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Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959

Summary and Keywords

Between 1944 and 1959, conflicts with anti-dictatorial exiles and democratic leaders against dictatorial regimes and dissident exiles shaped inter-American relations in the Caribbean Basin. At the end of World War II, anti-dictatorial exiles networked with students, laborers, journalists, and politicians in denouncing the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo, Nicaragua’s Anastasio Somoza, and Honduras’s Tiburcio Carías. Opponents of and dissident exiles from the 1944 Guatemalan Revolution and Venezuela’s Trienio Adeco (Adeco Triennium) under Rómulo Betancourt likewise turned to dictatorial regimes for aid. By 1947, a loose coalition of anti-dictatorial exiles with the help of Cuba, Guatemala, and Venezuela’s democratic leaders formed what would become known as the Caribbean Legion and organized the abortive Cayo Confites expedition against Trujillo. Seeking regional stability, U.S. officials intervened against this expedition and Caribbean Basin dictators and dissident exiles’ attempts to air-bomb Guatemala City and Caracas.

Caribbean Basin leaders and exiles focused upon these inter-American conflicts, rather than the international Cold War. José Figueres’s rise to power in Costa Rica provided a pivotal ally to democratic leaders and anti-dictatorial exiles, and Caribbean Basin dictators began working with the Venezuelan military regime after the 1948 military coup. In 1949, Trujillo’s regime coordinated a counter-intelligence operation that destroyed the Caribbean Legion’s expedition at Luperón and brought greater attention to the region.

By the early 1950s, dictatorial regimes operated as a counter-revolutionary network sharing intelligence, aiding dissident exiles, supporting Fulgencio Batista’s 1952 coup in Cuba, and lobbying U.S. officials against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and Figueres in Costa Rica. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) utilized these dictators and exiles during Operations PBFORTUNE and PBSUCCESS to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954, but U.S. officials intervened when the counter-revolutionary network invaded Costa Rica in 1955.

From 1955 onward, anti-dictatorial exiles from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Venezuela continued organizing expeditions against Caribbean Basin dictatorships, and multiple groups conspired against Batista’s regime. Among Cuban exiles, Fidel Castro rose to prominence and received important resources and alliances through anti-dictatorial exiles. Dictators shared intelligence and gave aid to Batista, yet Caribbean Legion veterans, Cuban exiles, Betancourt, Figueres, and others helped Castro undermine Batista. In 1959, Castro supported anti-dictatorial expeditions, most notably those against Trujillo and Luis Somoza. However, Castro disagreed with many former exiles and Betancourt and Figueres’s policies, so the resulting tension separated Castro from democratic leaders and divided the region among dictatorial regimes, democratic governments, and Castro.

Keywords: Cold War, democracy, dictatorship, exiles, foreign relations, Guatemalan Revolution

Democracies, Dictators, and the Exiles

The end of World War II signaled a powerful assault upon dictatorial regimes in the Caribbean Basin. Following the Spanish Civil War, the Popular Front’s vindication, and the Atlantic Charter, the Allies’ victory reinforced what many took as proof that fascism and authoritarianism needed to be combated not only in Europe but also in Latin America.1 During this postwar conjuncture, union membership swelled, working-class politics expanded, progressive parties gained, the franchise grew, and democracy moved forward in much of Latin America.2 With this base of support, democratic governments and anti-dictatorial exiles protested and confronted authoritarian regimes in the Caribbean Basin, yet the most entrenched dictators similarly responded by giving aid to dissident exiles and undermining their opposition.

Dominican exiles opposed to Rafael Trujillo seized upon World War II and anti-fascism to bolster their cause and network with anti-dictatorial groups throughout the Caribbean Basin. Founded in Cuba by Juan Bosch, Ángel Miolán, Juan Isidro Jiménes Grullón, and others, the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (Revolutionary Dominican Party, or PRD) published from Mexico one of the most passionate denunciations of Trujillo, La historia del hombre que se proclamó igual a Dios (The History of the Man Who Proclaimed Himself Equal to God).3 In Bogotá, the Comité Colombiano Universitario Pro-Democracia en la República Dominicana (Colombian University Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic) under Dominican exile Félix Ducoudray denounced the dictator’s “nazitrujillismo.”4 With delegates from Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, the Asociación de Estudiantes Hispanoamericanos en México (Association of Hispanic American Students in Mexico) republished Dominican students’ anti-Trujillo propaganda, including En lucha contra Trujillo (In Struggle against Trujillo), and Mexico’s Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (University Student Federation, or FEU) published Los universitarios de Santo Domingo frente a la Dictadura Trujillista (The University Students of Santo Domingo against Trujillo’s Dictatorship).5

Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and Honduran dictator Tiburcio Carías faced similar opposition. Nicaraguan exiles from Manuel Cordero Reyes to Gustavo Alemán Bolaños quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt and compared Somoza to Hitler.6 Others escalated their networking and their conspiracies, as with Alfredo Noguera Gómez’s 1944 expedition from Costa Rica. Such exiles often worked alongside their Honduran counterparts. In 1943, reformist military officers, including Jorge Ribas Montes, led a failed coup against Carías. The next year, multiple marches against Carías held pro-Allies banners and demanded elections and the release of political prisoners. When the dictator’s forces suppressed students and attacked women, the Comité Liberal Demócrata de Honduras (Liberal Democratic Committee of Honduras) in Mexico and other Honduran exile groups abroad put out pamphlets juxtaposing Carías and European fascism.7 Caribbean Basin newspapers picked up the story, influencing Carías to release Ribas Montes and others.

Events in Guatemala reverberated beyond the country’s borders and attracted much of the region’s anti-dictatorial sentiment. In 1944, the Guatemalan Revolution commenced after teachers, students, and professionals sparked protests that led to Guatemalan dictator Jorge Ubico’s resignation and young military officers’ removal of general Federico Ponce. In August 1945, newly elected president Juan José Arévalo proclaimed, “Now begins the second phase of [World War II, for] our America should not consent to the existence in its lands of totalitarian regimes under a democratic disguise.”8 Many Guatemalans who had networked with Nicaraguan and Honduran exiles in Mexico and elsewhere returned, forming political parties and joining the new government. Against Somoza’s and Carías’s official protests, Guatemalan newspapers lambasted the region’s dictatorships, and Guatemalan officials allowed Nicaraguan and Honduran exiles to criticize their countries’ dictatorial regimes on government radio.

The 1944 elections in Cuba brought to power the Auténtico (Authentic) party under Ramón Grau San Martín and Carlos Prío Socarrás. Long noted as a haven for Dominican exiles, militant anti-Trujillo sentiment flourished under the Auténticos.9 In the 1930s, Dominican exile Miguel Ángel Ramírez had conspired with Auténticos such as Aureliano Sánchez Arango against Trujillo and Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado. Enrique “Cotu” Cotubanamá Henríquez helped organize both the Auténticos and the PRD, and Bosch served as a secretary for Prío Socarrás. Eufemio Fernández and prominent Auténticos who fought with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War collaborated openly with various exiles. The Unión Democrática Antinazista Dominicana (Dominican Anti-Nazi Democratic Union) and other organizations in Cuba published América contra Trujillo (America against Trujillo) and much other anti-Trujillo propaganda.10 Havana’s Hotel San Luis under the Spanish exile Cruz Alonso epitomized Auténtico support for anti-dictatorial movements, as Auténtico protection provided the hotel a regional reputation as a meeting point and staging ground for various exiles.

With the 1945–1948 Trienio Adeco in Venezuela, World War II’s anti-fascist ideal and an opposition to Caribbean Basin dictatorships bound Rómulo Betancourt’s Acción Democrática (Democratic Action, or AD) party and anti-Trujillo Dominican exiles. When young military officers decided to remove the appointed successor of Venezuelan dictator Eleazar López Contreras in 1945, AD joined and formed a democratic coalition. Betancourt befriended Bosch while in exile, and Dominican exiles residing in Caracas networked with Venezuelan politicians, journalists, and students. Even before the 1945 coup, Dominican exiles led by Buenaventura Sánchez lobbied Venezuela’s political leaders to organize the Comité de Amigos de Santo Domingo (Committee of Friends of Santo Domingo). Venezuelan senator Jóvito Villalba claimed the Comité would “begin pursuing an extensive campaign for the application of the Four Liberties of the Atlantic Charter in Santo Domingo,” and Venezuelan political leaders and Dominican exiles together cheered the Guatemalan Revolution and excoriated Trujillo, Somoza, and Carías.11 Through his newspaper El Tiempo, Colombian ex-president Eduardo Santos worked with Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran exiles in Caracas and Guatemala City to publish articles denouncing Trujillo and other Caribbean Basin dictators. At the end of 1946, regional attention fell upon the emerging friendship between Betancourt and Guatemala’s Arévalo.

