Was this part of the inspiration for the movie Magnum Force IOTL? (The movie did mention the Brazil death squads, or were those different ones?)
This is quite literally the first time I ever heard of that movie, so I have no idea. However there were other death squads active in the seventies, such as the Scuderie Le Cocq and the Esquadrão da Morte, led by Sérgio Fleury.
 
Just binged this, as a brazilian it's always good seeing a TL on my country and I hope you will be able to finish this while maintaining the great quality.
 
Part 7: Who Governs this Country?
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Part 7: Who Governs this Country?


The political wound caused by Getúlio Vargas' suicide in 1954 and the circumstances surrounding it never really healed itself, even if it seemed to do so in the following years. The bulk of the right, which had until then agitated for a coup, calmed down after the presidency was taken over by Café Filho, who followed their agenda to the hilt, and calmed down further after Etelvino Lins' victory over Juscelino Kubitschek in the 1955 presidential election, which ensured a conservative federal government until 1960 at the very least and shut down those few who still argued for a military solution to maintain the status quo. The president's surprisingly statist approach to the economy, which made legislators who were otherwise irreconcilable opponents to him and his allies vote for some of the administration's policies, along with the massive growth that followed, seemingly guaranteed that Brazil's future would be a prosperous and stable one.

But that very growth proved to be a deadly poison. Since most of the main investments and projects were concentrated on the Southeast, which was the country's most developed region by far, as well as the lack of social programs to ensure the new riches were distributed in a more equitable manner, Brazil's chronic and already alarming level of inequality skyrocketed. It didn't take long for industrial workers to grow angry once they realized that, even though their bosses grew wealthier by the day, their own wages were kept artificially low, with strikes following soon after. Though DOPS' repression kept their unions from coordinating with one another for the moment, it seemed that every day there was at least one factory somewhere unable to operate the way it was supposed to.

The rural zone, still home to around 55% of all Brazilians, was in even greater turmoil. Inspired by the agrarian reforms enacted by governors Leonel Brizola of Rio Grande do Sul and João Cleofas of Pernambuco (which were continued by their respective successors Loureiro da Silva and Cid Sampaio), peasants and activists all over the country rose up and demanded for their basic rights to be respected, organizing unions (the Ligas Camponesas, or Peasant Leagues in English) to help them accomplish this objective.
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Rural workers demonstrating for land reform. One of the signs reads "Terra ou Morte" ("Land or Death")

The result of the 1958 elections only contributed to the climate of radicalization. Many of the new governors, such as Franco Montoro (SP) and Roberto Silveira (RJ), not only refused to deploy the police agencies under their control to repress the social movements in their respective states, but did their best to obstruct DOPS' work in this front. The federal legislature (whose members took their seats in 1959) was split between a conservative Senate and a progressive Chamber of Deputies, where PTB, the Ala Moça and the Bossa Nova won a majority and successfully elected one of their own, Ulysses Guimarães (PSD-SP), to preside the lower house. Gridlocks became the norm, and in the morass of factionalism that dominated Rio de Janeiro from then on, party affiliations became meaningless as two main blocs assembled:
  • The Nationalist Parliamentary Front (Frente Parlamentar Nacionalista), which rallied PTB and the already mentioned dissidents from UDN and PSD, as well as other minor parties such as PSB;
  • The Democratic Parliamentary Action (Ação Democrática Parlamentar), which rallied most of UDN and PSD.
At the same time, two right-wing think tanks emerged, the Institue of Social Studies and Research (IPES) and the Brazilian Institute for Democratic Action (IBAD), both of whom started to churn out conservative propaganda right away, their radio and TV ads making it look like as if Brazil would be taken over by the red menace and its agents as soon as their intended audience, the upper and middle classes, let down their guard. Unsurprisingly, these organizations were generously funded by the CIA.

A toxic, vitriolic atmosphere reigned over the nation, and it was only a matter of time before something terrible happened. And it finally did in the evening of June 5, 1959.
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Rio de Janeiro, Republic of the United States of Brazil
The passenger nervously gripped his hidden weapon as he looked out of the car window, searching for his target. Personally, he thought the whole motive behind the very ugly deed he was about to commit was a huge load of bullshit, but the tone of the shady men who "offered" him the job showed him he didn't have a choice in the matter. He and the driver had been waiting in the same damned corner for hours now, because apparently the men who were supposed to die tonight, senator João Goulart (PTB-RS) and federal deputy Dante Pellacani (PSB-SP (1)), regularly passed through this street every day when going to and returning from work.
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Jango and Pellacani.

Suddenly, a humble looking white Volkswagen Beetle, one which hid just how influential its occupants were, passed by. After a few seconds, the assassins' own car lit up and started shadowing their targets at a safe distance, so as to not arouse any suspicion until it was too late. The silent pursuit went on for a few minutes, the driver looking for the perfect opportunity for his partner to get a clear shot and then quickly bolt out of the scene. Feeling that this was taking too long, he took a turn to the right into one of the smaller streets, temporarily losing sight of the target in the process. After some tense seconds, he turned back to the main road, seeking to intercept them. The car quickly burst right into the Beetle's path, giving the gunman the perfect position to start shooting.

And that was when things went wrong.

The driver of the targets' vehicle, instead of slamming the brakes to avoid a collision, immediately took a hard turn to the left. Whether he either knew what was about to happen or simply acted on instinct didn't matter: what did matter was that the assassin found himself having only a few seconds to fulfill his task. He frantically emptied his gun on the Beetle, shivering hands ensuring that, although some projectiles found their mark, sending shards of glass flying everywhere, several didn't. The car carrying the two legislators, its windshield and rear window laced with bullet holes, quickly picked up speed and escaped.

