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September 11th, 2023

U.S. Intervention in Latin America & Our Paths To Justice

The realities of shared history & Opportunities of Solidarity from U.S. Progressives

The U.S. government has a large debt to settle with Latin America and our gente — and it begins with truth telling and justice. The history of U.S. interaction in Latin American governments is steeped with intervention and destabilization, and it’s clear that U.S. politics have shaped the realities that millions of Latin Americans face today. 

As we reflect on the anniversary of the 1973 coup in Chile and continued dealings between the U.S. and Latin America, we’ll share the history and present day attempts at accountability. 

The Grim Past of U.S. Intervention in Chile  

Today September 11, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chile coup d’etat that changed the course of the country’s history. It culminated in the death of first democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende, ushering in the nightmarish military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship left over 3,000 assassinated and over 2,000 missing, including children – and tens of thousands more civilians tortured and imprisoned. 

Chilean soldiers guard the presidential palace the day after the coup against Allende. (Reuters)
Chilean soldiers guard the presidential palace the day after the coup against Allende. (Reuters)

It was suspected early on that the U.S. actively backed the military Junta. After several reports and declassifications of Nixon Administration documents related to Chile, the claims of U.S. intervention were solidified. For years, the Chilean government has petitioned for the continued declassification of files that could shed light on U.S. involvement and better understanding of how the coup came to be. The most recent declassification of a couple documents on August 29th, 2023 came shortly after House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) introduced legislation to declassify documents.  

Present Day Accountability 

This August, AOC and 10 fellow progressive Democrats visited Latin America, specifically Brazil, Chile, and Colombia to meet with progressive leaders. Significantly, in 2022 all three countries democratically elected left-leaning, progressive presidents. In the latest podcast episode of The Dig, AOC shares more about the trip and what accountability for the U.S. can look like. 

“It’s long past time for a realignment of the United States’ relationship to Latin America. The U.S. needs to publicly acknowledge the harms we’ve committed through interventionist and extractive policies, and chart a new course based on trust and mutual respect.”

— AOC, Times article.

U.S. intervention has resulted in lasting impacts in countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, and so many others across Latin America. Declassifying documents of U.S. intervention is one way to begin to repair the harms and facilitate everyday people’s understanding of the root causes of the issues today. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) shakes hands with Mayor Iraci Hassler in Santiago, Chile, on August 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) shakes hands with Mayor Iraci Hassler in Santiago, Chile, on August 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Solidarity from U.S. Progressives 

AOC shares how important is it for U.S. progressives to develop strong relationships to and learn from Latin American movements. She highlights the need for building intentional relationships needing for true solidarity to take place. 

“There are so many movements that are in present day struggle, and they are generational, and I think developing real relationship to many of the most present movements happening in Latin America right now, is probably one of the best ways for us to express solidarity.”

– AOC, The Dig podcast 

At a time when far-right leaderships are rising across Europe, it is critical for leftist and progressive movements in the West to come together. While there are varied definitions and demands from US progressives and leftists, AOC suggests that U.S. movements often get stuck in a “binary” cycle of grassroots direct action versus electoralism. Latin America, on the other hand, has a better balance on the dynamics between the two. They critically center popular education and coming together across different leftist camps.

Members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) marching for gender equality in commemoration of International Women's Day, March 8th, 2020 (Getty Images/Sergio Lima)
Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) marching for gender equality on International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2020 (Getty Images/Sergio Lima)

Cross-cultural and cross-movement learning

Engaging more intentionally with our compas in Latin America can serve as an effective tool in building more effective and inclusive movements both in the U.S. and globally.  As suggested by AOC, better U.S. foreign policy can be achieved when it is “gleaned from relationship and dialogue” with Latin American progressive movements. 

“We have much to learn from our counterparts in these countries, including how to confront disinformation and violent threats to our democracies.”

– AOC, The Dig podcast 

Beyond politics, there is much we can learn from the resilience and the militancy of Latin American progressives. These are countries where leftist and progressive leaders face continued threats, and where many leaders were assassinated before their terms. Despite all this, AOC noted a remarkable rejection of cynicism in their movements, something that many movements in the U.S. struggle with.   

Mijente is an internationalist Latinx organization fighting for el Buenvivir of our gente in the US, Puerto Rico and beyond. We practice real solidarity by leaning into cross-cultural and cross-movement learning because we know it is essential to transformative change. Our strategic frameworks have been shaped and sharpened by the study and praxis of Latin American movements and our shared journey towards justice. 

Mijente Free Our Future Day of Action and March 2018
Mijente Free Our Future Day of Action and March 2018

From Intervention Towards Justice 

Solidarity between U.S. progressives and Latin American movements isn’t just a political necessity – it’s a moral imperative. Learning from the resilience and unwavering determination of Latin American progressives can strengthen our own movements. It can promote a more inclusive, balanced approach to achieving the transformative change our communities need and deserve. 

Today, reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chile coup, it’s on our government to recognize that repair begins with reconciliation – and on us to lay on the pressure. The U.S.’s moral and historical debt isn’t just a relic from the past, it’s alive and affecting people right now. Past interventions in Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and throughout Latin America continue to impact the lives of countless communities. It manifests in economic disparities, political instability, social inequality, and so much more. 

This debt to Latin America is a call to action for all of us, reminding us of our shared responsibility. We must build a future where people power and justice aren’t just ideas, but the foundation of a new, shared reality. 

We leave you with this quote from Salvador Allende:

«La historia es nuestra y la hacen los pueblos.»

History is ours, and it is made by the people. 

Paid for in part by Mijente PAC, 734 W Polk St., Phoenix, AZ 85007, not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.