Communism — as well as anarchism, socialism, and other variants of the left—has had a long tradition in South America, closely connected with the rise of trade unions. The traditional left in Chile, dominated by the Partido Comunista (PC, Communist Party) and Partido Socialista (PS, Socialist Party), was successful politically. In 1970 the PC and PS, as part of the Unidad Popular (UP, Popular Unity) coalition, helped elect Salvador Allende Gossens to the presidency. In Uruguay leftist parties long dominated union elections but regularly lost to the mainstream Colorados (Reds) and Blancos (Whites) in national elections. Not until 1971, with the rise of the Marxist-led coalition Frente Amplio (FA, Broad Front), did leftists gain a significant percentage of the national vote. In Argentina, the movement of President Juan Perón—intended to be a middle way between communism and capitalism—attracted followers from both the right and the left and became deeply polarized.
   In Bolivia, communists in 1951 threw their support behind the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR, Movement for National Revolution), a reformist party that also developed a rift between its left and right wings before turning conservative in the early 1960s. Ironically, the left came to power in Bolivia in 1970 through left-leaning generals, especially Juan José Torres González. In Brazil, the left-leaning João Goulart became the de facto president after his predecessor suddenly resigned. Looking for support, he found the left divided between the long-persecuted and politically cautious Partido Comunista Brasileiro (PCB, Brazilian Communist Party) and its militant offshoot, the Partido Comunista do Brasil (PC do B, Communist Party of Brazil). In Paraguay, the Partido Comunista Paraguayo (PCP, Paraguayan Communist Party) was small and, more often than not until 1989, illegal.
   The left in Latin America was strongly influenced by the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which inspired rural and urban guerrilla warfare across the region. Sometimes dismissed by senior party members as amateurism or adventurism, guerrilla movements attracted young people who rejected party bureaucracy for the chance to effect radical change. When “dirty war” regimes came to power, guerrillas became prime targets for repression, along with trade unionists.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.


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