They had actually gotten away. Fuck.
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The attack against Goulart and Pellacani was an instant bombshell. The two men were rushed into the closest hospital, where it was fortunately discovered that neither of them had suffered any severe wounds, although a bullet did graze the former's head. Prominent figures everywhere, from businessmen to generals to, of course, politicians, were outraged and demanded an immediate investigation: while Pellacani was a well known radical and a suspected communist who regularly incited workers to go on strike for blatantly political reasons, Goulart, who likely would've died if the anonymous gunman was a better shot, was at this point a respected moderate lawmaker, a member of a small but growing group among the elite (the "national progressive bourgeoisie", as scholars would later call them (2)) who believed that reforms were necessary in order for Brazil to overcome its multiple social maladies.
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The Volkswagen Beetle struck by the assassins.


Comparisons were immediately made to the attack Carlos Lacerda suffered five years before, and they only incensed the public further, for while that crime started a gigantic manhunt that caught the culprits in a matter of days, the investigation into this one was noticeably sluggish, and Última Hora did the best it could to fan the flames of indignation among its millions of working class readers. Days, weeks and eventually months passed, and the police had nothing to show for it, no leads, no suspects, no witnesses, nothing. The only bits of evidence they had were a few bullets belonging to a gun that was exclusive property of the army. Clearly, whoever ordered this was a very powerful individual, someone with enough connections and money to cover his own tracks and obstruct the investigators' path as much as possible. Assuming they weren't in on it too, that is.

It all seemed like a repeat of the events of 1954, except with the roles swapped. Opposition members and supporters now said there was a reactionary "deep state" (Estado Paralelo) controlling the country behind the government's back, a sentiment best expressed when an infuriated Leonel Brizola (who at this point held no elected office and was no longer bound to his previous duties), flanked by other prominent PTB personalities such as Lutero Vargas asked a now famous question in the middle of a press conference: "Who governs this country?" ("Quem governa esse país?")

Nobody knew. It sure wasn't the president, though.

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Notes:

(1) IOTL, Dante Pellacani, an union leader associated with the Brazilian Communist Party, ran for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in 1958 and lost. In 1962 he became president of the CGT (General Command of Workers), a federation of unions which pressured the federal government to adopt the Reformas de Base with labour strikes, which only contributed to the instability that plagued João Goulart's administration, especially from 1963 onward. He was a leading radical figure in that period, along with others such as Brizola, Miguel Arraes and Sérgio Magalhães.

(2) Several of these businessmen were persecuted by the military dictatorship that took over after the 1964 coup d'état. The only ones I really know about are Celso da Rocha Miranda and Mário Wallace Simonsen, but I'm sure there are other cases.
 
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Another great update, things are getting more and more dangerous and now it finally exploded into a eruption, really interesting to see how this will turn out.
 
Governors in 1959
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Governors in 1959

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List of incumbent governors in 1959, with summaries for the more noteworthy ones.

(*) Was elected in 1955
(**) Was narrowly defeated IOTL.


Alagoas:

Governor: Sebastião Marinho Muniz Falcão (PSP - Progressive)*

Summary: Having defeated UDN candidate Afrânio Lages by less than 3.000 votes, Muniz Falcão's term as governor of Alagoas so far has been turbulent to put it very mildly. Before his accession, the state's infamously violent politics were domiated by oligarchic groups such as the Góes Monteiro, Mello and Palmeira families, the first one belonging to PSD, the latter two to UDN. As a populist outsider, Muniz Falcão faces the relentless opposition of the State Assembly, which tried to impeach him in September 1957, an attempt that was stopped after his allies in the legislature armed themselves and opened fire on the opposition, causing a shootout that left several wounded and one assemblyman dead. Though he was still impeached later anyway, the governor retook his position thanks to a decision from the Supreme Court (1).

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Amazonas:

Governor: Gilberto Mestrinho (PTB - Progressive)

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Bahia:

Governor: Juracy Magalhães (UDN - Conservative)

Summary: A hardened political veteran, Juracy Magalhães first served as governor of Bahia from 1930 to 1937, when he was ousted by the Estado Novo. After briefly serving as the first president of Petrobras in 1954 and as senator from 1955 to 1959, he finally returned to the governorship more than twenty years after his overthrow, and has so far proved himself to be a reliable ally of the federal government.

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Ceará:

Governor: Parsifal Barroso (PTB - Progressive)

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Espírito Santo

Governor: Carlos Lindenberg (PSD - Moderate)

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Federal District

Mayor: Carlos Lacerda (UDN - Conservative)

Summary: You already know a lot about him.
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Goiás

Governor: José Feliciano Ferreira (PSD - Moderate)

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Maranhão

Governor: José de Matos Carvalho (PSD - Conservative)*

Summary: A nonentity who's nothing more than a puppet for the mighty senator Vitorino Freire (2).

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Mato Grosso

Governor; Saldanha Derzi (UDN - Conservative)**

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Minas Gerais

Governor: José Francisco Bias Fortes (PSD - Conservative)

Summary: Having been elected governor of MG with a whooping 70% of the vote thanks to Juscelino Kubitschek's popularity, Bias Fortes quickly allied himself with the federal government and PSD's conservative wing, led by Benedito Valadares, Carlos Luz and Nereu Ramos, much to the ire of his former benefactor, who doesn't hide his plan to run for president again in 1960.

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Pará

Governor: Epílogo de Campos (UDN - Conservative)**

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Paraíba

Governor: Flávio Ribeiro Coutinho (UDN - Conservative)*

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Paraná

Governor: Moisés Lupion (PSD - Conservative)*

Summary: A huge landowner who already served a previous term as governor of Paraná (1947 - 1951), Moisés Lupion's second and current term has been marred by conflicts between rural squatters and grileiros (landowners who use false documents to illegaly claim property over tracts of land) as well as multiple accusations of corruption. To make matters worse, the current vice president, Bento Munhoz da Rocha, is a fierce political opponent of his, further weakening the governor's position.

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Pernambuco

Governor: Cid Sampaio (UDN - Moderate)

Summary: Continuing with his predecessor João Clefoas' policy of not repressing the state's rural labour unions, which are spreading like wildfire all over the countryside as a result, Cid Sampaio predictably inherited the strange position of being an udenista whose administration is backed by the left. As a result, he has an adversarial relationship with the federal government and the general currently in charge of the Fourth Army, Arthur da Costa e Silva (3).

