The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War

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9780226305721: The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War

After decades of bloody revolutions and political terror, many scholars and politicians lament the rise and brief influence of the left in Latin America; since the triumph of Castro they have accused the left there of rejecting democracy, embracing Communist totalitarianism, and prompting both revolutionary violence and a right-wing backlash. The Last Colonial Massacre challenges these views.

Using Guatemala as a case study, Greg Grandin argues that the Cold War in Latin America was a struggle not between American liberalism and Soviet Communism but between two visions of democracy. The main effect of United States intervention in Latin America, Grandin shows, was not the containment of Communism but the elimination of home-grown concepts of social democracy.

Through unprecedented archival research and gripping personal testimonies, Grandin uncovers the hidden history of the Latin American Cold War: of hidebound reactionaries intent on holding on to their own power and privilege; of Mayan Marxists, blending indigenous notions of justice with universal ideas of freedom and equality; and of a United States supporting new styles of state terror throughout the continent. Drawing from declassified U.S. documents, Grandin exposes Washington's involvement in the 1966 secret execution of more than thirty Guatemalan leftists, which, he argues, prefigured the later wave of disappearances in Chile and Argentina.

Impassioned but judicious, The Last Colonial Massacre is history of the highest order—a work that will dramatically recast our understanding of Latin American politics and the triumphal role of the United States in the Cold War and beyond.

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From the Inside Flap:

Latin America today is seen by many as the crown jewel of the U.S. effort to spread freedom throughout the world. During the Cold War, the argument goes, the United States defeated Latin American communism, paving the way for the region's embrace of capitalist democracy and making Latin America the model to be emulated around the globe. The Last Colonial Massacre mounts a powerful challenge to this view.

Through unprecedented archival research and gripping personal testimonies, Greg Grandin uncovers a hidden history of the Latin American Cold War: of hidebound reactionaries holding on to their power and privilege; of Mayan Marxists blending indigenous notions of justice with universal ideas of equality; and of a United States supporting new styles of state terror throughout the continent. Drawing from declassified U.S. documents, Grandin exposes Washington's involvement in the 1966 secret execution of over thirty Guatemalan leftists, prefiguring later disappearances in Chile and Argentina.

With Guatemala as his case study, Grandin also argues that the Latin American Cold War was a struggle not between political liberalism and Soviet communism but two visions of democracy—one vibrant and egalitarian, the other tepid and unequal. And ultimately the conflict's main effect was to eliminate home-grown notions of social democracy. Grandin provocatively concludes that the definition of democracy now being extolled as the best weapon in the war against terror is itself a product of terror.

About the Author:

Greg Grandin is assistant professor of history at New York University. He is the author of The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation.

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