Assessing democratic governments and anti-dictatorial exiles’ networking as threats to their regimes, Caribbean Basin dictators targeted the Guatemalan Revolution, the Auténticos, and the Trienio Adeco. In their newspapers, government publications, and conversations with U.S. and Latin American officials, Somoza and Carías blamed Mexican- and Soviet-inspired communist infiltration as the cause of regional tension and dangers to inter-American solidarity. When turned away by U.S. officials, numerous dissident Guatemalan exiles, many formerly affiliated with Ubico and Ponce, found sanctuary at the Nicaraguan and Honduran embassies. Just as Nicaraguan and Honduran exiles organized border expeditions against Somoza’s and Carías’s regimes using Guatemala as a springboard, the two dictators provided aid to dissident Guatemalan exiles for conspiracies against Arévalo’s government. These exiles included, but were not limited to, a former Guatemalan secret police official, Juan Pinillos, Ubico’s chief of staff, colonel Arturo Ramírez, and Ubico’s personal physician, Carlos Padilla y Padilla. Trujillo ordered officials to monitor and suppress criticism against his regime throughout the Caribbean Basin, even hiring dissident Venezuelan exiles such as Dr. José Vicente Pepper as spies and propagandists, employing José Arroyo Maldonado of the Associated Press and other Cuban journalists, and coordinating with Cuban labor leader Juan Arévalo. Trujillo’s officials proceeded to build relationships with dissident Venezuelan exiles, including the former dictator Eleazar López Contreras, Pedro Estrada, and general Rafael Simón Urbina.

1946–1948: Conspiracies, Expeditions, Invasions, and Air- Bombing

Most Caribbean Basin expeditions in the mid-1940s received little attention owing to conflicting rumors and high numbers of incidents, but the more grandiose plots drew regional concern. Beginning in late 1946, Trujillo provided large sums of money to López Contreras. Dissident Venezuelan exiles led by López Contreras and his confidant Pedro Estrada used Trujillo’s funds to purchase bombs, dynamite, machine guns, and P-38 aircraft. The exiles then hired the U.S. aviators Earl Browder and Karl Eisenhardt to purchase ammunition and explosives for an expedition against Betancourt. With Trujillo’s aid, the exiles planned to invade Venezuela while air-bombing strategic points in the country. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intervened when the exiles’ mercenaries stole munitions from a U.S. naval base. Discovered, Trujillo’s officials helped the exiles hide their newly acquired armaments from U.S. authorities.12

The abortive 1947 Cayo Confites expedition demonstrated the capabilities of the alliances between Caribbean Basin democratic leaders and anti-dictatorial exiles. Over the preceding years, PRD leaders and notable Dominican exiles Ángel Morales, Luis Mejía, and Juan “Juancito” Rodríguez had traveled between Guatemala, Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti to network, raise money, and lobby for assistance against Trujillo. These exiles relied upon their connections with democratic governments to organize an armed invasion of the Dominican Republic and overthrow Trujillo’s regime. Arévalo purchased weapons, Auténticos secured facilities and staging bases in Cuba, and Betancourt provided financial assistance. Among the Dominican exiles were Tulio Arvelo, Mauricio Báez, Cotu’s cousin Federico “Gugu” Henríquez, Virgilio Mainardi Reyna, Juancito’s son José Horacio Rodríguez, and Amado Soler. Cuban student leaders and organizations joined, including Manolo Castro, Fidel Castro, and Havana’s FEU. Through Alonso at the Hotel San Luis, the Dominican exiles and Auténticos imported war material, and other anti-dictatorial exiles joined the Dominican exiles and formed long-lasting strategic and ideological alliances. Upon his release from a Honduran prison, Ribas Montes became a special agent for Arévalo, and the Nicaraguan exile leader Rosendo Argüello introduced Ribas Montes to the Dominican exiles. Ribas Montes, Auténtico Eufemio Fernández and Rolando Masferrer of the Movimiento Socialista Revolucionario (Revolutionary Socialist Movement), and Dominican exiles Miguel Ángel Ramírez and Diego Bordas took command of individual battalions. The expedition ultimately obtained machine and submachine guns, bombs and mortars, seven ships and sixteen airplanes, hundreds of Cubans, and various Caribbean Basin exiles.13

Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959Click to view larger

Figure 1. Dominican exiles Virgilio Mainardi Reyna and Juan “Juancito” Rodríguez with Enrique “Cotu” Cotubanamá Henríquez, inspecting a cannon during the 1947 Cayo Confites expedition. Archivo General de la Nación, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

The size and diversity of the Cayo Confites expedition facilitated its collapse. Dominican exiles and non-Auténtico Cuban leaders distrusted one another as Cubans appeared to take command of the expedition, and disputes emerged between Grau and some Cuban military officials about the Auténtico government’s support for the expedition. Cuban newspapers gave much unwanted publicity to the expedition’s numbers and training camps, so Trujillo demanded regional action. Although the Auténtico government moved the training camps, Trujillo’s public relations and diplomatic officials released a barrage of protests characterizing the expeditionaries as part of a “brigada internacional comunista” (“international communist brigade”). Fearing political instability, U.S. officials intervened as the Auténtico government detained many of the expeditionaries. However, Grau took control of the Dominican exiles’ weapons and encouraged the release of the expedition’s participants, much to the dismay of Trujillo. Their weapons secured, the Dominican exiles began considering a future expedition alongside other exiles.

Inadvertently, the actions of the various democratic governments and anti-dictatorial exiles who supported the Cayo Confites expedition spurred Caribbean Basin dictators to develop closer relations with one another to undermine their opponents. Although the expedition had targeted Trujillo specifically, the expeditionaries claimed that their work would not cease until all authoritarian regimes fell. Seeing the potential strength of the Cayo Confites expedition, Trujillo, Somoza, and Carías identified all participants as common enemies because of the networking of Caribbean Basin exiles with anti-dictatorial groups and democratic leaders, so the dictators proceeded to exchange information on their respective exiles. Carías reported on the movements of Honduran exiles, Somoza sent copies of his spies’ reports on Nicaraguan exiles, and Trujillo’s officials disseminated intelligence on Dominican exiles. Over the next years, officials of all three regimes repeatedly met in their embassies and legations to discuss alleged and real threats deriving from anti-dictatorial exiles and democratic governments, all labeled by the dictators as communists.14

The improved relations among the dictatorial regimes intensified dissident exiles’ conspiracies against democratic governments in the Caribbean Basin. From 1944 to 1947, dissident Guatemalan and Venezuelan exiles had approached dictators individually for economic and material assistance to undermine the Guatemalan Revolution and the Trienio Adeco. With Arévalo and Betancourt’s involvement in the Cayo Confites expedition, exiles could now present the Guatemalan Revolution and the Trienio Adeco as a danger to all Caribbean Basin regimes. Colonel Arturo Ramírez, Juan Pinillos, Pedro Estrada, José Vicente Pepper, and others lobbied Trujillo, Somoza, and Carías for weapons, money, and other resources for everything from arming border invasions and locating gun runners to publishing falsified letters between Arévalo and Russian diplomats and propaganda decrying Betancourt as a Soviet agent. Though unable to confirm publicly the involvement of the dictators in such conspiracies, Arévalo’s government alone reported almost twenty such plots against his government from 1947 to 1950. For the Guatemalan Revolution and the Trienio Adeco, such plots resulted in constitutional suspensions, discontent, and the expulsion of additional dissidents.

One of the more audacious exile conspiracies in 1947 illustrates the interlocking goals of dissident Guatemalan exiles and the dictators against Arévalo’s government. Beginning in the summer, general Federico Ponce lobbied for aid from Somoza, Carías, and Trujillo. Ponce intended to coordinate an invasion by dissident Guatemalan exiles from Mexico with the air-bombing of Guatemala City. With the dictators’ resources, Ponce armed exiles, acquired explosives, and purchased planes in the United States. Even when U.S. and Mexican officials warned Ponce against any conspiracy and attempted to monitor exiles’ activities, the exile and the dictators merely hid their plans. Only when Arévalo’s officials heard of the conspiracy from a Mexican gun runner were U.S. and Mexican officials able to intervene and halt Ponce. Despite the plot’s termination, Somoza, Carías, Trujillo, and their officials continued discussing conspiracies against the Guatemalan Revolution, exchanging information on dissident Guatemalan exiles, and debating how to convince the Guatemalan military to rise against Arévalo’s government.

