The CIA in Ecuador.

AuthorRothera, Evan C.

Becker, Marc. The CIA in Ecuador. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.

Marc Becker, currently professor of history at Truman State University and a widely respected authority on Ecuador, excels at using underexplored or recently declassified caches of documents to analyze Ecuadorian politics. Becker's The FBI in Latin America (Duke University Press, 2017) skillfully employed FBI records to illuminate leftist activism in Ecuador. Similarly, The CIA in Ecuador draws on CIA surveillance documents to explore social movement organizing efforts among the Ecuadorian left. This volume is simultaneously a study of Ecuadorian politics, CIA perceptions of the left in Ecuador, and an extended discussion of how surveillance documents reveal much about the subjects of surveillance as well as the people who created the documents.

Becker begins with a 1949 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds in Quito. Sadly, the radio station delayed explaining that the invasion was a hoax. Rioting by angry crowds left more than a dozen people dead. Communists did not have anything to do with the broadcast or the riot, but this did not stop the CIA from assuming that "radicals must have been behind the mayhem" (2). The CIA report about the broadcast and the riot illustrate both "the pervasiveness of US surveillance operations as well as the potential possibilities, boundaries, and obstacles to their knowledge and understanding of leftist movements in Latin America" (2). Although many of the CIA documents about the Ecuadorian left were deeply flawed, they represent one of the few bodies of information available. Used carefully, as Becker does, these sources can illuminate much about Ecuador during the long 1950s, or the end of WWII through the Cuban Revolution.

CIA documents, which saw through the world through the lens of the Cold War, often mischaracterized or misunderstood the Ecuadorian left. Some CIA officers feared communists would disrupt society, but the Partido Comunista del Ecuador (PCE) opposed "extraconstitutional alterations in power" (52). The US governments belief that "Moscow gold" funded the PCE was overblown, but it nevertheless produced extensive surveillance of the Ecuadorian left. Despite the flawed nature of the records and the biases of surveillance officers, they nevertheless yield important insights and serve as a crucial lens with which to examine the Ecuadorian left. The CIAs monitoring of Communist Party activities, Becker explains...

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