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Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold War in the Caribbean

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  188 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
The Caribbean crises of the Cold War are revealed as never before in this riveting story of clashing ideologies, the rise of the politics of fear, the machinations of superpowers, and the brazen daring of the mavericks who took them on

During the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, the Caribbean was in crisis. The men responsible included, from Cuba, the chari
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 29th 2011 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Community Reviews

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Dec 02, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing
A well-written, lively and colorful account of the Cold War in Latin America. Well-researched, Tunzelmann shows how the US involved itself in the region, how it backed various unsavory characters in order to fight communism and how it plotted to overthrow leaders just as unsavory.

Throughout the 1950s, the Soviets showed little interest in Latin America (in fact, between 1943 and 1955, the KGB made zero payments to communist parties in the region). And few Latin American politicians described th
Paul Wilson
Jun 27, 2015 Paul Wilson rated it really liked it
Engaging read on America's (mostly) bone-headed Latin American foreign policy during the height of the Cold War. In supporting thuggish dictators like Batista, Trujillo, and Duvalier, the CIA and State Departments created perfect environments for communist uprisings that they were ostensibly trying to prevent.

I was surprised to learn that Castro was not a full-blown communist when he seized power in Cuba. His brother Raul and Che Guerva were the real believers, but Fidel was initially more of a
Oct 30, 2011 Adrian added it
The impressive new author Alex Von Tunzelman who wrote 'Indian Summer' about the end of the British raj has written very well here too. This time she tackles the four cornered story of cold war relations between the US, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti. Lots of anecdotal history here I didn't know. The book is very good on relationship between Castro and Che Guevara and takes an interesting tack on the Cuban missile crisis looking at it from a Cuban point of view. The point is certainly well m ...more
Manish Vaidya
Jul 22, 2015 Manish Vaidya rated it really liked it
Epic, sweeping & meticulously researched saga of the tumultuous 20th century history of the Caribbean islands. Alex puts in lot of hard work in writing the history for her readers. And it shows. Also I love the fact that she is able to bring out the human nature of the historical figures, instead of just making them dry caricatures. We are all human and sometimes it best to understand history within the context of the frailties and pitfalls of human nature. The sequence describing the tantru ...more
Aug 27, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating and proof if proof was needed that sometimes there IS a hidden hand in world events.
I think the book intends to be fairly even handed and explain the situation which led to the West pushing Castro to the left and to allie with the USSR...however reading it Kennedy comes across as a guy way out of his depth and not the stellar head of state presumed ..the Soviet premier fairly moderate and Castro....well I have a lot more time for his position now.
It's odd really how the in
Pete daPixie
Alex Von Tunzelmann is becoming a regular U.K. t.v. figure covering historical matters and has recently had her 'Indian Summers' serialised. 'Red Heat'(2011) is a very recommended study of the United States' political machinations in the Caribbean through the 20th century, in relation to Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The author has done extensive research in the U.S. Library of Congress, the Department of State and the U.S. National Archives as well as a large number of publications ref
Jan 03, 2014 John rated it it was amazing
'One of the most ridiculous things that has occurred in the history of the United States.'

This was how, looking back at the incident, Fidel Castro described the abortive invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in March 1961, planned and funded by Jack Kennedy and his officials in an attempt to topple a revolutionary government that was still little more than two years old. It was certainly ridiculous, leading to Kennedy's temporary humiliation, but was only one of multiple examples of US blundering,
Adeyinka Makinde
Aug 11, 2011 Adeyinka Makinde rated it it was amazing
Two things come to mind after reading Alex Von Tunzelman’s gripping tale of United States decades cum centuries-long foreign policy towards its neighbours in the Caribbean. First is the overly used truism attributed to the philosopher George Santayana that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, and secondly, the “Ugly American”, a catchphrase derived from a 1950s-era novel penned jointly by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer.

That the policies and actions of the Unite
Jun 29, 2013 Heikki rated it it was amazing
I was born in the Finland of the 1960s and went through school in the seventies. All that time I was taught that Cuba is more Soviet than the Soviet Union and that nothing will ever separate the two.

Then I read this book, a very good one-volume history of foreign relations in the Caribbean. The author begins by describing the path of the central countries from the 19th century to the early 20th and she sets the stage very clearly. While I was aware that the fates of people in those island states
Rachel G.
Jul 16, 2011 Rachel G. rated it it was amazing
This is by far the best non-fiction account I've read of the Cold War in the Caribbean, with some of the most fascinating and horrifying details that I didn't find in my college textbooks. I thought I knew a lot about the period, especially in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but I learned so much that I finally feel like a have a full grasp on the subject. I also learned a huge amount about the Duvalier period in Haiti, and it was actually worse than I had originally learned. There are some thi ...more
It only took me 7 months. But I finished it.

I didn't hide this review for spoilers, as all I mention is of course, History that can be considered to be 'common knowledge'. (If you do not wish to be aware of the consequences of US intervention overseas, you shouldn't have voted Bush. Ooh, satire)

Over the course of three presidencies, the US intervened, or did not intervene, in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Tunzelmann's tale of these countries over the course of the Cold War is gripping
Dorian Santiago
Aug 07, 2013 Dorian Santiago rated it it was amazing
Wow. Alex von Tunzelmann not only provided a well-researched and well-crafted historical account of so many atrocities that were happening in Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti during the Cold War period, but also a powerful narrative that was aided greatly by her succinct, empathetic, and sometimes even humorous input throughout this great book. She was also righteously critical of the United States' enablement of the tragic regimes that took place at the time, all while presenting clear conne ...more
Matthew Griffiths
Mar 01, 2013 Matthew Griffiths rated it it was amazing
An engaging account of the battle for freedom in the Caribbean during the cold war. The book focusses on the complex relationships between the US, Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican republic and demonstrates ultimately the first nation of the hemispheres doomed approach in preventing revolutions from sweeping through its back yard.