The links between dictators and dissident Venezuelan exiles shaped a bombastic conspiracy against the Trienio Adeco. At the end of 1947, Leonardo Altuve Carrillo, Carlos Baptista, Estrada, Jorge Pocaterra, Rafael Simón Urbina, and other Venezuelan exiles convinced Trujillo to provide money and armaments for an expedition against Betancourt’s government. With the FBI and other U.S. officials monitoring movements of ships and planes between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela following previous conspiracies, the Venezuelan exiles and Trujillo reached out to Somoza. The exiles and dictators decided to air-bomb Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, from the Nicaraguan port at Puerto Cabezas. By early 1948, the Dominican Air Force had flown dozens of exiles, weapons, and bombs to Puerto Cabezas, and Altuve and Pocaterra hired U.S. mercenaries and aviators to purchase and sneak planes out of the United States. U.S. officials noticed the falsification of the planes’ export documents and information provided by Arévalo’s officials in Nicaragua and alerted Betancourt before the plot’s realization, and the Trienio Adeco made the region aware of the conspiracy. Found out, Somoza attempted to conceal the weapons and planes, and the exiles and dictators considered new machinations against the Trienio Adeco.15

1948–1949: The Caribbean Legion and the Counter-Revolutionary Network Emerge

Events in 1948 radicalized the conflicts between democratic governments and dictatorial regimes in the Caribbean Basin. In 1947, Arévalo transferred the Cayo Confites expeditionaries’ weapons from Cuba to Guatemala with the help of the Auténtico government, and Dominican exile leader Juan “Juancito” Rodríguez purchased additional armament. In Cuba and Guatemala, various Caribbean Basin exiles lobbied Juancito to aid numerous conspiracies against the region’s dictators. At this juncture, Arévalo insisted that representatives for various exiles convene in Guatemala City and unite their goals to prevent turmoil and disunity. Through his friendship with the Nicaraguan exile leader Rosendo Argüello, the emerging Costa Rican political leader José Figueres also sought out the Cayo Confites expeditionaries’ assistance. To earn Arévalo’s and Juancito’s support, Figueres persuaded various exile leaders that Costa Rica could offer a suitable location from which to launch future expeditions against Somoza in Nicaragua and Carías in Honduras. Consequently, Arévalo had Juancito, Figueres, and the Nicaraguans Argüello, Pedro José Zepeda, and Gustavo Manzanares sign the Pacto del Caribe (Caribbean Pact) in December to align their interests and agree to overthrow all Caribbean Basin dictatorships.16

As a result of Figueres’s actions, the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War quickly became a regional conflict. In February, the Costa Rican presidential elections commenced between ex-president Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia and the publisher Otilio Ulate. Already marred by skirmishes, assaults, and bombings, the elections brought further controversy when Calderón Guardia’s supporters in the Legislative Assembly nullified the Electoral Tribunal’s decision in Ulate’s favor.17 With this pretext, Figueres declared war against the current president, Teodoro Picado, and Costa Rica’s small army. In Costa Rica, the Honduran Marcial Aguiluz and Costa Ricans including Frank Marshall helped Figueres capture the San Isidro airport, so Arévalo and Juancito flew their weapons and equipment to Figueres. Additionally, Figueres received crucial aid from anti-dictatorial exiles. Under Juancito, the Dominicans Miguel Ángel Ramírez and Horacio Ornes and the Honduran Jorge Ribas Montes brought dozens of Caribbean Basin exiles to join Figueres, including the Dominicans Virgilio Mainardi Reyna, José Horacio Rodríguez, and Amado Soler, the Hondurans Francisco Morazán and Francisco “El Indio” Sánchez, and the Nicaraguans José María Tercero and Adolfo Báez Bone. Soon titled the Legión Caribe or Caribbean Legion, the exiles provided armament and invaluable training to Figueres’s forces, as the Costa Rican army found its resources soon depleted. Furthermore, Marshall, Ornes, Ramírez, and Ribas Montes organized defenses and counteroffensives that deterred Calderón Guardia’s supporters.18

With the participation of Arévalo and the Caribbean Legion in Costa Rica, the region’s dictators correctly interpreted Figueres’s victory as a challenge to their regimes. When Picado asked for Somoza’s assistance after his force exhausted its ammunition, the Nicaraguan dictator sent colonel Camilo González of Nicaragua’s Guardia Nacional to meet with Trujillo to discuss providing aid against Arévalo and the Legion. Somoza warned the Dominican dictator that Figueres represented a new, and supposedly communist, ally for Arévalo and Betancourt and an imminent danger to the dictators’ respective regimes. When Somoza’s forces crossed into Costa Rica with Picado’s permission, U.S. officials intervened to de-escalate the conflict and prevent further involvement of regional actors. At the conclusion of the brief civil war, Calderón Guardia’s forces left for Nicaragua, where many joined Somoza and began pursuing border attacks against the new Costa Rican junta under Figueres.19

Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959Click to view larger

Figure 2. The Caribbean Legion in Costa Rica after the 1948 Civil War. Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

As envisioned by Figueres and many anti-dictatorial exiles, Costa Rica in 1948 became an important base for conspiracies against dictatorial regimes. The Caribbean Legion constructed training camps, and subgroups of Caribbean Basin exiles pursued their plots against Somoza and Carías. Multiple groups of Honduran exiles in Costa Rica, such as one under Ribas Montes, “El Indio” Sánchez, and Aguiluz, worked through the Legion to purchase rifles and ammunition for expeditions against Carías’s regime. Argüello and other Nicaraguan exile leaders built their own training camps as well. At least one expedition by Nicaraguan exiles against Somoza received Figueres’s direct support, though some Nicaraguans pursued conspiracies on their own initiative. Juancito, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, and other Dominican exiles traveled between Costa Rica and Guatemala, networked with other Caribbean Basin exiles, acquired armament, and assessed a strategy for an expedition against Trujillo. Under pressure from the Organization of American States (OAS), Figueres officially ended his agreement to the Caribbean Pact and the Caribbean Legion while discouraging the organization of large camps of anti-dictatorial exiles, yet he continued to work closely with Juancito, Bosch, Ramírez, Ribas Montes, and other exile leaders.

Somoza, Carías, and Trujillo, originally focused upon undermining Arévalo and Betancourt, now opposed Figueres as well. In effect, the dictators formed an informal counter-revolutionary network in which they and their officials shared intelligence on the region’s events, supported dissident Caribbean Basin exiles, and considered a variety of conspiracies to overthrow the governments in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Costa Rica. The dissident Guatemalan exiles Luis Coronado Lira and Manuel Melgar de la Cerda proposed conspiracies that received funding from Somoza and Trujillo, who then lobbied their ally Carías for permission for an invasion from Honduras into Guatemala. Somoza and Carías joined a pact to aid each other in the event of an invasion into their countries from Guatemala. The dissident Venezuelan exiles Leonardo Altuve Carrillo and Carlos Baptista traveled between the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to raise funds and purchase weapons for expeditions, as well as to support AD’s opponents within Venezuela. Somoza, Carías, and Trujillo had their newspapers place blame for the region’s conflicts upon international communism and depicted Arévalo, Betancourt, and Figueres as Soviet agents. U.S. officials in the Caribbean Basin received numerous reports from the three dictators that warned that the Guatemalan, Venezuelan, and Costa Rican governments jeopardized inter-American peace by allowing communist organizations and exiles to foment opposition to the dictators’ regimes.

The dictators and dissident Costa Rican exiles created a regional crisis at the end of 1948. Throughout the year, Somoza, Carías, and Trujillo complained that Figueres continued to support anti-dictatorial exiles, and that the OAS and U.S. officials did not exert enough pressure to halt conspiracies from Costa Rica against their respective regimes. Upon Calderón Guardia’s departure from Costa Rica after the civil war, Somoza’s Guardia Nacional began training and arming dissident Costa Rican exiles in Nicaragua. Repeatedly, these exiles crossed from Nicaragua into Costa Rica to provoke skirmishes and attack towns. While attempting to bribe the Caribbean Legion to renounce Figueres, the Nicaraguan dictator sent Calderón Guardia’s agents to Trujillo to warn the Dominican dictator that Figueres’s regime aided Dominican exiles and aimed to overthrow Trujillo’s regime. Trujillo proceeded to purchase military equipment for Somoza and the dissident Costa Rican exiles. In December 1948, the Guardia Nacional escorted more than one hundred Costa Rican exiles to the Costa Rica–Nicaragua border, at which point the exiles crossed and captured a handful of Costa Rican towns. Figueres called upon the OAS to intervene and halt the invasion, forcing all sides to terminate hostilities officially. Unofficially, Figueres and Somoza refused to halt their conspiring, supporting exiles, and lobbying regional leaders against each other.

