Caribbean Legion

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Caribbean Legion

Caribbean Legion, a term applied to a conglomerate of exile groups that actively opposed the dictatorial regimes in the Caribbean during the period 1946 to 1950. Though the legion never existed as a specific military unit, certain personalities and matériel were common elements in a series of filibustering expeditions. Among the most prominent of these were Cayo Confites (1947), an ill-fated attempt to invade the Dominican Republic from Cuba; Costa Rica (1948), where Cayo Confites remnants based in Guatemala and augmented by Nicaraguan exiles aided José Figueres Ferrer (1906–1990) in his War of National Liberation; and Luperón (1949), wherein Dominican exiles, primarily using Guatemala as a base, carried out an unsuccessful raid on their homeland. Although each of these events was under distinct leadership and sponsorship, none boasted a coherent military force, such as the term "Caribbean Legion" would imply. Supported by the presidents of Cuba (Ramón Grau San Martín and Carlos Prío Socarrás, successively) and Guatemala (Juan José Arévalo Bermejo), these armed bands were comprised principally of Cubans and by Dominican, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran exiles at one time or another.

The core unit of these expeditions was the Liberation Army of America, founded in 1946 by General Juan Rodríguez García, as the military arm of a coalition of Dominican exiles opposing the dictator Rafael Trujillo Molina. The first use of the term "Caribbean Legion," however, occurred during the Costa Rican civil war, when it was used to designate a small force of exiles airlifted from Guatemala to seize Puerto Limón. The name caught on. Even Trujillo and Anastasio Somoza Debayle utilized it in the hope of depicting their adversaries as adventurers and mercenaries.

The phantom army ceased to exist altogether in 1950, after the Organization of American States imposed on Caribbean governments a series of "principles and standards" that severely restricted the activities of political exiles. The involvement of certain Central American exiles in Guatemalan affairs, particularly the implication of the Honduran Miguel Francisco Morazán in the 1949 assassination of Francisco Javier Arana, chief of the Guatemalan armed forces, also accounted for the eventual disappearance of the so-called Caribbean Legion.

See alsoFilibusteringxml .


Alberto Bayo, Tempestad en el Caribe (1950).

Enrique V. Corominas, In the Caribbean Political Areas, translated by L. Charles Foresti (1954).

Rosendo Argüello, Jr., By Whom We Were Betrayed … And How (1955).

Horacio Ornes, Desembarco en Luperón (1956).

John Patrick Bell, Crisis in Costa Rica: The 1948 Revolution (1971).

Charles D. Ameringer, The Democratic Left in Exile: The Antidictatorial Struggle in the Caribbean, 1945–1959 (1974) and Don Pepe: A Political Biography of José Figueres of Costa Rica (1978).

Additional Bibliography

Ameringer, Charles D. The Caribbean Legion: Patriots, Politicians, Soldiers of Fortune, 1946–1950. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

                              Charles D. Ameringer

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Caribbean Legion

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