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Piauí

Governor: Francisco das Chagas Caldas Rodrigues (PTB - Progressive)

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Rio de Janeiro

Governor: Roberto Silveira (PTB - Progressive)

Summary: Having had enough of Tenório Cavalcanti's four years of terror, which gave birth to several scandals that helped tar UDN's national image, the people of the state of Rio de Janeiro elected lieutenant governor Roberto Silveira to the top spot with almost 60% of the vote. The new governor set off enacting an ambitious program of land reform combined with major investments in public education immediately after his inauguration, earning him comparisons to Leonel Brizola. Thanks to his great popularity and young age (36 years old), he's seen as a potential presidential candidate in 1965 (4).

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Rio Grande do Norte

Governor: Dinarte Mariz (UDN - Conservative)*

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Rio Grande do Sul

Governor: José Loureiro da Silva (PTB - Progressive)

Summary: Having served as mayor of Porto Alegre from 1937 to 1943 (during the Estado Novo), Loureiro da Silva finally accomplished his great dream of becoming governor of Rio Grande do Sul, consolidating its transformation into a one party state. Amazingly, however, he was not Brizola's favorite candidate: the young radical would've preferred someone like Wilson Vargas (not related to Getúlio Vargas) or Egídio Michaelsen, but since neither of these decided to run, he had to settle for the more centrist Loureiro, who was also backed by Fernando Ferrari, a rival of Brizola within PTB (5).

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Santa Catarina

Governor: Jorge Lacerda (PRP - Far-right)*

Summary: A longtime follower of Plínio Salgado and the Brazilian version of fascism (Integralism), having supported their attempt to take over the government in 1938, Jorge Lacerda was elected governor of Santa Catarina thanks to an alliance with UDN and the internal disputes that affected the campaign of his adversary, Benjamin Gallotti. Extremely popular in his state, he's seen as a potential presidential candidate or running mate in 1960 (6).

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São Paulo

Governor: André Franco Montoro (PDC - Moderate)

Summary: Seeking to maintain the huge coalition that brought him to power for as long as possible, Franco Montoro's main priorities as governor so far are putting SP's finances, crippled after years of cronyism and corruption, back in shape, and dismantling what is left of Ademar de Barros' political machine. To accomplish the latter, Montoro fired or marginalized as many of his predecessor's political allies as he could, as well as thousands of public employees who were irregularly hired in exchange for their votes. He also launched several investigations into Ademar's actions during his gubernatorial term, seriously crippling the former governor's public image.

However, Montoro also refused to use the state military police to crack down on the "subversive elements" (students, communists and labour unions), antagonizing his lieutenant governor, Abreu Sodré (a conservative udenista) as well as the commander of the Second Army, general Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco (7).

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Sergipe

Governor: José Rollemberg Leite (PSD - Conservative)**


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Notes:

(1) This is all OTL. All of it.

(2) Before José Sarney became Maranhão's Big Bad, that spot was occupied by Vitorino de Brito Freire, who controlled the state for twenty years (1945 - 1965) through an uninterrupted string of puppet governors.

(3) IOTL, the second of Brazil's military dictators.

(4) IOTL, Roberto Silveira's political career was tragically cut short by a helicopter crash in Petrópolis. Why do most of the good guys either get murdered or die really early?

(5) IOTL, Loureiro da Silva sought the petebista gubernatorial nomination in 1958, but was soundly defeated by Brizola in the convention. Because of that, he left the party, with Fernando Ferrari following him soon after, greatly weakening PTB in the process.

(6) IOTL, Jorge Lacerda died in a plane accident in 1958, along with Nereu Ramos and Leoberto Leal, a federal deputy.

(7) The first of Brazil's OTL military dictators.
 
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A Nice little chapter involving the new blood and what they're doing, hope to see the next one soon.
Thanks, I love writing these kinds of super internal updates, even if I'm a little sad that they (understandably, since most of this site's user base is from the US and probably never heard of someone like Muniz Falcão, Franco Montoro or even Tenório Cavalcanti) don't seem to stir up as much attention as the others.

Speaking of next chapter, we're going on a little tour over the Caribbean, and these three will play an important part in it.

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Foreign Snapshot: Caribbean Tour, Part One
I hope you guys enjoy this update, I made it extra thick!
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Foreign Snapshot: Caribbean Tour, Part One


While the ripples of the Guatemalan Revolution - and the CIA's failed attempt to crush it - were felt throughout Latin America, its most important aftershocks happened, predictably, in the little country's immediate vicinity. Suddenly, a new future appeared to be possible for the millions of impoverished peasants and workers who lived in the many tiny nations scattered throughout Central America and the Caribbean, one in which they were finally free from the oppressive grip of the corrupt oligarchs and right-wing dictators who ruled their countries since independence. And, if the embarrassing affair that was Operation PBSUCCESS served as any indication, it seemed that not even Washington's wrath was capable of stopping said future from becoming a reality.
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Honduras

One of the many countries under the United Fruit Company's thrall and the first one to be labeled a banana republic, Honduras' politics were dominated by the Liberal and National parties since the dawn of the 20th century. Despite their fierce rivalry, which caused two civil wars in 1919 and 1924, as well as several smaller uprisings and coups, both parties were understandably seen as nothing more than two competing factions of an elite that was completely submissive to foreign influence and whose only real priority was enriching itself even further.

Stability finally came with the election of the general Tiburcio Carías Andino, a member of the National Party, in 1932, but this stability came at a great cost, for the president took advantage of the Great Depression and the favorable international context to slowly but surely become a dictator. His long tenure, much like Jorge Ubico's in Guatemala, was marked by harsh repressive measures against the workers, earning Carías the favor of the UHC and of the other dictators surrounding him. Unfortunately for the regime (and thankfully for the Honduran people), things went south after 1944, thanks to the Guatemalan Revolution and the fall of El Salvador's Maximiliano Hernández Martínez. The US government, fearing the unrest would spread further, pressured Carías to allow elections to take place in 1948.

