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The Cold War in Developing Countries Previous Next
Digital History ID 3408


In Europe, there was less violence in the half century following World War II then in almost any previous period of modern European history. Yet outside of Europe and North America, violent conflict became commonplace. In the decades following World War II, many underdeveloped countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were wracked by civil war, guerrilla movements, and other social conflicts.

Some of these conflicts were traditional wars pitting one nation against another in struggles for territory, natural resources, or national honor; however, most of these were conflicts within societies. At first, many of these conflicts were struggles to achieve independence from colonial rule. In succeeding years, however, new conflicts pitted various ethnic, economic, and political groups against one another.

Since World War II, American foreign policy makers seriously questioned how to respond to social conflicts within developing societies. In many instances, the United States viewed revolutionary efforts to redistribute land or to overthrow corrupt, repressive governments as part of Soviet attempt to expand communism throughout the world.


In 1954, a CIA-backed coup overthrew the elected government of Guatemala, which had nationalized property owned by the United Fruit Company. President Eisenhower's Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, accused the Guatemalan president of installing "a communist-type reign of terror" and plotting to spread communism throughout the region. As proof that Guatemala had ties to the Soviet Union, CIA operatives planted Soviet weapons in Guatemala, and CIA pilots bombed airfields in Honduras.

The Guatemalan president had allowed Communists to participate in his government and had instituted a land reform program that had expropriated land owned by the Boston-owned United Fruit Company. The company owned Guatemala's telephone and telegraph system, its railroad lines, its harbor, and monopolized the banana business.

To undermine the government's support, the CIA bribed military officers to turn on their commanders and to broadcast combat sounds from the U.S. embassy roof. Finally, it sent American pilots to bomb Guatemalan buildings.

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