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terça-feira, 7 de março de 2017

Ditaduras e repressao na America Latina:book reviews

Krepp on Iber, 'Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America' [review]

by System Administrator

Patrick Iber. Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. Cambridge:    Harvard University Press, 2015. 336 pp. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-28604-7.

Reviewed by Stella Krepp (University of Bern)
Published on H-LatAm (March, 2017)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

Patrick Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America is a study of the transnational political Left in Latin America. Suitably titled with a quote by Leon Trotsky, who in many ways epitomized the struggle within the political Left in Mexico, it relates how the project of a social democracy failed.

In the past two decades, scholars have called for new ways to write the history of a Latin American Cold War that would allow for Latin American agency and voices.[1] As a result, historians have highlighted the local roots of the conflict; illuminated the inter-American dimension; and examined how Latin Americans colluded, shaped, and resisted the Cold War.[2] However, by and large, scholarship still emphasizes a Cold War paradigm that places US-Latin American relations in the context of anti-communist struggle and US security policies, focusing the attention of Left and Right alike on military interventions, economic influence, and diplomatic relations to the detriment of cultural aspects of international relations.[3] This makes Patrick Iber’s book on the cultural dimension of the Cold War within Latin America a very welcome contribution.

Highlighting the role of intellectuals as “privileged communicators” between the masses and the state (p. 1), Iber directs his focus not at the authoritarian Right but at the fragmented political Left in Latin America, more specifically Mexico, and its struggle regarding “how to bring about a humane socialism that would balance social justice and individual freedom” (p. 3). As Iber recounts, this was far from a united and solidary Left, but a fragmented one, and the major fault lines ran between the advocates of social democracy and proponents of socialism or communism. He advances this argument by studying the three major players in the Cultural Cold War—the Soviet Union, the United States, and Cuba—through their front organizations: the Soviet-sponsored World Peace Council (WPC); the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) financed through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); and the Cuban Casa de las Américas, as each tried to mobilize and instrumentalize culture as a vehicle for its Cold War message and vision of social progress.

Iber convincingly relates how the cultural Cold War was rooted in the pre-Cold War history of the region, starting in the 1930s and 1940s, when exiles from the Spanish Civil War and communist dissidents such as Trotsky himself migrated to Mexico. These exiles carried with them the political divisions and animosities of their home societies. This “international civil war among left-wing intellectuals” acquired a new dynamic with the East-West confrontation after World War II (p. 47).

In chapter 2, Iber focuses on the WPC. Sponsored, supported, and guided by the Soviet Union, the WPC attempted to draft artists into a cultural Cold War through the promotion of “peace.” By the late 1950s, however, its never extensive influence had waned and was replaced by the Casa de las Américas as the defining cultural institution of the radical Left. Chapter 3 deals with the CCF. Backed by the United States and financed by the CIA, the CCF’s official aim was to promote social democracy and to denounce the totalitarian visions of the USSR and later Cuba. In one of the most fascinating accounts of the book, Iber narrates how the CCF nurtured the political Left in Cuba throughout the 1950s, and thus unwittingly enabled the revolution to succeed. In the end, the unmasking of the CCF as CIA-backed in the late 1960s spelled out the end of the reformist project.

The turning point that transformed the political Left was, without doubt, the Cuban Revolution of 1959, a home-grown socialist model that soon replaced the Soviet Union as the reference point in Latin America. Likewise, the Cuban Casa de las Américas became the central institution to spread this socialist vision, a story explored by Iber in chapter 4. However, despite inspiring a generation of the political Left in Latin America, the Cuban Revolution also exacerbated the already existing rift within the Left. Many of the earlier supporters of Fidel Castro were forced into exile or severely punished, and soon the regime drew criticism for its authoritarian streak and political as well as cultural censorship.

Ultimately, as Iber relates, by the 1970s all three utopias had failed and with them the belief that intellectuals and artists could and should play a fundamental role in mediating these social visions. Rather, and this would be a fascinating theme for another book, we see the rise of social scientists and technocrats from the beginning of the 1960s. These utopias failed on many fronts, but particularly because of the inherent contradictions in their political programs. In the case of the CCF, preaching liberalism but stifling dissent showcased the very limited notion of freedom the organization promoted. More important, as political events such as the 1964 military coup in Brazil and the blatantly illegal US intervention in the Dominican Republic of 1965 showed, building a social democratic Left with a benevolent and friendly United States was nigh impossible.

Likewise, by the late 1960s, with Ernesto Guevara dead and his foco theory proven wrong, as well as the Cuban endorsement of the 1968 Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia, the Cuban model lost much of its appeal. In the case of the Casa de las Américas, proclaiming freedom but only within a very restrictive definition of the revolution along the lines of the famous dictum “within the revolution everything; against the revolution, nothing” led to disenchantment among the Left. Ultimately, these visions failed because every organization failed to practice what it preached.

