A coup leader and significant figure in Panamanian politics, Arias Madrid was elected president in 1940. His ousting in an October 1941 US-backed coup, signalled the begining of a wave of revolutions throughout the Caribbean.

The governments of Anastasio Somoza Garcia of Nicaragua, then Tiburcio Carias Andino of Honduras in November 1944, then Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez of El Salvador in May 1944, Jorge Ubico y Castanheda of Guatemala in October 1944, were one by one overthrown by popular revolts, with US connivence. Other rulers, such as Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivdar of Cuba and Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia of Costa Rica, surrendered power willingly, in May and October 1944 respectively. Isaias Medina Angarita of Venezuela was also overthrown in October 1945, and the regimes on the island of Hispaniola also fell to power uprisings, in Haiti against Elie Lescot in January 1946 and in the Dominican Republic against Rafael Trujillo Molina in September 1947.

The effect of these changes in government, achieved through coup, revolution or peaceful transition, was to bind the region more closely to the US. This was at a time when the US was becoming increasingly isolated internationally and was faced with the emergence of hostile, pro-Axis regimes in other parts of Latin America. The revolutions also facilitated the formation of the United States of Central America.