In This Review

The FBI in Latin America: The Ecuador Files
The FBI in Latin America: The Ecuador Files
By Marc Becker
Duke University Press, 2017, 336 pp

Before the creation of the CIA, in 1947, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt turned to J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI to gather intelligence in Latin America. During World War II, some 700 FBI agents worked the region—45 in Ecuador alone. Mining previously overlooked FBI archives, Becker, an expert on Ecuadorian history, finds that the FBI reports from that period contain valuable primary-source information on Ecuadorian politics. Since political activists tended not to be very good archivists of their own activities, the FBI agents ironically became the region’s historians—and not bad ones at that, Becker recognizes, especially as the agents gained experience in the field. Roosevelt was concerned about Nazi infiltration of Ecuador, but Becker finds that Hoover’s agents focused more on local leftists. Nevertheless, Becker gives the FBI agents points for not exaggerating external influences, appreciating the weaknesses of the Ecuadorian Communist Party, and acknowledging the role of poverty and inequality in fostering political dissent. Becker also notes that the available archival record does not reveal any FBI attempts to actively infiltrate or disrupt the activities of leftist political parties in the country.