As with events in Costa Rica, the 1948 military coup in Venezuela reshaped inter-American conflicts in the Caribbean Basin. Since 1945, the Trienio Adeco had faced numerous conspiracies, and dictatorial regimes often funded dissident Venezuelan exiles. By 1948, some of Venezuela’s military officers began to reach out to these exiles and Trujillo’s officials, and the officers alleged that any coup against Betancourt would help Trujillo by removing Venezuela as a base for Dominican exiles. The officers’ and exiles’ connections facilitated the movement of resources that helped plots against Betancourt and AD. In November 1948, officers launched a military coup that brought an end to the Trienio Adeco and had significant regional consequences. First, the removal of Betancourt and AD from power in Venezuela took away from Arévalo, the Auténticos, Figueres, and anti-dictatorial exiles an important diplomatic and strategic ally against the region’s dictators. Second, Venezuela’s new military regime expelled Betancourt and many AD leaders who joined Figueres in Costa Rica, the Auténticos in Cuba, and Arévalo in Guatemala. As Betancourt and AD exiles plotted against Venezuela’s military regime, the regime likewise identified the AD exiles’ allies abroad as enemies for providing sanctuary and aid to AD exiles. Finally, dissident Venezuelan exiles who spent 1945 to 1948 participating in conspiracies and working with the region’s dictators against the Trienio Adeco returned to Venezuela and took important positions in the new military regime. For example, Pedro Estrada became the head of the National Security Department, Leonardo Altuve Carrillo served as an ambassador, and José Vicente Pepper took an informal position. Because the dictators had helped them against the Trienio Adeco during their time in exile, such officials continued to share intelligence with Trujillo and Somoza against their common enemies in Costa Rica, Cuba, and Guatemala. These links ensured that the Venezuelan military regime and its officials joined the dictators in the counter-revolutionary network.

The failed Luperón expedition against Trujillo in 1949 further weakened the anti-dictatorial exiles and their allies. From the end of 1948 into 1949, Juancito, Horacio Ornes, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, Amado Soler, and other Dominican exiles in the Caribbean Legion networked throughout the Caribbean Basin. Adolfo Báez Bone, José María Tercero, and Nicaraguan and Honduran exiles from the Legion endorsed and joined the forthcoming expedition. Juancito and Ramírez met with Arévalo, Secretary of Defense Jacobo Arbenz, and Guatemalan armed forces commander Francisco Arana to obtain weapons and planes. Bosch lobbied Figueres to provide money from Costa Rica through Ribas Montes, and Eufemio Fernández and Cotu Henríquez led Auténticos from Cuba as the Legion’s associates met at Cruz Alonso’s Hotel San Luis. Dominican exile José Antonio Bonilla Atiles and Arévalo convinced important Mexican officials to provide indirect support. The Legion hired a Spanish exile, Alberto Bayo, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War who trained Nicaraguan exiles in Costa Rica, to help organize their strategy and purchase planes. Securing such resources and allies, the Legion planned to launch three airborne assaults at Luperón in the Dominican Republic and to coordinate with an uprising from the anti-Trujillo underground.20

Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959Click to view larger

Figure 3. Navigational chart signed by the Caribbean Legion to commemorate the 1949 Luperón expedition. Archivo General de la Nación, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Trujillo’s officials thwarted the Luperón expedition and the Caribbean Legion. Because the Legion and Arévalo reached out to Mexican officials for help, the Dominican ambassador in Mexico, Joaquín Balaguer, coordinated a counterintelligence operation that monitored the movements of Bonilla Atiles, Ornes, and other Dominican exile. Trujillo and Balaguer decided to construct an espionage unit to infiltrate the Legion, determine the details of the expedition, and obtain proof of the agreements among the exiles, Arévalo, and Mexican officials. When Bayo and the Dominican exiles disagreed on their strategy, Balaguer’s agents approached and turned Bayo. After Bayo encouraged pilots to desert the expedition, Arévalo provided Guatemalan air force planes to the Legion. The exiles launched their expedition in July, but bad weather diverted all but one plane away from Luperón. Trujillo’s forces quickly killed most of the expeditionaries from the plane that landed, including Gugu Henríquez and Nicaraguan Alberto Ramírez, and captured Nicaraguan José Félix Córdoba Boniche and Dominicans Tulio Arvelo, Miguel “Miguelucho” Ángel Feliú Arzeno, Ornes, and José Rolando Martínez Bonilla. At the OAS, Trujillo utilized the evidence gathered by Balaguer’s operation and the participation of Arévalo’s air force planes to prove the Guatemalan president’s complicity and charge Arévalo with violating international treaties. With the OAS’s censure, Arévalo and the Caribbean Legion found themselves forced to avoid grandiose expeditions and, as had Figueres, to limit public knowledge of their maneuvering and conspiracies against the region’s dictators.

1950–1955: The Counter-Revolutionary Network and the International Cold War

Into the early 1950s, veterans from the Legion, AD exiles, and other anti-dictatorial exiles continued lobbying for resources, networking with allies in the Caribbean Basin, and supporting conspiracies against the region’s dictators and Venezuela’s new military regime. Dominican exile leader Miguel Ángel Ramírez worked with Guatemalan officials to provide visas for exiles such as Nicaraguan Luis Felipe Gabuardi, and Honduran exile Francisco Morazán served as secretary to the new president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz. Nicaraguan exile Manuel Gómez Flores helped organize training camps for anti-dictatorial exiles in Guatemala, Honduran exiles constructed their own conspiracies, and bases appeared in Costa Rica with Dominican, Nicaraguan, and AD exiles. Cuba’s Auténticos, most notably Eufemio Fernández and Aureliano Sánchez Arango, repeatedly helped AD exiles purchase weapons, as did Figueres’s officials in Costa Rica. Rosendo Argüello, Juancito, José Horacio Rodríguez, Francisco “El Indio” Sánchez, and various Caribbean Basin exiles traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean Basin, working with Mexican and U.S.-based gun runners to purchase military equipment. These exiles relied upon sympathetic officials under the Auténticos, Arbenz, and Figueres to help smuggle and store such resources in Cuba, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959Click to view larger

Figure 4. 1950 Photo from Mexico of leading anti-dictatorial exiles (43) Honduran Jorge Ribas Montes, (44) Dominican Miguel Ángel Ramírez, (45) José María Tercero, and (46) Francisco “El Indio” Sánchez. Archivo General de la Nación, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Akin to the ascension of Venezuela’s military regime, Fulgencio Batista’s 1952 coup against the Auténtico government under Carlos Prío Socarrás directly affected the region’s conflicts. Batista’s regime expelled Auténtico leaders, most notably Eufemio Fernández and Sánchez Arango. In exile, these Auténticos found themselves alongside Legion veterans, AD exiles, and others based in Costa Rica and Guatemala, plotting to overthrow the new Cuban dictator. Members of the counter-revolutionary network, and even the CIA, noted how Dominican Miguel Ángel Ramírez, Honduran Jorge Ribas Montes, and Fernández, Sánchez Arango, and other Auténticos worked together, trained, and purchased weapons for their conspiracies. Cuban military intelligence officials identified these links as threats to Batista’s new regime, for Auténticos profited from the alliances, resources, and training that Legion veterans and democratic leaders provided. Similarly, the region’s dictators opposed the relationships between Auténticos and their own exiles. Consequently, the network’s members offered quick recognition and aid to Batista. Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan officials began exchanging information on Auténtico and anti-dictatorial exiles’ activities with their Cuban counterparts through Venezuelan Pedro Estrada, Cuban José Arroyo Maldonado, and other intermediaries.

With the addition of Venezuela’s military junta and Batista’s regime, the counter-revolutionary network’s members increased their intelligence sharing and conspiracies against the governments in Costa Rica and Guatemala in the early 1950s. Defining their authoritarian regimes as anti-communist, the network characterized all opposition from anti-dictatorial exiles as communist in origin. Cuban, Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan officials reported on the links among Legion veterans, AD exiles, Auténticos, Figueres, and other groups operating in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. Trujillo’s and Somoza’s officials discussed meetings of exiles throughout the Caribbean Basin. Pedro Estrada and Venezuelan officials exchanged copies of their reports with Cuban, Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan officials. Cuban officials warned about Auténtico leaders’ acquiring armament through Figueres. Carlos Castillo Armas, Luis Coronado Lira, Juan Pinillos, Arturo Ramírez, and various Guatemalan exiles lobbied the regimes to support conspiracies against Arbenz’s government. From these exchanges on supposed communist activities out of Costa Rica and Guatemala, the network decided to overthrow Figueres and Arbenz for the purposes of inter-American peace and anti-communist solidarity.

