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El Salvador & Argentina: 1945-Present Video

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  • 0:03 Cold War
  • 1:27 El Salvador
  • 3:38 Argentina
  • 4:25 Military Coup
  • 5:23 Falklands War
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore post-World War II El Salvador and Argentina. It will detail the rule of military juntas and their death squads. It will also highlight the famous political lives of Juan and Eva Perón.

Cold War

As many in the West celebrated the end of World War II, Latin America had little reason to rejoice. Rather than reveling in the end of the conflict, the region became submerged in its wake. Today's lesson will take a look at this situation as it delves into Latin America following World War II. It will specifically explore El Salvador and Argentina.

We'll begin with El Salvador and the Cold War. The Cold War is defined as a time of political antagonism between the U.S. and the Communist Party, specifically the Soviet bloc countries, from about 1945 to 1990.

Although the U.S. and the Soviet Union starred in the Cold War, other countries definitely had supporting roles - whether voluntarily or involuntarily, they got wrangled in. This was especially true of Latin America. To clarify, in the late '50s, the U.S. began a policy to keep any communist influence out of the Western Hemisphere. No way were communists moving into Uncle Sam's neighborhood. With this mantra in mind, the U.S. tried to prop up many existing leaders in Latin America to help them resist communist rebels. Tragically, several of these leaders were brutes, but still the U.S. favored them over having communists living next door. Sadly, El Salvador is a perfect example of this.

El Salvador

In the years following World War II, El Salvador suffered in turmoil and violence. Most blame this on the ruthless treatment of the poor by the rich. During the '50s, '60s and '70s, large coffee plantation owners (who just so happened to be tied to the government) began taking it upon themselves to strip small farmers of their land. This led to poverty and oppression, which in turn led to whispers of rebellion and revolution.

When these whispers turned into mass demonstrations, the presiding Junta, or military rulers, didn't hesitate to use brutal force. Tragically, the '70s saw the juntas use their own personal collection of torturers and assassins to keep all-out revolution at bay. Proving their brutality, these vicious groups carried the name death squads. As a force, they did not hesitate to silence anyone who cried for freedom, rights of the poor or legitimate elections.

Despite the fact that these death squads killed thousands upon thousands, they and their leaders were supported by the U.S. Remember, it was the Cold War, so the U.S. supported the government juntas rather than taking their chances with an election. After all, an election may see a communist come to power. It's even believed that one of the most infamous leaders of the death squads, General Medrano, got his funding from the CIA.

Speaking of Medrano, when he and his death squad dared to murder Archbishop Oscar Romero, an outspoken clergyman fighting for the poor, violence and calls for revolution reached an all-time high. However, fearing any sort of communist ideologies, the U.S. still spent the '70s and '80s supporting the ruling juntas of El Salvador.

As the 1990s saw the end of the Cold War and as the atrocities leveled on the people of El Salvador became more widely known, U.S. involvement moved from military aid to humanitarian aid. Despite this switch, the people of El Salvador are still entrenched in poverty, reeling from years of death squads and bloody grasps at revolution.

Argentina

Interestingly, Argentina took a very different path during the post-World War II era. Rather than being ruled by traditional military juntas, Argentina saw Juan Perón elevated to power. As a crafty left-wing politician, Perón gained the support of the common man by supporting unions, calling for higher wages and demanding safer working conditions. When he married the famous actress Eva Duarte, known to all us Broadway lovers as 'Evita,' his popularity soared.

Together, the pair ruled the country. They nationalized the banking system, spent money to industrialize and created a welfare system for the poor. Of course, like most of Latin American rulers of the day, they also used thugs to intimidate or torture anyone who disagreed with them.

Military Coup

When his wife, Eva, died in the early '50s, Perón's popularity began to wane. When he dared to speak out against the Roman Catholic Church, his popularity plummeted. Add the fact that the economy had tanked, and the stage was set for a military coup. Perón was a smart guy; he saw the writing on the wall and skipped out of the country in the mid-1950s.

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