These elections, which were the first ones to take place in sixteen years, were a complete sham, with the National Party's candidate, Juan Manuel Gálvez, coasting to victory with 99.85% of the vote as the Liberals called for a boycott thanks to the rampant fraud and the fact much of the opposition was still either in prison or exile. However, despite this inauspicious beginning, the Gálvez administration proved itself to be quite different from that of his predecessor, scaling back on the repression and censorship, allowing the opposition to demonstrate, and approving laws which established an income tax and the eight-hour workday, even if they were rarely enforced. At the same time, the Honduran government remained staunchly conservative, and allowed the CIA to set up bases near the border with Guatemala in preparation for their failed attempt to overthrow Jacobo Árbenz.
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The presidential portraits of Carías and Gálvez, respectively.
By the time the next general election happened, in 1954, the Liberals had thoroughly modernized themselves as a party, and they were ready to return to power after two decades in the wilderness. Their candidate, Ramón Villeda Morales, who was one of the chief architects of the party's transformation, called for extensive social reforms that were eerily similar to those that took place in Guatemala, something that simultaneously terrified the establishment and energized the urban and rural masses behind behind the Liberal campaign. The Nationals, in the meantime, were divided, with Carías Andino seeking to return to the presidency while dissatisfied conservatives supported the splinter candidacy of Abraham Williams Calderón instead.

The split in the conservative ranks allowed Morales to win the presidential race outright with 50.62% of the vote, and gave the Liberal Party a very small majority in Congress (30 seats out of 59 (1)). The months that followed election day and the next president's inauguration were extremely tense, as there were fears that the military would, with Washington's -- or, more correctly, Langley's -- support, pull off a coup to prevent Honduras from becoming a second Guatemala. But these fears proved themselves to be unfounded, and Ramón Villeda Morales, the first Liberal president in twenty-two years, was inaugurated on January 1, 1955.
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President Villeda Morales in a diplomatic visit to the United States. The man beside him is John F. Kennedy, governor of Massachusetts (2).

The Morales administration is still seen, to this day, as one of the boldest and most progressive in Honduran history, second only perhaps to that of Modesto Rodas Alvarado, who built on his achievements. From day one he dedicated all of his energies towards ensuring that as many of the policies he defended on the campaign trail as possible were enacted, and as a result, a new labour code was enacted, new social programs created, the regulations stipulating an eight-hour workday and an income tax were enforced more thoroughly, the amount of funds invested in education and public health greatly increased, among other measures that improved the ordinary people's standard of living by a considerable degree.

But while the president became extremely popular among the poor, his policies also earned him many powerful enemies not only in the military and the large landowners, the groups who traditionally ruled the country, but also outside its borders. And it was beyond Honduras' borders that the individual who was by far the greatest threat to Morales' administration, Anastasio Somoza García, resided. Having governed Nicaragua with an iron fist since 1936, Somoza, an autocratic and corrupt ruler who turned his country into his family's private property and was described by the late American president Franklin D. Roosevelt Sr. as "a son of a bitch, but our son of a bitch", feared that his northern neighbor, now under a progressive government, would provide a refuge for opponents of his dictatorship.
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Somoza sometime during his second presidency.
It was because of this fear that the dictator maintained constant contacts with dissatisfied elements of the Honduran military, hoping to bring about a coup d'état that would depose Morales and install a more acceptable president in his place. He repeatedly begged the CIA to assist in him in this effort, pleas that went unheeded since the United States, especially from the Suez Crisis onward, had much bigger fish to fry in the Middle East. Already a deeply paranoid individual, as with any autocrat, Somoza's paranoia nevertheless shot through the roof after Rigoberto López Pérez, a poet, tried -- and failed -- to assassinate him at a party on September 21, 1956 (3). Though he escaped unharmed, the attack convinced Somoza that he had to take matters into his own hands.

It backfired.

Spectacularly.


The attack took place in Tegucigalpa, on July 5, 1958. It was supposed to be an ordinary day for the president of Honduras: he would attend several ceremonies, energize his supporters in preparation for the next general election (which was scheduled to take place in 1960), inaugurate public works throughout the capital, make a few speeches, kiss babies, typical politician stuff. And so the day went by, uneventfully, until he climbed on a podium from which he was supposed to deliver a speech to a crowd made up not only of adoring commoners, but also prominent personalities from the military, clergy and businesspeople.

That was when all hell broke loose: a bomb, which had been planted by two men -- Nicaraguan agents -- right underneath the place Morales was supposed to stand on, blew up, the explosion and resulting chaos killing five people and wounding dozens of others. And yet the president was not among the dead, for he was a couple meters away from the hidden explosive: because of this, he, instead of being blown into smithereens, "merely" suffered multiple severe burns and was immediately rushed to the closest hospital, where his wounds were treated and his condition stabilized. But Morales was not only alive, he was also conscious and, most importantly, still able to speak.

Because of this, the Honduran president -- his body covered in bandages and stuck to a hospital bed -- was able to address his people and prove to the world -- and Somoza -- that he was still alive and that the country's stability would not be harmed. During his speech, which lasted only a few minutes thanks to his wounds, Morales denounced the Nicaraguan dictatorship's role in the attack, calling said regime a "satrapy" and its ruler a "prehistoric animal incompatible with the twentieth century". In the days that followed, the Honduran government formally denounced Nicaragua to the Organization of American States, which began to discuss deploying sanctions against it.

Once "only" wildly popular, Ramón Villeda Morales was now practically a saint. Meanwhile, the only thing Somoza accomplished with this mess was turning himself into an international pariah.
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The Cuban Revolution


"Oh my God, that son of a bitch actually did it!"
- Fidel Castro upon learning of Batista's fate.

Unlike most of its fellow dictatorships all over Central America and the Caribbean, the island of Cuba actually had a history, however brief it may have been, of being under a democratic government. Despite being the banana republic most closely supervised by the US, with the infamous Platt Amendment in particular allowing Washington to interfere in Cuban affairs whenever it felt its interests were threatened, the country's situation slowly took a turn for the better after 1933, with the overthrow of the dictator Gerardo Machado and the abolishment of the already mentioned amendment, which happened the following year.