The counter-revolutionary network provided the initiative behind the first CIA-sponsored covert operation against Arbenz’s government, Operation PBFORTUNE. In mid-1952, Somoza told U.S. officials that Castillo Armas could overthrow Arbenz and presented Arbenz’s removal as a goal not only for Caribbean Basin dictatorial regimes but also for U.S. Cold War-oriented policies. Based upon Somoza’s assurances, the CIA agreed to provide money and weapons for Castillo Armas’s invasion of Guatemala. As other members of the counter-revolutionary network were already debating how to overthrow Arbenz, Somoza and Castillo Armas utilized the network’s intelligence sharing to lobby for additional assistance in return for eliminating anti-dictatorial exile leaders and removing Guatemala as a base for plots against dictatorial regimes. By October, U.S. officials terminated Operation PBFORTUNE, based on concerns that the network’s discussions of the conspiracy publicized the CIA’s involvement. After the operation’s cancellation, the network’s members continued searching for the means to overthrow Arbenz through meetings with and funding for Castillo Armas, Coronado Lira, Pinillos, and various dissident Guatemalan exiles.21

Conflicts between Caribbean Basin Dictators and Democracies, 1944–1959Click to view larger

Figure 5. 1950 Photo from Mexico of Nicaraguan exiles, including (11) José María Tercero, (12) Manuel Gómez Flores, (13) Luis Felipe Gabuardi, and (16) Luis Morales Palacios. Archivo General de la Nación, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

With growing U.S. opposition to Arbenz’s government in Guatemala, the counter-revolutionary network sought to remove Figueres as well. In early 1954, Figueres and Auténtico exiles helped Nicaraguan exiles purchase armament. Legion veterans, including Dominican Amado Soler and Honduran Jorge Ribas Montes, worked with the exiles and anti-Somoza opposition in Nicaragua to plot an expedition to capture the Nicaraguan dictator. Originating from Costa Rica, the expedition crossed into Nicaragua, but the conspiracy quickly disintegrated owing to the lack of resources provided by the anti-Somoza opposition, the low number of participants, and information obtained by Somoza’s operatives. Among the two dozen expeditionaries captured, tortured, and killed were Soler, Ribas Montes, and Nicaraguans Adolfo Báez Bone, José Félix Córdova Boniche, Luis Felipe Gabuardi, Pablo Leal, José María Tercero, and Luis Morales Palacios. Somoza and the network presented the expedition as proof that Figueres’s relationship with Betancourt, Bosch, and anti-dictatorial exiles furthered international communism and weakened inter-American stability. Venezuelan military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez deployed planes over Costa Rica that dropped leaflets denouncing Figueres’s and Betancourt’s friendship.22

Similar to Operation PBFORTUNE, the CIA’s 1953–1954 Operation PBSUCCESS relied upon the counter-revolutionary network. Pedro Estrada and Pérez Jiménez delivered large sums of money, Carías provided funds through Juan Pinillos, and Somoza and Honduran president Juan Manuel Gálvez offered money and land for the training camps for dissident Guatemalan exiles. Though the network’s resources were important, it was the CIA’s psychological warfare, propaganda, bribery, and more that convinced the Guatemalan military to depose Arbenz. Still, the network benefited from the coup. Castillo Armas imprisoned Miguel Ángel Ramírez and numerous anti-dictatorial exiles based in Guatemala, and Figueres intervened to provide asylum to Juancito, Félix Ducoudray, and others. Dissident Guatemalan exiles who had received aid from dictatorial regimes over the past decade now occupied important positions in Castillo Armas’s regime, with Luis Coronado Lira as a legal adviser and Pinillos as an unofficial representative.23

The network’s members then sought to utilize the momentum from Arbenz’s removal to overthrow Figueres, whom dictatorial regimes denounced as an alleged communist and sympathizer of anti-dictatorial exiles. Just as Somoza had provided land for dissident Guatemalan exiles’ training camps during Operation PBSUCCESS, the Nicaraguan dictator organized bases for dissident Costa Rican exiles. Somoza and Pérez Jiménez lobbied neighboring governments against Figueres and acquired weapons, money, planes, and explosives. Pedro Estrada traveled between the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to coordinate the network’s support, and Castillo Armas sent Juan Pinillos to promise aid from the new Guatemalan regime against Figueres, since the network’s members backed Castillo Armas against Arbenz. In January 1955, the Costa Rican exiles crossed from Nicaragua into Costa Rica. Although U.S. officials profited from the dictators’ support for the coup in Guatemala against Arbenz, those same officials believed that a coup in Costa Rica against Figueres, a democratic leader, undermined U.S. Cold War-oriented policies. U.S. resources, primarily armament and planes, played a crucial role as in Guatemala, but in Costa Rica these capabilities enabled Figueres to turn back the invasion. Although the network’s opposition to Figueres endured, U.S. intervention sapped many dictators’ willingness to aid Somoza in any further expeditions.24

1955–1959: Toward the Cuban Revolution

Minor expeditions and conspiracies throughout the Caribbean Basin continued in the late 1950s, but regional focus increasingly fell upon Cuba. Following his 1953 attack upon the Moncada barracks and subsequent exile, the Cayo Confites participant Fidel Castro traveled the Caribbean Basin to lobby support for his Movimiento 26 de Julio (July 26 Movement) against Batista’s regime. In 1955, Castro networked in Mexico with ex-president Lázaro Cárdenas, Argentine Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and Spanish exile Alberto Bayo while building alliances with important Cuban, Dominican, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan exiles. However, Castro competed for armament and resources against Auténtico exiles. Aureliano Sánchez Arango, Eufemio Fernández, Cotu Henríquez, and various Cuban exiles under Carlos Prío Socarrás continued their alliances with prominent Caribbean Basin exiles, which enabled them to acquire weapons for conspiracies against Batista. Furthermore, Auténticos frequently delivered such resources for their fellow exiles, including Betancourt and Dominican Horacio Ornes, against the region’s dictators. At various points, Castro complained when Auténticos purchased valuable armament for their own conspiracies, as in July 1955, when Fernández diverted arms to Guatemalan exiles.

In late 1956, Castro invaded Cuba during the Granma expedition and began operating in the Sierra Maestra. From 1957 to 1958, Prío Socarrás and other Auténticos agreed to provide important weapons and funds for Castro because of their shared opposition to Batista’s regime. The Auténticos also introduced Castro’s associates to Figueres and Betancourt, who returned to power in Venezuela, and these democratic leaders sent important military and financial assistance to Castro’s movement. Legion veterans, including Marcial Aguiluz, Frank Marshall, and Miguel Ángel Ramírez in Costa Rica and Francisco “El Indio” Sánchez now in Honduras, gave support to Auténticos and Castro, and the combination of Castro’s insurgency and Auténtico conspiracies occupied Cuban officials abroad. Opposed to Castro and the Auténticos, the counter-revolutionary network’s members sent agents, such as Nicaragua’s Camilo González, and provided weapons to Batista. Despite animosity between Batista and Trujillo, Trujillo ultimately offered assistance to Batista because of the links among Castro, the Auténticos, and Dominican exiles.

When Castro took power in 1959, the Caribbean Basin’s conflicts took a transformative turn. That year, Castro and Guevara approved four expeditions of Caribbean Basin exiles to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Panama. On one hand, the expeditions seemed a repetition of the conflicts over the past fifteen years between democratic governments and dictatorial regimes, as the plots sought to overthrow Trujillo and the deceased Somoza’s son Luis, and included experienced anti-dictatorial exiles such as José Horacio Rodríguez and Miguel “Miguelucho” Ángel Feliú Arzeno. On the other hand, Castro’s officials ignored Legion veterans Juancito and Miguel Ángel Ramírez, refused the advice of Figueres and Betancourt, and appointed their allies to organize the expeditions, leading to severe disunity and disastrous failures. Castro further alienated Figueres and Betancourt as his new regime marginalized the democratic leaders’ longtime allies, the Auténticos, and incorporated communists into the Cuban government. When Figueres in March visited Cuba to show support for Castro, Castro’s officials took a microphone away from the democratic leader when Figueres lectured against communism. Even as Trujillo and Luis Somoza aided Batista’s former official José Pedraza to overthrow Castro, Figueres and Betancourt voiced their own opposition to Castro, and some Auténticos began to organize conspiracies against the new Cuban regime. In contrast to the last decade and a half, inter-American conflicts in the Caribbean Basin were now divided among democratic governments, dictatorial regimes, and Castro.