Intriguingly, despite the close ideological and financial links with their backers, Iber shows how these front organizations were not simple instruments of hegemony, but hybrid organizations that allowed artists and activists to shape debates and “localize” the Cold War. Moving through different case studies, Iber demonstrates that distinct cultural and historic contexts mattered, just as much as the people who were involved. With his nuanced analysis, he denounces the view that the United States, and in consequence the CIA, was omnipotent or omnipresent. While the United States and the USSR financed and set the agenda for the cultural front organizations, local branches acquired their own dynamics and controlling staff or artists proved difficult to manage. In the end, the actions of the front organizations often had unintended consequences as the Cuban case aptly highlights. Iber narrates one such example in chapter 6, showing how the CCF successfully “modernized” and incorporated a number of Latin American voices in the Mexican case, while in the 1960s, such attempts yielded few results in Brazil and Argentina. Ultimately, modernization never fully materialized because CIA involvement in the CCF was uncovered in 1966-67.

Iber’s Neither Peace nor Freedom is a thought-provoking book and deserves much praise, so I have only minor quibbles to add. While the trope of Mexican exceptionalism is not helpful, one wonders if what Iber relates is truly a Latin American cultural war or, in essence, actually a Mexican one. While he offers excursions to Brazil, Argentina, and more extensively to Cuba, Mexico remains the pivotal center. Of course there are limits to the archival work historians can aspire to, but I was left wondering, as a non-Mexicanist, if the Mexican case was indicative for the whole region or rather a special case. My own impression is that the Cold War in South America acquired a very distinct trajectory. In sum, it raises the questions how to contextualize Mexican history in broader Latin American history.

This is a carefully crafted and elegantly written book that charts the ebb and flow of the cultural Cold War and simultaneously highlights the local Latin American dimension. The book is meticulously researched, and—no mean feat—an enjoyable read.


[1]. Gilbert Joseph and Daniela Spenser, eds, In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); Greg Grandin, “Off the Beach: The United States, Latin America, and the Cold War,” in A Companion to Post-45 America, ed. Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002); and Max Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets, Letting Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 7, no. 5 (November 2003): 621-636.

[2]. For a good overview on recent scholarship, see Andrew J. Kirkendall, “Cold War Latin America: The State of the Field,” H-Diplo Essay 119, November 14, 2014. See also Greg Grandin, The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004); Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); and Ariel Armony, Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in Central America, 1977-1984 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Centre of International Studies, 1997).

[3]. Gilbert Joseph, “Toward a New Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations,” in Close Encounters with Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, ed. Gilbert M. Joseph and Catherine LeGrand (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 3.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=48095

Citation: Stella Krepp. Review of Iber, Patrick, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2017.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=48095

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Carmody on Weld, 'Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala' [review]

by System Administrator

Kirsten Weld. Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala. American Encounters/Global Interactions Series. Durham:    Duke University Press, 2014. xvi + 335 pp. $26.95 (e-book), ISBN 978-0-8223-7658-3; $27.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8223-5602-8; $99.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8223-5597-7.

Reviewed by Michelle Carmody (Leiden University)
Published on H-LatAm (March, 2017)
Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz

Michelle Carmody on Kirsten Weld's Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala

In critical studies of archives, it has become commonplace to cite Jacques Derrida’s phrase that “there is no political power without control of the archive ... [and] effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation” (p. 16). Kirsten Weld takes this as a departure point but moves on to examine a related question, namely, what the process of (re)constructing an archive tells us about the political context in which this (re)construction is carried out. She does this by examining the creation of the Archivo Histórico de la Policia Nacional (Historical Archives of the National Police, AHPN) in Guatemala, a collection of documents taken from the police archives where they were “discovered” in a state of decay and disorder and subsequently restored, organized, and rehoused in the internationally funded AHPN. If democratization can be measured by access to the archive, Weld shows how this access came about, and how this process of opening the archive shapes the quality of democracy.

The book is organized in four parts. The first examines the immediate context of the (re)discovery of the documents and the commencement of the project to restore them and create the AHPN. The second returns to the period of repression to look at the construction of the document collection itself, as well as the development of the National Police, the institution that created the documents. Part 3 looks at the role of the construction of the AHPN in sociopolitical processes in the postwar period, focusing on the experiences of those involved in the project. And part 4 concludes the book by evaluating the impact of the completed archival recovery project on the postwar sociopolitical horizon in Guatemala and on other human rights and transitional justice initiatives locally

This is a work of ethnographic history, mixing ethnography of the project to reconstruct an archive in the years 2005-9 with archival work on the creation of the original document collection in the 1960s and 70s. The book illustrates the shifts in values and beliefs on the part of various groups involved in the reconstruction of the archive, from ex-revolutionaries to a younger generation of human rights activists and even police archivists themselves. It charts the way these actors reevaluate their memories and understandings of the revolutionary struggle and the period of state repression, at the same time as they reevaluate their understanding of relations between different groups in society in the post-authoritarian period.