The period ranging from 1933 to 1944 was dominated by a military strongman named Fulgencio Batista, who ran the country first through a string of puppet presidents (the first of which, Ramón Grau, was forced to resign after becoming too independent for his tastes), then, from 1940 onward, as a democratically elected president. An effective leader who governed with the support of the socialists and the communists (the aptly named Democratic Socialist Coalition), earning him the distrust of the United States, Batista's tenure was marked by social programs, protections for labour unions, as well as the right to strike, all of which were enshrined in a new constitution (4). However, despite his popularity, the president's handpicked candidate, Carlos Saladrigas Zayas, was defeated in the 1944 presidential election by none other than Grau and his Authentic Revolutionary Party.

Although he was less than pleased and reportedly sabotaged the administration as much as possible to ensure his successor had a hard time governing Cuba, Batista nevertheless handed the presidency over to Grau without incident in October 10, 1944, creating an important precedent of peacefully handing over power to the opposition.
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Fulgencio Batista and his successor, Ramón Grau.
It was under the Grau administration that the weak foundations of Cuba's young democracy slowly began to crumble. Not only did the island's society remain profoundly unequal despite multiple positive changes, something that generated considerable discontent among the poor, but the new president had to contend with a legislature controlled by the opposition. To make matters worse, several members of his cabinet were caught in corruption scandals, and soon enough his initial popularity faded to the point he had to deploy the army to restore order on certain occasions. However, despite these failings, Grau remained a staunch believer in the democratic system - to the point he backed a failed attempt to overthrow Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1947 - and popular enough to ensure the rise of his protégé, Carlos Prío Socarrás, to the presidency in the 1948 election.

Prío's administration, in spite of successes such as multiple public works projects, the creation of a national bank, and having a majority in the legislature, ultimately proved itself to be more of the same, if not even worse when it came to corruption. By the time 1952, an election year, came along, the Authentic Party candidate, Carlos Hevia, was in second place while Roberto Agramonte, a member of the left-leaning Orthodox Party, led the race. Fulgencio Batista, hoping to return to the presidency after eight years out of power, also presented himself as a candidate, but he was stuck in third place, behind both Agramonte and Hevia by a very wide margin.

So he seized power by force through a military coup in March 10, 1952, three months before the elections were supposed to take place, suspended the very constitution he helped create and abolished the right to strike. His new government, which was a far cry from his first, progressive tenure and earned recognition from the US seventeen days later, turned what was a relatively prosperous if still deeply divided nation into a dictatorial, crime-infested hellhole that could be best described as less a country and more of a gigantic playground for rich foreign tourists and mafiosos. Graft exploded to extraordinary levels, with Batista and the members of his inner circle becoming extremely rich at the same time that only one in three Cubans had access to running water.​
This was an unacceptable state of affairs for a great many people, and soon enough unrest began to rise up, as well as plots against the government. The first organized attempt to overthrow Batista was led by Fidel Castro, a young attorney and member of the Orthodox Party, who led a small group in an attack against the Moncada Barracks in July 26, 1953. Though his plan failed and he was jailed for two years, Castro avoided execution and was instead exiled to Mexico, where he, his brother Raúl and other revolutionaries immediately began to plan their return to the island (5). Another attempt to get rid of Batista came from the Cuban military itself, in April 1956, when the popular army colonel Ramón Barquín led a failed coup that ended with him and several other officers being stripped of their ranks and imprisoned in the Isle of Pines.
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A beardless and exiled Fidel Castro calling for Batista's removal.

It was clear, by 1957, that the dictatorship was going to fall. On December of the previous year, Fidel and his fellow revolutionaries, forming a group known as the 26th of July Movement, returned to Cuba in a yacht named Granma and, after a clash with government troops that nearly wiped them out, entrenched themselves in the extremely thick mountain jungles of the Sierra Maestra, from which they launched hit-and-run attacks on the military and slowly gathered sympathizers to their cause. Said military, meanwhile, was weak and demoralized thanks to the purges that happened in the aftermath of Barquín's coup attempt, and they were unable to stop guerrillas' activities even though they outnumbered them to a ridiculous degree.

Batista's obsession with killing Castro and his colleagues proved to be his undoing. While more and more soldiers were shipped eastward to hunt down a few dozen men who shouldn't have been anything other than a nuisance, a much more dangerous group of rebels was organizing and acquiring weapons for itself in Havana, right under the secret police's nose. These people belonged to an organization known as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (Revolutionary Students' Directorate), which was made up primarily of university students and was led by José Antonio Echeverría, a card-carrying member of the Authentic Party and a staunch anti-communist, unlike Castro, who was willing to work with them even if he himself always denied being a Red (6).

Finally, after months of careful preparations, the DRE made their move on March 13, 1957, three days after the dictatorship's fifth birthday. On the afternoon, two heavily armed assault teams suddenly attacked the presidential palace, killed the guards and burst into the building, after which they encountered an absolutely baffled Batista, who didn't have the chance to do so much as utter a single word before the revolutionaries unloaded their guns on him (7). With their mission complete and the dictator nothing more than a mangled corpse full of bullet holes, the students promptly ran back to their vehicles and escaped before the police and the military arrived.
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The only known photo of the attack on the Presidential Palace.
Meanwhile, a third team, led by Echeverría himself, took over Radio Reloj, Havana's main radio station, and broadcast the news of Batista's assassination (or, as people still call it there, "ajusticiamiento" -- his just punishment), urging the Cuban people to rise up in arms against the now leaderless dictatorship. It was an absolutely insane gambit, for Echeverría would personally admit years later that he didn't know Batista had been killed until long after the fact -- but it still worked, and by the end of the day the people of Havana burst into celebration after it was confirmed that their hated dictator was now dead.

The man who took over in the aftermath of the attack, vice president Rafael Guas Inclán, dismantled the secret police and signed a decree which, among other things, abolished the censorship of the press and declared that the thousands of political prisoners under the regime's custody were now free. After that, he fled to Miami and left things under the care of a civilian-military junta whose role would be to ensure that new elections would be held within the year and the 1940 constitution restored.
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José Antonio Echeverría, leader of the Cuban Revolution.
If the Guatemalan Revolution proved to the world that it was possible for Central America to walk a different path and free itself from its dictators, the Cuban Revolution proved that their days were numbered.

