The FBI in Latin America

The Ecuador Files

The FBI in Latin America

Radical Perspectives

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An audio version of this book is available from Abantu Audio.
Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 13 illustrations Published: September 2017

Author: Marc Becker

History > Latin American History, U.S. History, Latin American Studies > Andes

During the Second World War, the FDR administration placed the FBI in charge of political surveillance in Latin America. Through a program called the Special Intelligence Service (SIS), 700 agents were assigned to combat Nazi influence in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. The SIS’s mission, however, extended beyond countries with significant German populations or Nazi spy rings. As evidence of the SIS’s overreach, forty-five agents were dispatched to Ecuador, a country without any German espionage networks. Furthermore, by 1943, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover shifted the SIS’s focus from Nazism to communism. Marc Becker interrogates a trove of FBI documents from its Ecuador mission to uncover the history and purpose of the SIS’s intervention in Latin America and for the light they shed on leftist organizing efforts in Latin America. Ultimately, the FBI’s activities reveal the sustained nature of US imperial ambitions in the Americas.


"Becker’s fine study fills a void in the historical record of US-Latin American relations. . . . Highly recommended." — A. J. Dunar, Choice

“Mark Becker’s book considerably advances our knowledge of FBI activities in Latin America, a subject crying out for more systematic research.” — Philip Chrimes, International Affairs

"Becker has done extensive research for this book, and his close examination and analysis of the documentary record left behind by FBI, CIA and State Department surveillance of Ecuador are both apparent and appreciated. . . . This is an interesting, well-researched text." — Courteney J. O'Connor, LSE Review of Books

"An exciting and ambitious effort. Students of Ecuador (and Latin America, more broadly) and US foreign policy, as well as policing and intelligence, will learn a great deal from this book." — Stuart Schrader, Radical Americas

"Sourcing is excellent...this book stands as an excellent example of how historians can mine FBI files for information beyond the bureau." — Douglas M. Charles, Journal of American History

"Highly original and well-researched account . . .   An interesting and detailed history of the mid-century Ecuadorian left." — Max Paul Friedman, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"This book stands as an excellent example of how historians can mine FBI files for information beyond the bureau." — Douglas M. Charles, Journal of American History

"A model for the innovative use of primary sources to explore multiple perspectives in history. . . . Becker deftly balances background information with detail and analysis, making the work useful and readable for scholars from many different fields. . . . Essential reading for scholars interested in twentieth-century Ecuadorian history, the history of the Latin American left, or the history of US surveillance in Latin America." — Erin E. O'Connor, The Americas

"A valuable addition to the historical literature on US–Latin American relations at mid-century and on modern Ecuador. . . . Becker has helpfully demonstrated the importance of a particular set of sources, while shedding light on both the FBI’s brief foray into foreign intelligence work and a pivotal moment in Ecuador’s twentieth-century history." — Halbert Jones, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Marc Becker's The FBI in Latin America adds an important dimension to our understanding of U.S. interventions in Latin America . . . .Becker’s work is an important contribution to the historiography of U.S.-Latin American relations, groundbreaking in the sense that it puts the FBI (not the CIA) at the heart of the earliest intelligence gathering by an agency of the U.S. government." — Kenneth Kincaid, Against the Current

"Becker is able to build a compelling narrative of imperial overreach." — Aaron W. Navarro, EIAL

"A nuanced and empirically rich account of what was happening as the FBI watched from the sidelines: the internal conflicts inside an embryonic Left and the episodic repression applied by domestic elites to thwart its expansion. . . . Weaving these fresh archival sources together with his own encyclopaedic knowledge of the country, Becker makes a strong case that hegemony rather than conspiracy theory is the best lens for understanding Ecuador’s vexed history of popular mobilisation and conservative containment." — Catherine Conaghan, Journal of Latin American Studies

"The FBI in Latin America is a compelling history that will no doubt spawn similar studies on other countries in the region. Through the use of a fascinating and revealing set of sources, Becker is able to capture a particularly important moment in the emergence of the US as a post-WWII imperial power while simultaneously enriching our understanding of the Latin American left on the eve of its Cold War demise. This well-written book will be of considerable interest to students and scholars of Latin America, US foreign policy, the Cold War, and the political left." — Steve Striffler, Canadian Journal of History

“Written by a leading historian of Ecuador and social movements in Latin America, The FBI in Latin America draws on an impressive and far-reaching body of surveillance documents produced by the FBI and the US State Department. Reconstructing the history of Latin American left-wing organizations, Marc Becker provides a new perspective on events in twentieth-century Ecuador and the activities of communist, labor, women's, Indigenous, and broad-based social movements.” — Miguel Tinker Salas, author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela

"The FBI in Latin America is an absolutely fascinating and pathbreaking introduction to the work of US intelligence and of political intervention and surveillance in Ecuador and Latin America more generally. Only a scholar with Marc Becker's impressive knowledge of Ecuador could undertake a project that opens up the volume of data, factual information, and internal disputes and private conversations as found in the FBI's wartime files as a vital new source for historians of leftist and communist movements in Latin America." — Barry Carr, coeditor of The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Marc Becker is Professor of History at Truman State University and the author of Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements, also published by Duke University Press, Twentieth-Century Latin American Revolutions, and Pachakutik: Indigenous Movements and Electoral Politics in Ecuador.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  vii
Acknowledgments  ix
Abbreviations  xi
Introduction. FBI  1
1. SIS  17
2. Communism  53
3. Labor  95
4. La Gloriosa  125
5. Constitution  157
6. Coup  193
7. Departures  223
Conclusion. Cold War  249
Notes   259
Bibliography   299
Index  311
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6908-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6959-2
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