From Development to Dictatorship

From Development to Dictatorship: Bolivia and the Alliance for Progress in the Kennedy Era

Thomas C. Field
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    From Development to Dictatorship
    Book Description:

    During the most idealistic years of John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress development program, Bolivia was the highest per capita recipient of U.S. foreign aid in Latin America. Nonetheless, Washington's modernization programs in early 1960s' Bolivia ended up on a collision course with important sectors of the country's civil society, including radical workers, rebellious students, and a plethora of rightwing and leftwing political parties. In From Development to Dictatorship, Thomas C. Field Jr. reconstructs the untold story of USAID's first years in Bolivia, including the country's 1964 military coup d'état.

    Field draws heavily on local sources to demonstrate that Bolivia's turn toward anticommunist, development-oriented dictatorship was the logical and practical culmination of the military-led modernization paradigm that provided the liberal underpinnings of Kennedy's Alliance for Progress. In the process, he explores several underappreciated aspects of Cold War liberal internationalism: the tendency of "development" to encourage authoritarian solutions to political unrest, the connection between modernization theories and the rise of Third World armed forces, and the intimacy between USAID and CIA covert operations. Challenging the conventional dichotomy between ideology and strategy in international politics, From Development to Dictatorship engages with a growing literature on development as a key rubric for understanding the interconnected processes of decolonization and the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7045-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  5. Map of South America, Early 1960s
    (pp. xx-xx)
  6. Map of Bolivia, Early 1960s
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  7. Introduction: Ideology as Strategy
    (pp. 1-9)

    On 1 May 2013, Bolivian president Evo Morales announced that his government was expelling the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The times have passed,” Morales declared, when the United States could use “charity” as a fig leaf for “manipulation . . . domination . . . [and] subjugation.”¹ USAID rejected these “baseless accusations,” lamenting an abrupt end to Washington’s seventy-year effort to “promote human, economic, social, and cultural development” in Bolivia.² Such passionate rejections of development are rare, but this is hardly the first time the United States has been accused of intervening in Bolivia under the cover...

  8. Chapter 1 Modernization’s Heavy Hand: The Triangular Plan for Bolivia
    (pp. 10-38)

    If ideologies of development are intellectual tools capable of being wielded by states for political ends, their strategic nature should be evident from the very inception of any development-oriented intervention. Indeed, the communist threat was midwife to the extensive foreign aid program launched by the Kennedy administration in Bolivia in early 1961.¹ President Víctor Paz’s pesky nationalism, and his continuing toleration of domestic communism, motivated US policymakers to redouble their efforts to shore up his government and direct its process of development. Bolivia had already implemented thoroughgoing redistributive reforms, and according to Kennedy officials, the country’s experience within the Alliance...

  9. Chapter 2 Development as Anticommunism: The Targeting of Bolivian Labor
    (pp. 39-66)

    Before the ink could dry on Bolivia’s Alliance for Progress agreement, internal tensions began to emerge in Washington and La Paz. US conservatives, viewing the Paz regime as repressive and socialist, were the first to question the wisdom of large-scale assistance to the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR; Revolutionary Nationalist Movement). Meanwhile, Paz’s domestic opposition on the right and left fiercely resisted his authoritarian mea sures, creating an environment of perennial political crisis. From the mines to the cities, supposed beneficiaries of US aid rejected the harsh Alliance for Progress conditions and the Paz government’s accompanying repression. The Kennedy administration had...

  10. Chapter 3 “Bitter Medicine”: Military Civic Action and the Battle of Irupata
    (pp. 67-97)

    As crises continued to threaten Bolivia’s political orientation in the early 1960s, US liberals sought to reassure President Paz and deepen their commitment to his repressive, modernizing regime. Communism in Bolivia, both domestic and international, drove an increasingly heavy-handed policy of thoroughgoing intervention in Bolivia’s internal affairs, elegantly articulated through a development discourse. While Cuban-sponsored guerrilla activity unnerved Washington, US policymakers were more immediately concerned by the possibility of a political takeover by the semiautonomous Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR; Revolutionary Nationalist Movement) Left Sector, headed by Vice President and miners’ federation leader Juan Lechín. To face down this threat, US...

  11. Chapter 4 Development’s Detractors: Miners, Housewives, and the Hostage Crisis at Siglo XX
    (pp. 98-130)

    Central to the Alliance for Progress in Bolivia was the idea that order and authority were necessary ingredients for economic and social development. Throughout the program’s implementation, political crises strengthened US liberal resolve to redouble efforts in support of President Paz’s modernizing regime. Indian and miner blood was shed at Irupata in the name of rapid modernization, and Kennedy officials consistently viewed these types of clashes as showdowns between ordered progress and chaotic backwardness. The latter paved the way for communism, the developmentalists argued, and they provided neat, theoretical formulas within Washington’s larger strategic milieu. Meanwhile, Bolivian popular forces continued...

  12. Chapter 5 Seeds of Revolt: The Making of an Antiauthoritarian Front
    (pp. 131-158)

    With strong backing from Washington, President Víctor Paz set about to drag Bolivia toward his vision of modernity. His authoritarian approach to development was fueling the rapid militarization of the Bolivian countryside, and armed force had been unleashed against recalcitrant miners. Depicted by modernizers in La Paz and Washington as obstacles to economic progress, leftists shed the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR; Revolutionary Nationalist Movement) in droves, and the revolutionary party atrophied into a hollow redoubt of development technocrats and military officers. As Paz Estenssoro began his constitutionally dubious third term,¹ left-wing miners and right-wing guerrillas agitated to bring him down....

  13. Chapter 6 Revolutionary Bolivia Puts On a Uniform: The 1964 Bolivian Coup d’État
    (pp. 159-188)

    With unwavering backing from the liberal Alliance for Progress, President Víctor Paz proceeded to create a development-oriented authoritarian state, dedicated to the transformation of Bolivia into his vision of a modern nation. Left-wing and right-wing conspiracies against his government abounded in mid-1964, but the beleaguered reformer survived thanks in large part to the Johnson administration’s fierce resistance to a military coup. Relentless US pressure for the Paz regime to break diplomatic relations with Cuba, however, would pull the rug out from under Paz’s Machiavellian modus vivendi with domestic communism. As more factions on the Bolivian Left began warming the anti-Paz...

  14. Conclusion: Development and Its Discontents
    (pp. 189-196)

    Was the 1964 coup a revolution or a counterrevolution? As Ambassador Henderson put it, “In Bolivia, they don’t come down so neat.”¹ The immediate result of the military takeover was a popular insurrection. Armed students and workers stormed the national penitentiary and Control Político offices, freeing hundreds of right-wing and left-wing political prisoners in barrages of gunfire. At least half a dozen Control Político prisoners were killed by Paz’s agents, who were determined to go down in a blaze.² Siglo XX union leaders Escóbar and Pimentel saw the light of day for the first time in almost a year, and...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-242)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-262)
  17. Index
    (pp. 263-272)