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Notes:

(1) IOTL, Morales won 48.1% of the vote, a plurality but not enough for him to be elected outright. This caused a political crisis that led to a military coup before he was finally made president in 1957. Unfortunately, he was overthrown in 1963 after it became clear that the Liberal Party's candidate, Modesto Rodas Alvarado, would win that year's election by a huge margin and have a massive mandate with which to enact sweeping social reforms.

(2) That's right, *governor* of Massachusetts.

(3) IOTL Somoza was shot and died a few days later. Here he isn't, but the stress and paranoia make him lose his marbles to the point he does what Rafael Trujillo did against Rómulo Betancourt, with very similar consequences.

(4) I swear, Batista's biography is basically one huge
Face-Heel Turn.

(5) Guevara isn't among these revolutionaries since he never met the Castro brothers.


(6) Castro won't have the chance to show his true colors ITTL.

(7) The DRE's attack against Batista *almost* worked IOTL. Unfortunately for them, Batista had left his office about half an hour sooner than he usually did, so he survived and the students, panicking, were almost all killed in a firefight inside the palace. Meanwhile, Echeverría, who had no idea of the assassins' failure, invaded Radio Reloj and announced the news of the dictator's death... to a dead microphone. Seriously, they were so close to success it's frustrating to read about it.
 
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TL; DR: Honduras joins the Central American democracy club (Costa Rica and Guatemala welcome it with open arms), Somoza fucks up, Cuba doesn't go Red and Batista gets turned into Swiss cheese by a group of very angry students.

I originally also wanted to put the Dominican Republic in this update (that's why Juan Bosch's portrait is in the teaser), but I realized that, if I did, it would become too big to read comfortably.

Next update will deal with what kind of fish Washington's busy frying in the Middle East.​
 
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Now that is going to have consequences. While the odd country changing paths might get the US to react differently that is down to government and business people, the population largely didn't care about any of it. Cuba on the other hand when it came to the Missile Crisis was something with widespread knowledge and effect. Even was the main reason for Soviet leader at the time falling from power later.
 
Now that is going to have consequences. While the odd country changing paths might get the US to react differently that is down to government and business people, the population largely didn't care about any of it. Cuba on the other hand when it came to the Missile Crisis was something with widespread knowledge and effect. Even was the main reason for Soviet leader at the time falling from power later.
Not that I think Malenkov would be dumb enough to put missiles there, but yeah, a Cuba that's not run by commies will make affect politics everywhere. For one, the right won't have a boogeyman to point to, nor will any wannabe guerrillas get an example of just how successful such a tactic can be and try to replicate it in countries not at all suited for it.​
 
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Not that I think Malenkov would be dumb enough to put missiles there, but yeah, a Cuba that's not run by commies will make affect politics everywhere. For one, the right won't have a boogeyman to point to, nor will any wannabe guerrillas get an example of just how successful such a tactic can be and try to replicate it in countries not at all suited for it.​
I wouldn't be so sure. The Cold War is full of questionable decisions by both USA and Soviet Union even by people who one would expect to know better, because they kept trying to appease internal factions and not considering the other side also had to do the same, so misread what they had to do and how they would react. Khrushchev just so happened to be one that along trying to change a lot of things also kept hitting this issue without learning better.

And yeah, Cuba ended up with tremendously outsized influence because inflating its actual impact was to the benefit of a lot of otherwise conflicting groups and interests. Kinda like the economy of the Soviet Union was inflated to appear far bigger than it actually was, but the US went along with those numbers anyway.
 
Foreign Snapshot: Death of an Empire, Birth of a Nation
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Foreign Snapshot: Death of an Empire, Birth of a Nation


The Middle East was, for thousands of years, one of the richest regions on Earth. As the birthplace of some of the oldest civilizations of the world and the nerve center of countless empires throughout the milennia, from Babylon to the Achaemenids and the Arab caliphates, an immesaurable number of historians, travelers and other intellectuals wrote glowingly of its magnificent cities, mighty sovereigns and and so on. Which made its predicament in the early to mid twentieth century all the more depressing.

With the slow decline of the Ottoman Empire, a process that finally ended with its dissolution at the end of WWI and the partition of its majority Arab territories between the foremost imperialist powers of the time, France and Great Britain, with the former gaining Syria and Lebanon and the latter gaining Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Palestine. This partition, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, happened despite the promise London made to the Arabs during their revolt against their Ottoman overlords that they would be given their own state, one which stretched from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen and would be led by the scions of the Hashemite dynasty.


By 1952, while it was clear that the imperialists were on their way out, with Syria and Lebanon having gained their independence from France six years prior, Iraq and Jordan technically being sovereign monarchies in their own right, they still had a lot of influence, with the monarchies in particular (both of which were led by Hashemite kings) being seen as nothing more than foreign puppets. To make things even more complicated, the existence of the state of Israel, which was founded in 1948 with the partition of Palestine, caused a great amount of upheaval in the Arab world, starting with a brief but brutal war that led to the forced displacement of as many as 700.000 Palestinian civilians in an event known as the Nakba, as well as the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries.

The first puppet regime to fall was Egypt, which was under British tutelage since 1882. Governed by Farouk I, a kleptocratic, bloated caricature of a king and member of the Muhammad Ali dynasty, it was extremely easy for the revolutionaries, led by Mohammed Naguib (an army general and hero of the Arab-Israeli War) and Gamal Abdel Nasser (a lieutenant colonel) to find an excuse to overthrow him, and the monarchy fell with a bloodless revolution in July 23, 1952. Though the institution was nominally kept at first, with Farouk abdicating in the name of his infant son Fuad, all real power was concentrated in the hands of Naguib, who became prime minister, and Nasser, who became minister of the interior, with the monarchy being abolished and replaced by a republic less than a year later.
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Naguib and Nasser in the middle of celebrations marking the second anniversary of the revolution.
The new government immediately enacted a land reform that broke the power of the old aristocracy, which before that owned more than two thirds of the country's fertile land and imposed abusive rents on the small farmers and peasants who lived inside their properties. This measure, along with others such as the dissolution of the Wafd Party, which dominated Egyptian politics before the revolution and was seen as corrupt and submissive to British interests, made the Naguib-Nasser duo extremely popular among the common people and earned the ire of the elite, which was nevertheless unable to do anything to stop the change since, unlike in regions such as Latin America, the military was dominated by progressive officers who had no interest in halting or reversing the ongoing changes.