Discussion of the Literature

Only a handful of works consider inter-American conflicts in the Caribbean Basin between 1944 and 1959. Most of the secondary literature examines nation-state developments or U.S. –Latin American relations during these years. By 2015, innovative research on inter-American topics such as the Caribbean Legion or the counter-revolutionary network remained rare, in contrast to works on foreign relations before World War II or after the Cuban Revolution.

So far, researchers have generally employed nation-state methodologies when assessing events with regional consequences in the Caribbean Basin. For example, Leslie Bethell’s and Ian Roxborough’s work on the postwar conjuncture throughout Latin America relies upon various authors’ research on individual nations.25 Owing to the importance of U.S. policy in undermining the Guatemalan Revolution, scholarship has centered on U.S.–Guatemalan relations.26 Although some are beginning to take up links between Guatemala and the other countries, no one has yet examined the Caribbean Basin, leaving the Guatemalan Revolution’s regional consequences overlooked.27 With the exception of the works by Charles Ameringer, scholars have yet to move the Auténticos, the rise and fall of the Trienio Adeco, the 1949 Luperón expedition, and the 1955 invasion into Costa Rica beyond the borders of Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica, respectively.28

Some inter-American topics have garnered more attention and provided promising leads for future research. Dominican and Cuban scholars have taken up the 1947 Cayo Confites expedition, but further work needs to incorporate the Guatemalan, Haitian, and Venezuelan dimensions.29 Similarly, scholars are addressing the Nicaraguan perspectives and contributions during the 1948 Costa Rican civil war, yet Dominican, Guatemalan, and Honduran roles and responses merit their own consideration.30 The counter-revolutionary network also remains a promising subject for scholars.31

Despite their roles in numerous inter-American conflicts, dictatorial regimes and democratic leaders often receive little consideration at the international level, although works do hint at foreign relations and regional connections.32 The Cold War, dictatorial and military regimes, and U.S.–Cuban relations limited the ability of scholars to access materials related to international and transnational subjects, such as dictators’ foreign policies and exiles’ networking. Consequently, the most relevant work derived from studies of U.S. policy toward Latin America.33 With the passing of the Cold War, new sources and methodological tools enabled scholars to examine how Caribbean Basin leaders, including Somoza and Trujillo, frequently challenged or manipulated U.S. officials’ policies.34 Still, the few works that do focus on events between 1944 and 1959 revolve around bilateral relations and the international Cold War.35 Because Trujillo and other dictators utilized U.S. aid, this scholarship, often inadvertently, presents U.S. policy as the predominant factor.36

Gradually, these works have aided inter-American research. In moving beyond U.S. policy toward the region, this scholarship gives greater attention to the goals of local actors, so regional conflicts are now a greater priority. New works on inter-American relations only discuss events before 1944 or following 1959, but these events often lead into or emerge from conflicts from the 1940s and 1950s.37 Most importantly, inter-American scholarship now offers methodological suggestions for examining Caribbean Basin conflicts between 1944 and 1959. In effect, such tools may encourage scholars to emphasize inter-American relations in these years as the best means to bridge regional developments before 1944 and international relations after 1959.38

Primary Sources

Scholars generally begin in U.S. archives. The University of Florida Latin American and Caribbean Collection, the University of Texas at Austin Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, Tulane University’s Latin American Library, and others hold some items, but few speak to inter-American relations in the 1940s and 1950s. After consulting the secondary literature and the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, scholars often start at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. This institution maintains Record Group 84 “Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State” with the reports and correspondence of the U.S. embassies and legations throughout the Caribbean Basin, and Record Group 59 “General Records of the Department of State” includes the Central Decimal Files for each country, the Office of American Republic Affairs and Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and more. These files provide information on U.S. policy toward the Caribbean Basin and the era’s inter-American conflicts. The Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files and some others are available in microfilm. Since the microfilm has not been updated, some scholars will have to consult declassified items at College Park. Additional materials can be found at the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, or Dwight D. Eisenhower presidential libraries in Hyde Park, New York, Independence, Missouri, and Abilene, Kansas, respectively.

Caribbean Basin depositories range from Mexico to Puerto Rico. Though the legacy of dictatorial regimes and the Cold War stifled much research in the past decades, notable archives have begun declassifying files on national security and inter-American conflicts. One should first contact the institution’s staff to express interest, obtain guidance, and receive permission. Websites provide direction with digital links to sources or previews of holdings. Newspaper collections, diplomatic correspondence, and national security files can be supplemented with materials from national libraries, regional archives, and specific depositories, such as the Fundación Rómulo Betancourt or the Fundación de Luis Muñoz Marín.

In Mexico City, the Archivo Histórico Genaro Estrada contains the Mexican government’s diplomatic records, and the Archivo General de la Nación holds the “Ramo de Presidentes” galleries. Researchers in Guatemala consult the Archivo General de Centro América and the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica due to available newspaper and personal collections. In Honduras, one needs permission to enter the Archivo Histórico de Relaciones Exteriores,39 but access to newspapers, students’ publications, and labor activists’ manifestos is easier at the Archivo Nacional de Honduras and the Hemeroteca Nacional Ramón Rosa. The Archivo Nacional de Nicaragua and the Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica in Managua maintain fascinating items on the Somoza governments, the region’s foreign relations, and Nicaraguan exiles who traveled throughout the Caribbean Basin. The Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica in San José remains the primary depository on Costa Rican history and foreign relations during these years. In Panama City, scholars can work at the Archivo Nacional de Panamá, the Archivo del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Panamá, and the Museo, Archivo, Biblioteca Ricardo J. Alfaro. Researchers should begin in the “Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores” collection at the Archivo General de la Nación in Bogotá for Colombia, or in the numerous files at the Archivo Central del Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores in Caracas for Venezuela.

The Archivo General de Puerto Rico at San Juan holds newspapers produced by Caribbean Basin exiles shedding light on the 1940s and 1950s. In Santo Domingo, the Archivo General de la Nación and the Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana maintain documents on the region’s foreign relations owing to the roles of Rafael Trujillo and anti-Trujillo exiles. First, though, one should consult the Dominican historian Bernardo Vega’s collections, online at the Colección Bernardo Vega or in print in the four volumes of Trujillo y Haití, those of Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, and others.40 The Archives Nationales d’Haiti is the primary location for items on Haitian foreign relations. Although U.S. scholars might face difficulties accessing crucial items, paying for an academic visa and soliciting permission through an appropriate institution in Cuba should yield entrance into the Archivo Nacional de Cuba and the Instituto de Historia de Cuba.

Some of the most valuable and accessible sources remain the memoirs and writings of Juan José Arévalo, Rosendo Argüello, Tulio Arvelo, Rómulo Betancourt, José Figueres, Horacio Ornes, Ángel Zúñiga Huete, and others.41 Of these, certain items stand out, such as Juan Bosch’s Póker de espanto en el Caribe, ex-president of the Organization of American States Enrique Corominas’s In the Caribbean Political Areas, and Agustín Blanco Muñoz’s La dictadura: Pedro Estrada habló.42 Arévalo, Alfonso Bauer Paiz, Luis Cardoza y Aragón, José Manuel Fortuny, and Manuel Galich offer useful memoirs on the Guatemalan Revolution, while the Revolution’s opponents Carlos Castillo Armas, Luis Coronado Lira, and Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes repeatedly overlook their own dealings with the region’s dictators.43 Though details remain vague, Trujillo’s officials José Almoina and Arturo Espaillat discuss links among Caribbean Basin dictatorships.44

Testimonies on Costa Rica and Nicaragua include Guillermo Villegas Hoffmeister’s three-volume Testimonios del 48 and La guerra de Figueres, as well as those from Alberto Cañas, Abelardo Cuadra, and numerous others.45 Discussions on the 1959 expeditions into Haiti, Nicaragua, and Panama remain rare, but works on the Dominican expeditions abound, such as Delio Gómez Ochoa’s Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo.46 As with any memoir, details and truth can be difficult to verify. For example, Caribbean Legion associate Alberto Bayo’s Tempestad en el Caribe omits his serving as an agent for Trujillo.47

Colección Bernardo Vega. Supported primarily by the Archivo General de la Nación, the Fundación Cultural Dominicana, and the Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo, the Colección Bernardo Vega is a digital archive of the research of the noted Dominican historian Bernardo Vega. For years, Vega investigated collections in the Dominican Republic, the United States, and England. Scholars can peruse this diverse compilation that includes items on U.S.–Dominican relations, British views of the Caribbean, and reports from Rafael Trujillo’s officials. References to Dominican–Cuban and Dominican–Venezuelan conflicts and the regional support given to anti-Trujillo exiles are ample.

