Guerrilla Insurgencies in Latin America

David S. Palmer and Thomas A. Marks

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Guerrilla Insurgencies in Latin America

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Insurgency in Latin America, though employing a variety of violent and nonviolent tactics, is usually associated with guerrilla warfare grounded in Marxist ideology and committed to overthrowing the state through violence. As insurgency has played out in the region since the 1950s, several groups, notably FMLN in El Salvador and FARC in Colombia, progressed to the use of large military units, and all used terror as a shaping mechanism to intimidate and to remove resisting local actors and government structures. For the most part, however, guerrilla warfare was dominated by hit-and-run actions by small units, greatly overshadowing other weapons in the insurgent arsenal. The term “guerrilla” gained currency in Spain in the campaign by patriots to harass Napoleon’s forces in the early 1800s. Similar tactics were employed by Peruvian irregulars led by Andrés Avelino Cáceres against Chilean invaders during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883) and in a number of other cases of 19th- and early-20th-century internal conflicts in the region (e.g., Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia). The focus of this annotated bibliography, however, is on the Latin American guerrilla insurgencies that emerged with the Cuban Revolution and subsequent efforts throughout the region by dissident factions, usually Marxist in ideological orientation, to overthrow governments deemed capitalist and reactionary. Guerrilla groups, often Cuba-inspired and at times Cuba-supported, began to operate in such countries as Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay in the 1960s; in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, and Argentina in the 1970s; and in Peru again in the 1980s. Although successful only in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas drove the repressive Somoza dictatorship from power, several other guerrilla insurgencies have had a major impact on the countries in which they operated. In fact, following peace agreements in Uruguay with the return to democracy in 1985 and in El Salvador in a United Nations–brokered accord in 1992, former guerrilla groups reinvented themselves as political parties and won presidential elections in 2006 and 2010, respectively. As of 2011, the only guerrilla insurgencies still active are operating in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

Article.  9183 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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