However, not all was well in the young Egyptian Arab Republic, especially in its upper echelons. President Naguib, whose main purpose in the revolution was to serve as a respectable figurehead for an organization that was made up of and put in motion primarily by junior officers, was growing tired of his ceremonial role and desired to take some genuine political power for himself, running straight into the ambitions of the real leader of the Free Officers Movement, Nasser. They also had differences in policy, with the former having more liberal views and the latter defending that more power should be put in the hands of the military. Because of this, the two men, seen as inseparable allies by the public, were secretly engaged in a bitter struggle that came to a dramatic end on October 26, 1954.

That day, Nasser was in Alexandria, where he was supposed to make a speech, meant to be heard throughout the Arab world, celebrating the conclusion of an agreement with London which determined that the last British troops still in Egypt would withdraw in 1956. That was when an armed gunman named Mahmoud Abdel-Latif, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood (a party at odds with the the republican government thanks to its secularist ideology - Nasser publicly laughed at their proposal of forcing women to wear hijabs and implementing Sharia law), emerged from the crowd and fired eight shots at him. Three bullets found their mark, and although the prime minister was rushed to the nearest hospital with great haste, he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was just thirty-six years old (1).
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Nasser's funeral gathered millions of mourners in Cairo.
Nasser's death was followed first by an outpouring of grief, then a deafening roar of rage as his murderer's political affiliation was discovered. The Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo were ransacked by an angry mob, and the organization's leader, Sayyid Qutb, fled to Saudi Arabia (where he would spend the rest of his life) to avoid being lynched (2). It was during this moment of chaos that Naguib, whose influence had been in the wane since since earlier in the year, seized the chance to become Egypt's undisputed leader. Backed by the people, he declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and subjected it to a vigorous crackdown which eventually also engulfed the rest of the opposition, with thousands of dissidents being arrested and all press releases put under close scrutiny. In fact, Naguib's consolidation of power after the assassination was so sudden and thorough that, to this day, some people still believe he was the one who ordered it (3).

With all of his potential adversaries either mollified, jailed or exiled, the president was now free to pursue his own policies without much trouble, at least for the moment. The Revolutionary Command Council, the military junta which governed Egypt since the revolution, was first stacked with officers loyal to him, then dissolved a few months later, and new elections were promised to take place in 1956. On the administrative level, some members of the still clandestine Wafd Party were allowed to take minor roles in the bureaucracy, and although they were forced to swear an oath to not attempt to reverse any of the ongoing reforms, their presence marked a gradual turn to the right, one that was kept in check by the army.

This shift was also felt on foreign policy, since although Egypt was technically neutral in the Cold War and Naguib himself participated in the Bandung Conference, the government as a whole took on a more pro-US stance by doing things such as refusing to recognize the People's Republic of China and persecuting the communists within its borders (4). He was handsomely rewarded for this with two things that were crucial to ensure Egypt's economic and military modernization, respectively: first, a loan of $270 million from the US and Great Britain to help with the construction of the Aswan Dam, an absolutely critical infrastructure project, and second, $83 million worth of weapons, bought under the promise that they would be used only in self defense (5).

A new Egypt was rising, but not everyone was happy about it.
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Naguib in a meeting with Jefferson Caffery, the American ambassador.
The president's cordial relations with former Wafd Party members, the United States and especially Great Britain ruffled many feathers in the army, especially among those who once belonged to the Free Officers Movement. To them, it seemed as if he was about to do something such as joining the Baghdad Pact or perhaps even restore the monarchy.

Both of these choices were obviously politically suicidal, of course, especially now that the radio and the press were flooded with articles praising Naguib's heroism in the Arab-Israeli War (the source of his nationalist credentials) and the success of the reforms, but still, the threat of these dissatisfied officers - such as Abdel Hakim Amer and Ali Sabri, two close allies of the late Gamal Abdel Nasser - launching a coup was not to be underestimated. Something drastic had to be done, something that would prove beyond every shadow of a doubt that Naguib was, in fact, a leader whose main concern was the well being of his own country and its people, instead of one who was nothing more than a foreign puppet, much like the hated Hashemite kings of Jordan and Iraq.

So he nationalized the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956. The official justification for this move was that its vast profits were necessary to ensure that the Aswan Dam and other important projects were completed on time. However, this statement was immediately followed by a resounding condemnation of European colonialism, and that the canal belonged to Egypt alone not only because it was located on Egyptian soil, but also because tens of thousands of native workers died in its construction. Naguib's speech was received by enormous, jubilant crowds not only in cities like Cairo and Alexandria, but also in Amman, Baghdad and Damascus, whose populations now saw him as the champion of Arab nationalism, in opposition to French and especially British imperialism.
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Smoke rises from oil tanks struck during the Anglo-French assault to Port Said.

London and Paris were, predictably, furious. On October 29, after months of preparations, they, along with Israel, invaded Egypt, occupying the Canal Zone (which was sabotaged beforehand, making it useless) and the Sinai. A little more than a week later, however, the world's two real superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, like two adults scolding a pair of children, demanded that the invaders stand down and withdraw. France and Britain, both thouroughly humiliated, had no choice but to comply, lest their economies suffer a blow they could not withstand. The age of European colonial empires had truly come to an end, and only Israel got something decent out of the whole mess, namely the reopening of the Straits of Tiran, which had been closed off to their ships since 1950.