El Espíritu del 48. Spanning events in Costa Rica from the mid-1940s into the mid-1950s, El Espíritu del 48 contains materials and readings on the 1948 Costa Rican civil war and the 1955 invasion. Documents, images, testimonies, maps, and bibliographies of important Costa Rican-produced works introduce scholars to these conflicts. However, the site and its materials center on events within Costa Rica, with only brief references to the inter-American dimensions and crucial roles of regional actors, such as the Caribbean Legion, Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, and Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.

Latin American Studies. Designed by Latino studies professor Antonio Rafael de la Cova, Latin American Studies serves as a useful compilation of links to essays, periodicals, reports, and primary sources on Latin American history. Although inter-American relations are not an important focus of the site, “U.S.-Cuba Relations” contains scanned images from some Foreign Relations of the United States publications and the microfilm of Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files. Within these, one can glimpse into Cuban–Dominican and Cuban–Venezuelan relations and the activities of Auténtico exiles and sympathizers of Fidel Castro in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Mexico in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana. Affiliated alongside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in the International Committee of Memorial Museums in Remembrance of the Victims of Public Crimes, the Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana maintains a building in Santo Domingo and this website dedicated to recording the crimes perpetuated against the Dominican people by public officials such as Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. Currently maintained by descendants of anti-Trujillo activists, the website includes summaries, documents, and testimonies with references to the regional and inter-American nature of anti-Trujillo expeditions in the 1940s and 1950s. Summaries on the 1947 Cayo Confites expedition, the 1949 Luperón expedition, and the 14 June 1959 Constanza, Maimón, and Estero Hondo expeditions note the important role of Guatemalan president Juan José Arévalo, Fidel Castro, and more.

Further Reading

Ameringer, Charles D. The Democratic Left in Exile: The Antidictatorial Struggle in the Caribbean, 1945–1959. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1974.Find this resource:

    Ameringer, Charles D. The Caribbean Legion: Patriots, Politicians, Soldiers of Fortune, 1946–1950. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

      Bethell, Leslie, and Ian Roxborough, eds. Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War, 1944–1948. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

        Coatsworth, John. The United States and Central America: The Clients and the Colossus. Woodbridge, CT: Twayne, 1994.Find this resource:

          Derby, Lauren. The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

            Friedman, Max Paul. “Retiring the Puppets, Bringing Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations.” Diplomatic History 27.5 (2003): 621–636.Find this resource:

              Gleijeses, Piero. Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944–1954. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.Find this resource:

                Leonard, Thomas M. The United States and Central America, 1944–1949: Perceptions of Political Dynamics. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1984.Find this resource:

                  Lewis, Paul H. Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America: Dictators, Despots, and Tyrants. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.Find this resource:

                    Longley, Kyle. The Sparrow and the Hawk: Costa Rica and the United States during the Rise of José Figueres. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                      Moulton, Aaron Coy. “Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard: The Transnational, International Conflicts in the Greater Caribbean Basin, 1944–1954.” Cold War History 15.2 (2015): 135–154.Find this resource:

                        Olander, Marcia. “Costa Rica in 1948: Cold War or Local War?” The Americas 52.4 (1996): 465–493.Find this resource:

                          Paterson, Thomas G. Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

                            Rabe, Stephen G. The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

                              Walter, Knut. The Regime of Anastasio Somoza. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.Find this resource:


                                (1.) On Latin America and World War II, see Thomas M. Leonard and John F. Bratzel, eds., Latin America during World War II (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). On the impact of Allies’ propaganda in Latin America, see Monica Rankin, ¡México, la patria! Propaganda and Production during World War II (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009); Darlene J. Sadlier, Americans All: Good Neighbor Cultural Diplomacy in World War II (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012).

                                (2.) On the postwar conjunction in Latin America, see the edited compilation and essays of Leslie Bethell and Ian Roxborough, eds., Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War, 1944–1948 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Leslie Bethell and Ian Roxborough, “Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War: Some Reflections on the 1945–8 Conjuncture,” Journal of Latin American Studies 20.1 (1988): 167–189.

                                (3.) Partido Revolucionario Dominicano, La Historia del hombre que se proclamó igual a Dios (Mexico City: n.p., 1943).

                                (4.) Comité Colombiano Universitario Pro-Democracia en la República Dominicana, “Feroz criminalidad Hitleriana,” La Liberación (Bogotá), January 4, 1946.

                                (5.) Asociación de Estudiantes Hispanoamericanos en México, En lucha contra Trujillo (Mexico City: n.p., 1945); Federación Estudiantil Universitaria, Los universitarios de Santo Domingo frente a la Dictadura Trujillista (Mexico City: n.p., 1945).

                                (6.) Manuel Cordero Reyes, Nicaragua bajo el régimen de Somoza: A los gobiernos y pueblos de América (San Salvador: Imprenta Funes, 1944); Gustavo Alemán Bolaños, Un Lombrosiano Somoza, 1939–1944 (Guatemala: Editorial Hispania, 1945).

                                (7.) See Comité Liberal Demócrata de Honduras en México, Homenaje a las víctimas de San Pedro Sula (Mexico City: n.p., 1945).

                                (8.) Juan José Arévalo, discurso público, 15 agosto 1945.

                                (9.) On the Cuban Auténticos, see Charles Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience: The Auténtico Years, 1944–1952 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000).

                                (10.) Unión Democrática Antinazista Dominicana, América contra Trujillo (Havana: n.p., 1944).

                                (11.) “El Senado contra los dictadores centroamericanos,” Ultimas Noticias (Caracas), July 8.

                                (12.) On Trujillo’s opposition to Betancourt and the AD government, see Bernardo Vega, Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo: Año 1946, 2 vols. (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1982).

                                (13.) On Cayo Confites, see José Diego Grullón, Cayo Confites: La revolución traicionada (Santo Domingo: Editora Alfa y Omega, 1989); Charles D. Ameringer, The Caribbean Legion: Patriots, Politicians, Soldiers of Fortune, 1946–1950 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996); Humberto Vázquez García, La expedición de Cayo Confites, 2d ed. (Santo Domingo: Archivo General de la Nación, 2014).

                                (14.) The only work on the links among dictatorial regimes and dissident exiles in the Caribbean Basin in the late 1940s and early 1950s is Aaron Coy Moulton, “Building Their Own Cold War in Their Own Backyard: The Transnational, International Conflicts in the Greater Caribbean Basin, 1944–1954,” Cold War History 15.2 (2015): 135–154.

                                (15.) See Leonardo Altuve Carrillo, Yo fui Embajador de Pérez Jiménez (Caracas: Ortiz e Hijos, 1973).

                                (16.) The most succinct discussion of these links is Ameringer, The Caribbean Legion.

                                (17.) The 1948 election remains a contentious issue, and scholars continue investigating the votes and the process leading to the nullification. See Iván Molina Jiménez, “El resultado de las elecciones de 1948 en Costa Rica: Una revisión a la luz de nuevos datos,” Revista de Historia de América 130 (2002): 57–96.

                                (18.) On Figueres and anti-dictatorial exiles in the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War, see Ameringer, The Caribbean Legion; Kyle Longley, The Sparrow and the Hawk: Costa Rica and the United States during the Rise of José Figueres (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997).

                                (19.) On Calderón Guardia, Picado, and the dictators in the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War, see Marcia Olander, “Costa Rica in 1948: Cold War or Local War?,” The Americas 52.4 (1996): 465–493; Moulton, “Building Their Own Cold War.”

                                (20.) On Luperón, see Ameringer, The Caribbean Legion.

                                (21.) On Operation PBFORTUNE, see Nick Cullather, Secret History: The CIA’s Classified Account of Its Operations in Guatemala, 1952–1954 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

                                (22.) On the attack upon Somoza, see Knut Walter, The Regime of Anastasio Somoza (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 231–233.

                                (23.) On Operation PBSUCCESS, see Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States, 1944–1954 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991); Cullather, Secret History.

                                (24.) On the 1955 Nicaraguan invasion into Costa Rica, see Longley, The Sparrow and the Hawk, 139–149.

                                (25.) Bethell and Roxborough, Latin America between the Second World War and the Cold War.