This is the major contribution of Weld’s work: she shows that the synthetic process of creating the archives, reorganizing the documents from a logic of counterinsurgency to a logic of “agency and aperture” (p. 31), can be seen as a parallel for the transformation of society in the postwar period. Part 3, “Archives and Social Reconstruction in Guatemala,” explores this process. In this section, we see how the older generation of project workers struggled to work alongside the police and how the younger generation of activists within the project were confronted with things like working under a professional management structure and accepting foreign funding. Working together on a common goal—the reconstruction of the archives—allowed each of these groups to develop an understanding of each other. This is the synthesis that is produced when Cold War archives were transformed into postwar archives, a process that, she argues, is an example of bottom-up democratization and social reconstruction. Through an ethnographic account of a grassroots project, Weld shows us that transitions are created from the bottom-up, rather than top-down.

An associated argument that Weld makes is that archives and archival surveillance should be integrated into the study of the Cold War. Part 2, “Archives and Counterinsurgency in Guatemala,” looks specifically at the Cold War period and supports this argument by recounting the assistance offered by US development agencies to help the Guatemalan National Police address their poor organizational infrastructure, including their lack of attention to record keeping. In this section, she draws on the archives of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA, the predecessor of USAID) to show that the US saw record keeping as directly contributing to their ability to control subversion. She demonstrates a clear link between this goal, which necessitated a strengthening of the capacity of the security forces and the technical assistance the ICA provided in the realm of record keeping. This is a clearly substantiated and illustrated argument which calls for further consideration of the types of everyday, mundane technical development assistance that was used to wage the Cold War in Latin America and beyond. She shows us that technical assistance, including that of record keeping, functioned as an extremely effective conduit for the transfer of ideas and the reshaping of ideology through the reshaping of practice.

Weld’s purpose in conducting this ethnography was, as she eloquently puts it, “to document the process, not process the documents” (p. 23). This marks her contribution as distinct from the other studies that have emerged in recent years of recovered counterinsurgency and police archives across Latin America. These studies draw on declassified and (re)discovered materials to write new histories of the Cold War and state repression in the region. Her work goes beyond this and sits comfortably alongside Duke’s other critical and reflexive monographs on archives.[1] While most critical work on archives looks at colonial archives, Weld extends these insights into both Cold War archives and postwar archives.

With this book Weld seeks to examine the process by which Guatemalans make sense of both the physical records of the past and of their memories of that past, analyzing this process for traces of articulations about the future. Her ethnography deftly achieves this, while at the same time it demonstrates the applicability of theoretical reflections on archives to new contexts, and expands our critical understanding of the Cold War and of the postwar in Guatemala. This book is therefore recommended for researchers interested in expanding their understanding of either of these two periods—the Cold War or the postwar period—with theoretical insights that can and should be tested in other contexts.


[1]. Kathryn Burns, Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); and Antoinette Burton, ed., Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=48085

Citation: Michelle Carmody. Review of Weld, Kirsten, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2017.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=48085

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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ANN: The Cold War in Latin America: Reviews of New Works

by Casey Lurtz

Continuing our series of collected reviews of new works in Latin American history, I'm happy to bring you a brief special issue on the Cold War in Latin America. As well as new reviews of Kirsten Weld's Paper Cadavers and Patrick Iber's Neither Peace nor Freedom, we have a review of the conference "Traveling Technocrats: Experts and Expertise in Latin America’s Long Cold War" held at Yale in the fall of 2016. I have also included cross-listings of roundtables put together by the H-Diplo network on other relevant works not yet reviewed for H-Latam.

New Reviews

Michelle Carmody on Kirsten Weld, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala (2014)

Stella Krepp on Patrick Iber, Neither Peace nor Freedom: The Cultural Cold War in Latin America (2015)

Timothy W. Lorek and Andra B. Chastain on “Traveling Technocrats: Experts and Expertise in Latin America’s Long Cold War” (2016)

Relevant Roundtables from Other Networks

Thomas C. Field, Jr.  From Development to Dictatorship:  Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, March 2015

Michael E. Donoghue, Borderland on the Isthmus:  Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, April 2015

Alan McPherson, The Invaded:  How Latin Americans and their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, July 2015

William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, Back Channel to Cuba:  The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (2014), roundtable from H-Diplo, August 2015

Renata Keller, Mexico’s Cold War:  Cuba, the United States, and the Legacy of the Mexican Revolution (2015), roundtable from H-Diplo, November 2016
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