Of course, this prize was nothing compared to the gigantic surge of prestige Naguib experienced as a result of his diplomatic victory. His already famous name was now spoken of in the entire Arab world, from Marrakesh to Tripoli to Basra, and the already rising phenomenon of Arab nationalism became a torrent whose effects were immediately felt among Egypt's neighbors. Some more radical elements even talked about perhaps uniting their respective countries with Egypt so as to create one, single united nation that would be able to puts its minor regional squabbles aside and assert itself as one of the great powers in the world, one which would no longer require foreign aid to sustain itself.​


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Naguib receiving a hero's welcome in Cairo.

Jordan, sandwiched between the republics of Egypt and Syria, felt the effects of this Pan-Arab wave almost immediately. Its young king, Hussein, had to play a dangerous balancing act: he would be seen as a foreign puppet if he tried to swim against the current, but, at the same time, if the republicans in his country gained too much ground, they would almost certainly depose him. Thus, he first dismissed all British officers from the army, then allowed democratic elections to take place in October 1956, right before the Suez Crisis. These elections brought Suleiman Nabulsi, a nationalist who previously served as minister of finance and later as ambassador to Great Britain, to the position of prime minister. Then, when the tripartite invasion of Egypt happened days later, an infuriated Hussein almost intervened militarily in the conflict on the defenders' side, but was convinced by Nabulsi to stay put and wait for future developments.

However, as the months passed, relations between the king and the prime minister dramatically, with the latter defending a closer alignment with Egypt and Syria, which were discussing the potential unitification of their countries (talks quietly encouraged by Washington, which feared Syria's government could be taken over by communists), and the former that ties with Britain should be maintained. By April 1957 it was obvious that a compromise could not be reached, and Nabulsi's dismissal was imminent. However, the prime minister had already been in talks with Ali Abu Nuwar, a fellow nationalist and chief of staff of the Jordanian Army, and silently elaborated a conspiracy to depose the king.

That conspiracy came to fruition on the morning of April 8, when Hussein was suddenly detained in the royal palace by soldiers loyal to the plotters and forced at gunpoint to sign a statement declaring his abdication. Then, less than an hour later, the legislature, largely dominated by Pan-Arabists but still placed under the watchful eyes of Nuwar's troops, declared the end of the monarchy and the creation of the Jordanian Arab Republic, with prime minister Nabulsi unanimously proclaimed as its first president. Several more prominent royalists were detained as time went by, and by the end of the day they, along with the royal family, were allowed to go to exile (6).

With the arm-wrestling match between the nationalists and the conservatives ending with a victory for the former, the Jordanian government promptly dispatched messages to Cairo and Damascus indicating its desire to participate in their ongoing talks, which was welcomed by Naguib and Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli.
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An ominous photo from 1956 showing Hussein addressing the army and Nuwar in the background.
It was only a matter of time before Iraq, now the last Hashemite monarchy left, shared the fate of its western neighbor. The republicans there, led by Abdul Salam Arif and Abd al-Karim Qasim, launched their coup, which was much more brutal than the one that took place in Jordan, in December 1957 (7). Despite surrendering without any resistance, the entire royal family, along with prime minister Nuri al-Said, was executed by firing squad, and the corpses of al-Said and crown prince 'Abd al-Ilah were dragged through the streets, torn apart, then burned by an angry mob. Multiple other human rights violations took place as the new government asserted its authority over the country and local groups, linked to it by varying degrees, took advantage of the chaos to settle old, often personal scores.

A rift appeared between Arif and Qasim soon after their victory, with the former endorsing joining the still hypothetical but increasingly promising federation that was forming between Syria, Egypt and Jordan, while the latter, who was more of an Iraqi rather than Arab nationalist, defending closer ties with the communists and the Soviet Union. The power struggle that ensued was won by Arif, who became president, outlawed the Iraqi Communist Party and stacked the government with members of the Ba'ath Party, which also had members in Syria and, predictably, supported Arab unification. Qasim, meanwhile, was stripped of his ranks and would spend the rest of his life under house arrest (8).

Finally, after months of negotiations involving representatives from Cairo, Amman, Damascus and Baghdad, which were lengthened thanks to the addition of Jordan and later Iraq to the talks, the United Arab Republic was proclaimed on May 15, 1958 (9). A federation whose republics were largely autonomous in their internal affairs, its seat of power was located in Cairo, where its president - the first man to take the post was, unsurprisingly, Mohammed Naguib - and legislature, composed of 700 members, resided. Stretching fom the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, it was home to approximately 38 million people and multiple religious denominations, from Sunnis and Shiites, to Coptic and Assyrian Christians, to Alawites, Druze and Yazidis (10).

It was a mighty, terrifying new country that would completely revolutionize politics in the Middle East - and create its own little equivalent of the Cold War.

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Notes:

(1) Nasser survived the attack unscathed IOTL.

(2) IOTL, Qutb was executed in 1966.

(3) Nasser also used the attack as a convenient excuse to purge his opponents - Naguib among them - IOTL.

(4) IOTL, Nasser made moves that drew him closer to the East Bloc - stuff like recognizing the PRC. The Egyptian communists were still persecuted though.

(5) Nasser didn't accept the American conditions IOTL. That, along with his friendly relations to the USSR, made Washington withdraw its loan to help build the Aswan Dam.

(6) IOTL, Hussein first dismissed Nabulsi then Nuwar a few days later after an alleged coup attempt. Here, the nationalists are quicker on the draw and get rid of him first.

(7) The Iraqi coup happened in July 1958 IOTL. Here, the Jordanian coup's success emboldens the conspirators, who act sooner as a result.

(8) Qasim triumphed over Arif IOTL and kept Iraq out of the UAR.

(9) The UAR was proclaimed on February IOTL.

(10) IOTL, Nasser basically turned Syria (the only other member of the UAR) into an Egyptian province and ordered that its political parties be abolished. As a result, Syria left the union in 1961 after a coup d'état overthrew Abdel Hakim Amer, his representative there. The federation is much looser ITTL, but it doesn't mean keeping it together will be an easy task, especially since its neighbors - Turkey, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia and, of course, tiny little Israel - are, pardon my wording, shitting bricks right now.
 
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