                                (26.) Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, available in Spanish as Piero Gleijeses,La esperanza rota: La revolución Guatemalteca y los Estados Unidos, 1944–1954 (Guatemala City: Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala, 2006); Cullather, Secret History, available in Spanish as Nick Cullather, PBSUCCESS: La operación encubierta de la CIA en Guatemala, 1952–1954 (Guatemala City: Avancso, 2002).

                                (27.) Sharon Meers, “The British Connection: How the United States Covered Its Tracks in the 1954 Coup in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History 16.3 (1992): 409–428; Mark T. Hove, “The Arbenz Factor: Salvador Allende, U.S.–Chilean Relations, and the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History 31.4 (2007): 623–663; Roberto García Ferreira, “‘El caso de Guatemala’: Arévalo, Arbenz y la izquierda uruguaya, 1950–1971,” Mesoamérica 49 (2007): 25–58; Max Paul Friedman, “Fracas in Caracas: Latin American Diplomatic Resistance to United States Intervention in Guatemala in 1954,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 21.4 (2010): 669–689; Michelle Reeves, “Extracting the Eagle’s Talons: The Soviet Union in Cold War Latin America,” PhD dissertation, University of Texas, 2014.

                                (28.) Charles D. Ameringer, The Democratic Left in Exile: The Antidictatorial Struggle in the Caribbean, 1945–1959 (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1974); Ameringer, The Caribbean Legion; Ameringer, The Cuban Democratic Experience.

                                (29.) Grullón, Cayo Confites; Vázquez García, La expedición de Cayo Confites.

                                (30.) Marcia K. Olander, “Central American Foreign Polices and the Costa Rican Civil War of 1948: Picado, Somoza and the Desperate Alliance,” PhD dissertation, University of Kansas, 1999; Carlos Enrique Alemán, “Nicas belicosos: Nicaragüenses en la Guerra Civil de Costa Rica, 1948,” Anuario de Estudios Centroamericanos 39 (2013): 111–141.

                                (31.) Moulton, “Building Their Own Cold War.”

                                (32.) Walter, The Regime of Anastasio Somoza; Darío A. Euraque, Reinterpreting the Banana Republic: Region & State in Honduras, 1870–1972 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Lauren Derby, The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).

                                (33.) Mark T. Gilderhus, “An Emerging Synthesis? U.S.-Latin American Relations Since the Second World War,” Diplomatic History 16.3 (1992): 429–452.

                                (34.) Paul Coe Clark Jr., The United States and Somoza, 1933–1956: A Revisionist Look (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992); Eric Paul Roorda, The Dictator Next Door: The Good Neighbor Policy and the Trujillo Regime in the Dominican Republic, 1930–1945 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998); Max Paul Friedman, Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Max Paul Friedman, “Retiring the Puppets, Bringing Latin America Back In: Recent Scholarship on United States-Latin American Relations,” Diplomatic History 27.5 (2003): 621–636.

                                (35.) Longley, The Sparrow and the Hawk; José Gilberto Quintero Torres, Venezuela-U.S.A.: Estrategia y seguridad en lo regional y en lo bilateral, 1952–1958 (Caracas: Fondo Editorial Nacional, 2000); Bradley Lynn Coleman, Colombia and the United States: The Making of an Inter-American Alliance, 1939–1960 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2008).

                                (36.) Jorge Renato Ibarra Guitart, Las relaciones cubano-dominicanas: Su escenario hemisférico, 1944–1948 (Santo Domingo: Archivo General de la Nación, 2011); Eliades Acosta Matos, La telaraña cubana de Trujillo, 2 vols. (Santo Domingo: Archivo General de la Nación, 2012).

                                (37.) Jurgen Buchenau, In the Shadow of the Giant: The Making of Mexico’s Central America Policy, 1876–1930 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996); Ariel Armony, Argentina, the United States, and the Anti-Communist Crusade in Central America, 1977–1984 (Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1997); Friedrich E. Schuler, Mexico Between Hitler and Roosevelt: Mexican Foreign Relations in the Age of Lázaro Cárdenas, 1934–1940 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999); Daniela Spenser, The Impossible Triangle: Mexico, Soviet Russia, and the United States in the 1920s (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999); Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959–1976 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); J. Patrice McSherry, Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); Amelia M. Kiddle, “Facing South: Mexico’s Relations with Latin America during the Cárdenas Era and the Creation of Mexican National Identity,” PhD dissertation, University of Arizona, 2010.

                                (38.) Gilbert M. Joseph, “What We Now Know and Should Know: Bringing Latin America More Meaningfully into Cold War Studies,” in In from the Cold: Latin America’s New Encounter with the Cold War, edited by Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniela Spenser (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 3–46; Greg Grandin, “Living in Revolutionary Time: Coming to Terms with the Violence of Latin America’s Long Cold War,” in A Century of Revolution: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Violence during Latin America’s Long Cold War, edited by Greg Grandin and Gilbert M. Joseph (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 1–42; Hal Brands, Latin America’s Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Tanya Harmer, Allende’s Chile & the Inter-American Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Andrew J. Kirkendall, “Cold War Latin America: The State of the Field,” H-Diplo Essay no. 119 (2014): 1–17.

                                (39.) The address for the website for the Archivo Histórico de Relaciones Exteriores has an accent over the first “a” in “Diplomática” when entered into the browser,ática/academia%20diplomaticadescrpcion.html.

                                (40.) Bernardo Vega, Trujillo y Haití, 4 vols. (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1988–2009); Bernardo Vega, Los Estados Unidos y Trujillo, 5 vols. (Santo Domingo: Fundación Cultural Dominicana, 1982–1987).

                                (41.) Juan José Arévalo, Anti-Kommunism in Latin America, translated by Carleton Beals (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1964); Rosendo Argüello, hijo, By Whom We Were Betrayed … And How; Tulio H. Arvelo, Cayo Confite y Luperón: Memorias de un expedicionario (Santo Domingo: Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, 1981); Rómulo Betancourt, El caso de Venezuela y el destino de la democracia en América (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1949); Donald R. McCoy and Richard D. McKinzie, “Oral History Interview with José Figueres Ferrer,” San José, July 8, 1970, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum; Horacio Ornes, Desembarco en Luperón (Mexico City: Ediciones Humanismo, 1956); Ángel Zúñiga Huete, Carta abierta al doctor don Juan José Arévalo (Mexico City: Impresores Unidos, 1945).

                                (42.) Juan Bosch, Póker de espanto en el Caribe (Santo Domingo: Editora Alfa & Omega, 1988); Enrique Corominas, In the Caribbean Political Areas (Cambridge, MA: University Press of Cambridge, 1954); Agustín Blanco Muñoz, La dictadura: Pedro Estrada habló (Caracas: Editorial José Martí, 1983).

                                (43.) Juan José Arévalo, Guatemala: La democracia y el imperio (Buenos Aires: Editorial Palestra, 1955); Alfonso Bauer Paiz and Ivan Carpio Alfaro, Memorias de Alfonso Bauer Paiz: Historia no oficial de Guatemala (Guatemala: Rusticatio Ediciones, 1996); Luis Cardoza y Aragón, La Revolución Guatemalteca (Mexico City: Cuadernos Americanos, 1955); José Manuel Fortuny, Memorias de José Manuel Fortuny (Guatemala City: Editorial Óscar de León Palacios, 2002); Manuel Galich, Del pánico al ataque (Guatemala City: Departamento de Publicidad de la Presidencia de la República, 1949); Luis Coronado Lira, Totalitarismo espiritualista: Tres panoramas y un caso de nacionalidad (Alajuela, Costa Rica: n.p., 1946); Miguel Ydígoras Fuentes, My War with Communism, translated by Mario Rosenthal (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963).

                                (44.) José Almoina, Yo fuí secretario de Trujillo (Buenos Aires: Editora y Distribuidora del Plata, 1950); Arturo R. Espaillat, Trujillo: The Last Caesar (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1963).

                                (45.) Guillermo Villegas Hoffmeister, Testimonios del 48, 3 vols. (San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 1990–2004); Guillermo Villegas Hoffmeister, La guerra de Figueres: Crónica de ocho años (San José: Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1998); Alberto Cañas, Los ocho años (San José: Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1982); Abelardo Cuadra y Sergio Ramírez, Hombre del Caribe (Centroamérica: EDUCA, 1977).

                                (46.) Delio Gómez Ochoa, Constanza, Maimón y Estero Hondo: La victoria de los caídos (Santo Domingo: Academia Dominicana de la Historia, 2010).

                                (47.) Alberto Bayo, Tempestad en el Caribe (Mexico City: n.p., 1950).