Latin America today is seen by many as the crown jewel of the U.S. effort to spread freedom throughout the world. During the Cold War, the argument goes, the United States defeated Latin American communism, paving the way for the region's embrace of capitalist democracy and making Latin America the model to be emulated around the globe. The Last Colonial Massacre mounts a powerful challenge to this view.
Through unprecedented archival research and gripping personal testimonies, Greg Grandin uncovers a hidden history of the Latin American Cold War: of hidebound reactionaries holding on to their power and privilege; of Mayan Marxists blending indigenous notions of justice with universal ideas of equality; and of a United States supporting new styles of state terror throughout the continent. Drawing from declassified U.S. documents, Grandin exposes Washington's involvement in the 1966 secret execution of over thirty Guatemalan leftists, prefiguring later disappearances in Chile and Argentina.
With Guatemala as his case study, Grandin also argues that the Latin American Cold War was a struggle not between political liberalism and Soviet communism but two visions of democracy—one vibrant and egalitarian, the other tepid and unequal. And ultimately the conflict's main effect was to eliminate home-grown notions of social democracy. Grandin provocatively concludes that the definition of democracy now being extolled as the best weapon in the war against terror is itself a product of terror.
"This work admirably explains the process in which hopes of democracy were brutally repressed in Guatemala and its people experienced a civil war lasting for half a century."