Military rule was ingrained in Latin America from the establishment of the viceroyalties of New Spain and Brazil (the preceding Aztec, Maya and Inca were hardly pacific cultures). The prevailing land use model – vast haciendas, supported by encomienda forced labour or the mass import of slaves – spawned oligarchic or dictatorial governments in the wake of liberation. In some countries, for example Bolivia and Ecuador, the constitutions specifically allowed for military intervention in the event of (perceived) civilian misgovernment. When democracy produced financially incontinent populist governments (e.g. Peron in 1950s Argentina), there was plentiful scope for such ‘national interest’ coups. The Cold War heightened this inherent instability. The US tended to support right wing dictatorships or military rule, while the Soviet Union and Cuba supported grassroots socialism (e.g. Somosas versus Sandinistas in Nicaragua; Pinochet versus Allende in Chile). Rarely, the divisive tendencies were fused, as in the ‘military socialism’ of Bolivia (1935–52).
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