Caribbean Security

January 11, 1980

Report Outline
Turmoil in the Caribbean Basin
Radicalization of the Region
Issues for U.S. Caribbean Policy

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 18, 2005  Haiti's Dilemma
Feb. 01, 1985  Caribbean Basin Revisited
Jan. 13, 1984  Caribbean Basin Policy
Jan. 11, 1980  Caribbean Security
Jul. 08, 1977  Puerto Rican Status Debate
Oct. 24, 1969  West Indies: Power Vacuum
Apr. 13, 1966  Dominican Dilemma
Nov. 21, 1962  Security in the Caribbean
Jul. 22, 1959  Invasion and Intervention in the Caribbean Area
Nov. 06, 1957  Caribbean Problems and Prospects
Jun. 14, 1943  Problems of the Caribbean Area
Jun. 10, 1940  Foreign Possessions in the Caribbean Area
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean