The FBI in Latin America: The Ecuador Files

Duke University Press
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During the Second World War, the FDR administration placed the FBI in charge of political surveillance in Latin America. Through a program called the Special Intelligence Service (SIS), 700 agents were assigned to combat Nazi influence in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. The SIS’s mission, however, extended beyond countries with significant German populations or Nazi spy rings. As evidence of the SIS’s overreach, forty-five agents were dispatched to Ecuador, a country without any German espionage networks. Furthermore, by 1943, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover shifted the SIS’s focus from Nazism to communism. Marc Becker interrogates a trove of FBI documents from its Ecuador mission to uncover the history and purpose of the SIS’s intervention in Latin America and for the light they shed on leftist organizing efforts in Latin America. Ultimately, the FBI’s activities reveal the sustained nature of US imperial ambitions in the Americas.
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About the author

Marc Becker is Professor of History at Truman State University and the author of Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements, also published by Duke University Press, Twentieth-Century Latin American Revolutions, and Pachakutik: Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in Ecuador.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Aug 4, 2017
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9780822372783
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / South America
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In June 1990, Indigenous peoples shocked Ecuadorian elites with a powerful uprising that paralyzed the country for a week. Militants insisted that the government address Indigenous demands for land ownership, education, and economic development. This uprising was a milestone in the history of Ecuador’s social justice movements, and it inspired popular organizing efforts across Latin America. While the insurrection seemed to come out of nowhere, Marc Becker demonstrates that it emerged out of years of organizing and developing strategies to advance Indigenous rights. In this richly documented account, he chronicles a long history of Indigenous political activism in Ecuador, from the creation of the first local agricultural syndicates in the 1920s through the galvanizing protests of 1990. In so doing, he reveals the central role of women in Indigenous movements and the history of productive collaborations between rural Indigenous activists and urban leftist intellectuals.

Becker explains how rural laborers and urban activists worked together in Ecuador, merging ethnic and class-based struggles for social justice. Socialists were often the first to defend Indigenous languages, cultures, and social organizations. They introduced rural activists to new tactics, including demonstrations and strikes. Drawing on leftist influences, Indigenous peoples became adept at reacting to immediate, local forms of exploitation while at the same time addressing broader underlying structural inequities. Through an examination of strike activity in the 1930s, the establishment of a national-level Ecuadorian Federation of Indians in 1944, and agitation for agrarian reform in the 1960s, Becker shows that the history of Indigenous mobilizations in Ecuador is longer and deeper than many contemporary observers have recognized.

The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.

In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
In June 1990, Indigenous peoples shocked Ecuadorian elites with a powerful uprising that paralyzed the country for a week. Militants insisted that the government address Indigenous demands for land ownership, education, and economic development. This uprising was a milestone in the history of Ecuador’s social justice movements, and it inspired popular organizing efforts across Latin America. While the insurrection seemed to come out of nowhere, Marc Becker demonstrates that it emerged out of years of organizing and developing strategies to advance Indigenous rights. In this richly documented account, he chronicles a long history of Indigenous political activism in Ecuador, from the creation of the first local agricultural syndicates in the 1920s through the galvanizing protests of 1990. In so doing, he reveals the central role of women in Indigenous movements and the history of productive collaborations between rural Indigenous activists and urban leftist intellectuals.

Becker explains how rural laborers and urban activists worked together in Ecuador, merging ethnic and class-based struggles for social justice. Socialists were often the first to defend Indigenous languages, cultures, and social organizations. They introduced rural activists to new tactics, including demonstrations and strikes. Drawing on leftist influences, Indigenous peoples became adept at reacting to immediate, local forms of exploitation while at the same time addressing broader underlying structural inequities. Through an examination of strike activity in the 1930s, the establishment of a national-level Ecuadorian Federation of Indians in 1944, and agitation for agrarian reform in the 1960s, Becker shows that the history of Indigenous mobilizations in Ecuador is longer and deeper than many contemporary observers have recognized.

This groundbreaking text explores the dramatic evolution in Latin American social movements over the past fifteen years. Leading scholars examine a variety of cases that highlight significant shifts in the region. First is the breakdown of the Washington Consensus and the global economic crisis since 2008, accompanied by the rise of new paradigms such as buen vivir (living well). Second are transformations in internal movement dynamics and strategies, especially the growth of horizontalism (horizontalidad), which emphasizes non-hierarchical relations within society rather than directly tackling state power. Third are new dynamics of resistance and repression as movements interact with the “pink tide” rise of left-of-center governments in the region. Exploring outcomes and future directions, the contributors consider the variations between movements arising from immediate circumstances (such as Oaxaca’s 2006 uprising and Brazil’s 2013 bus fare protests) and longer-lasting movements (Vía Campesina, Brazil’s MST, and Mexico’s Zapatistas). Assessing both the continuities in social movement dynamics and important new tendencies, this book will be essential reading for all students of Latin American politics and society.

Contributions by: Marc Becker, George Ciccariello-Maher, Kwame Dixon, Fran Espinoza, Daniela Issa, Nathalie Lebon, Maurice Rafael Magaña, María Elena Martinez-Torres, Sara C. Motta, Leonidas Oikonomakis, Suyapa Portillo Villeda, Peter M. Rosset, Marina Sitrin, Rose J. Spalding, Richard Stahler-Sholk, Alicia Swords, Harry E. Vanden, and Raúl Zibechi
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