1920s, had favored Europeans. But in 1965 a new law said that what would count in the future was who applied first.
The result was a big increase in immigration from non-European countries. By the 1980s the United States was officially accepting 270,000 newcomers a year. Forty percent of these were coming from Asia and another forty percent from Latin America.
Many other immigrants entered the United States without permission. In 1985 the government estimated that the country had between two and ten million of these illegal immigrants, half a million of whom had arrived in the previous year. Many were Hispanics, who had waded across the shallow Rio Grande River that formed the border between the United States and Mexico. For obvious reasons, people who entered the United States in this way were called “wetbacks.”
In later years American governments went on interfering in Latin American affairs. Sometimes they interfered openly, sometimes in more secret ways.
In 1965 President Johnson sent 22,000 American marines to the Dominican Republic to stop a leader he distrusted from regaining power. In 1973 CIA agents helped generals in Chile to overthrow President Allendc. Allcnde was sympathetic towards communist ideas and had nationalized some American-owned mining companies.
Actions like these help to explain why many Latin Americans continued to dislike their North
American neighbor. All over Latin America, it seemed, the United States was propping up oppressive and unpopular governments.
This was not the whole truth, of course. American dealings with Latin America had a more positive and humanitarian side. During their earlier occupations of countries such as Cuba and Nicaragua the Americans had built hospitals, supplied towns with pure water and wiped out killer diseases like malaria and yellow fever. In the early 1960s President Kennedy continued this tradition.
In 1961 Kennedy set up an organization called the Alliance for Progress. The United States gave millions of dollars to improve the lives of Latin America’s poor. The money was used to build roads, homes and schools, and to improve water-supply and sanitation systems. The Alliance also advanced money to peasant farmers, so that they could buy more land. Kennedy hoped that aiding Latin America like this would enable governments there to make enough improvements to stop people Irom turning to communism.
But the generals running much of Latin America continued to rely more on guns than on reforms to keep power. Despite the generosity of schemes like the Alliance for Progress, many people saw little basic difference between the attitude of the United States towards Latin America and the attitude of the Soviet Union towards eastern Europe. In one way or another, both superpowers seemed determined to protect their own interests by controlling their smaller neighbors.
Young US. volunteers building a clinic in Lima, Peru.
Nicaragua is a country in Central America. In the 1970s it was ruled by a right-wing dictator named Somoza, who had close ties with the United States. Left-wing rebels organized a guerilla army to fight Somoza. The rebels called themselves Sandinistas, after a guerilla leader named Cesar Augusto Sandino, who had fought against the American occupation of Nicaragua during the 1920s and 1930s.
The Sandinistas were supported by peasants, workers, priests and many business people. In 1979 they drove Somoza from the country and set up a new government. They promised the people of Nicaragua land reform, social justice and democratic government.
A Nicaraguan Contra rebel with Redeye missile supplied by the U. S.
A poster in Managua, Nicaragua proclaims that Reagan is on his way out, hut the revolution is here to stay.
At first the United States government welcomed the Sandinistas. President Carter offered them economic aid. But when Ronald Reagan became President in 1981 this policy changed.
Reagan believed that the Sandinistas were under the influence of the Soviet Union and Cuba. Soon he was describing their government as a com-, munist dictatorship. Its aim, he said, was to spread revolution to other parts of Central America and he gave money and weapons to rebels who were trying to overthrow it. Most people called the rebels ‘‘contras” from the Spanish word for “counter-revolutionaries.” President Reagan, however, called them “freedom fighters.”
Many Americans criticized Reagan’s policies. They warned that his enmity was forcing the Sandinistas into the arms of the Soviet Union. Other Americans supported the President. They bcheved that the safety of the United States depended on stopp ng Sandinista ideas from spreading to other nearby countries.
In February 1990 an election was held in Nicaragua. When the Sandinistas lost, they handed over power to a new government whose leaders were more acceptable to the United States and hopes for peace increased.
As soon as the war ended fresh calls of “Yankee, go home” were heard. To try to reduce anti-Amet ican feeling, in 1945 the United States took the lead in setting up the Organization of American States (OAS). The idea of the OAS was to encourage the countries of Latin America to cooperate with one another, and with the United States, as partners. One of its aims was to improve living standards.
But hardship and hunger continued to be widespread in Latin America. In most countries there, extremes of poverty for the many and wealth for the few existed side by side. Oppressive governments controlled by the rich and backed by soldiers did little to improve the lives of the people.
“Mucra Nixon, Mucra Nixon!”-Death to Nixon!
A barricade blocked the road. The car rocked wildly as the chanting mob tried to overturn it. Rocks and iron bars thudded against its roof and shattered its windows. Inside the car Richard Nixon, Vice President of the United States, was in great danger.
It was May 13, 1958, in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Nixon was visiting the city as part of a goodwill tour of Latin America. But he found only hatred on the streets of Caracas. Nixon’s life was saved when a truck forced a way through the barricade and his car was able to accelerate away. When news of the attack reached the United States the American people were shocked and angry. But it made them realize how much some Latin Americans hated and resented their country.
Latin America is the name given to the mainly Spanish-speaking countries which lie to the south of the United States. Ever since the early nineteenth century the United States has taken a special interest in what happens in these countries. They arc its closest neighbors and so it is important to the safety of the United States to make sure that no foreign enemies gain influence in them.
In the past this has often meant that the rulers of these Latin American countries have been little more than American puppets. Their agriculture and industry have frequently been American-controlled, too. A classic example was Cuba. Up to the 1950s its railroads, banks, electricity industry and many of its biggest farms were all American-owned.
In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt promised that the United States would respect the right of Latin American countries to control their own affairs. He called this the “good neighbor” policy. “I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor,” he said, “the neighbor who respects the rights of others.”
Roosevelt ordered home the American soldiers and officials who had been running the affairs of Latin American countries at one time or another for much of the past thirty years. Nicaragua, for example, had been occupied by American troops from 1912 to 1933. He also gave up the United States’ claim to interfere in Panama and Cuba whenever it wanted.
But many Latin Americans were not convinced by Roosevelt’s talk about being a good neighbor. True, the American troops had gone home. But the rulers who took over when the soldiers left – the Somoza family, who held power in Nicaragua from 1937 to 1979, for example-usually did what the Americans expected of them.
і he Second World War brought better times for Latin America. All the raw materials that it could produce-copper, tin, oil and countless others-were used by the wartime factories of the United States. The result was more money and more jobs-but also even more American control.