Its not often that I find myself laughing at anecdotes found in history books but this was well written and quite funny in parts, helped along by a coherent narrative that
Bill Higley
Feb 26, 2013 Bill Higley rated it really liked it
Red Heat is a fascinating read of the Cold War era events and struggle for power and money in the Caribbean Island nations-- mainly Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. One impressive feature of the book is the comprehensive research shown by the author, Alex Van Tunzelmann. She does a great job of taking the tedious and making it interesting and informative. She gives enough detail to explain, but not so much as to bore the interested reader.

For those of us old enough to remember--and/or ca
Dustin Gaughran
Dec 27, 2011 Dustin Gaughran rated it liked it
This was a good, thorough history of the cold war in the Caribbean. It centers on Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States relationship with all three nations. It's very well researched, and does a great job showing how the U.S. was so ridiculously afraid of communism that it lent aid and support to ruthless dictators in Haiti and the D.R. simply because they played with that fear. This history was upsetting more than anything else, because American foreign policy hasn't gotten ...more
Antonio Nunez
Jul 23, 2013 Antonio Nunez rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who cares about US interventionism in Latin America
The author does a very good job in summarizing the Caribbean experience in the 1950s and 1960s, with focus on Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti. The Cuban story is already fairly well-known, but the Haitian Papa Doc catastrophe was a revelation. Also, the Dominican story post-Trujillo was also news to me, particularly the very incompetent reaction of the US to a legitimate insurrection in 1965. The US tendency to see everything in terms of pro- or anti-Communism was very revealing, and its cons ...more
Apr 25, 2015 Jon rated it really liked it
I almost returned this to the library after the first 50 pages because her early historical transitions were awkward and confusing, and the writing felt contrived. Glad I didn't give up. Her treatment of 20th century US policy in the Caribbean by placing Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic side-by-side in cronologic sequence was just what I had been hoping for. She may not have presented any new information, but the inclusive perspective made it worth reading.
Raimo Wirkkala
Sep 26, 2011 Raimo Wirkkala rated it really liked it
A compelling, eye-openingly informative and entertaining account of the political and military meddling, mostly American, in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Ms von Tunzelmann takes some of the edge of this sobering history with her oft-times cheeky perspective. The extensive bibliography has led me to other works regarding the people, places and events covered in this highly readable history book.
Vikas Datta
Feb 06, 2016 Vikas Datta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A damning indictment of American foreign policy and its "achievements" in the nation's vicinity- distancing itself from genuinely popular leaders on the pretext of their supposed leftist affiliations till the point these leaders had no option but to go fully leftwards, while cosying to the markedly corrupt and psycohpathic leaders who impoverished and ruined their countries....
Dan Beaver
Apr 02, 2013 Dan Beaver rated it liked it
Shelves: history
There is a definite agenda at play with this book, to prove how misguided American foreign policy was in the Cold War Caribbean. Whether that is in fact true or inaccurate requires further reading/study, but the book itself is well-written and apparently researched. It is worth picking up, but—of course—opinions should not be based on any one book of history.
Sep 19, 2013 Kody rated it it was amazing
Incredibly well-written history that manages to make a complex (and depressing) set of events coherent, readable, and relevant. Very helpful in understanding the forces that shaped U.S. foreign policy and practice in the 20th century. Politically and morally astute.
Roan Proudley
The seriousness of the subject matter: America's unfounded paranoia, the atrocities in the Caribbean are lessened by this book's gossipy tone. Still, it makes you want to learn more about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Sep 20, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing
Excellent insight into the development of Communism in the Caribbean: basically, lots of missed opportunities on the part of the U.S. If it hadn't been for paranoia and bad intelligence, it might be a different world.
Jun 28, 2011 Armen rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-borrowed
Very good beginning to a story most Americans do not know. The book never lives up to its early promise - it never gets to the BIG picture and gets lost in an endless tale of this and that happened - sad.
Jul 26, 2012 Todd rated it really liked it
Fascinating topic! Really interesting modern history of the Caribbean and how it was influenced by the rest of the world. A nice compliment to Havana Nocturne.
Sep 14, 2011 Jay rated it it was amazing
Concise and comprehensive, well informed, great read. Couldn't put it down.
Dennis Willingham
Jun 03, 2011 Dennis Willingham rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
Great overview of Carib. politics and Castro's rise to power.
Nov 05, 2011 Julienne rated it it was ok
Watch for the upcoming review in Geez magazine.
Aug 15, 2011 Hannaheriley rated it really liked it
Good. Sweeping and informative.
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“The Trujillo and Duvalier regimes were among the most kleptocratic, sadistic, repressive and murderous in the entire twentieth century – a century which, tragically, provided plenty of competition. The State Department knew what was going on in these countries. And yet the idea that Fidel Castro was the worst of these leaders took hold and stuck, regardless of the evidence – and the bodies – piling up.” 0 likes
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