Turmoil in the Caribbean Basin
Central American Revolutions and Violence
More than two decades after the rise of Fidel Castro, the Caribbean basin, that great are of Spanish-speaking countries and polyglot islands to the south, is still a source of deep concern to American foreign policy makers. While a stunning series of events in faraway places — the seizure of Americans as hostages in Iran, for example, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — have diverted attention, sweeping and often violent social and political changes have been taking place much closer to home.
Not since the Mexican Revolution of 1910 has ferment in the Caribbean basin presented so prolonged and direct a challenge to American strategic, political and economic interests. For a while in the 1960s, Fidel Castro attempted to “export” revolution to neighboring countries. In 1967 his aide Ernesto “Che” Guevara promised “one, two, various Vietnams in Latin America,” but the crusade ended abruptly with Guevara's death in a volley of pistol shots in a tiny Bolivian mountain village. Now, however, the specter of “another Cuba,” or possibly “several Cubas,” appears more real to many Americans than at any time in the past.
The backwater nations of Central America — Nicaragua. El Salvador, Guatemala and, to a lesser extent, Honduras — are in the throes of a bloody struggle to end centuries of oligarchic rule and feudalism. Last July, Sandinista revolutionaries ended the 43-year dynasty of the Somoza family in Nicaragua, forcing President Anastasio Somoza Debayle into exile. The Sandinista battle against the Somozas lasted for 17 years and, in its final stages, left thousands dead, half a million homeless and the Nicaraguan economy in ruins. A tenuous coalition of Marxists, moderate socialists and middle-of-the-road businessmen now rules Nicaragua. Many experts believe that further political strife and possibly more violence still lie ahead.