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Initiated into Latin America via the revolutionary turmoil of the Dominican Republic in 1965, Sewall ("Stu") Menzel began an adventure into Latino politics and the struggle for power, wealth and influence throughout the region, which would further take him from one trouble-spot to another. Whether it was confronting revolutionaries in the Caribbean, multiple guerrilla threats in Central America, drug traffickers in the Andes Mountains, or recalcitrant dictators, the author brings the reader onto the stage of Latino politics as he experienced it from 1965 to 1989. In this unvarnished presentation of conflict and revolution in the Americas, Colonel Menzel offers a succinct critical analysis of U.S. policy and operations against a historical backdrop of the times. While the United States has always maintained a special relationship with Latin America, the region has been a difficult milieu to deal with in its complexity. Washington's Cold War experience in Latin America amply demonstrates this truth as its attempts to influence regional politics constantly ran up against competing and countervailing values and cultures. As such, the author points out how U.S. national security interests constantly butted heads with and often worked at cross-purposes with the need for human rights-based socio-economic and political reforms.
The primary lesson learned from the overall experience is that America needs to know not only what it is against, but also what it is for if it wants to have a lasting positive impact on Latin America. Colonel Menzel's personal experiences and observations involving the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Panama amply illustrate the point.