Senior reporter: Samuel Eaton
After the fall of the Soviet Union, international interest in Central America came to an abrupt halt. Despite free elections, in many cases, the countries of Central America soon saw their fledgling new democracies tainted by a backlash of political corruption, drug trafficking and crime that still persists today. This segment examines the aftermath of Central America's civil wars, taking us to communities emblematic of the conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. This report provides a bridge from the war period to the present looking at the successes and failures of democratization in this increasingly polarized region.
Terry Tempest Williams writes that "Democracy as a political system is both dynamic and fragile by design." If that system remains imperfect in the United States, with our long history of demoratic institutions, what happens in a region where democracy is barely a decade or so old? Such as in Central America, where in the 1990's, violent civil wars came so close... in Nicaragua, the nine-year-old U.S.-backed contra war collapsed when Violeta Chamorro democratically ousted the Sandinistas and the Nicaraguan Revolution... in 1996, peace accords in Guatemala brought hope that 36 years of violence would end ...while in El Salvador peace offered a new vision for a country divided by war until 1992. But as the current war in Iraq proves once again, it is the aftermath of the fighting that presents the greatest challenge to peace and democracy. In the second installment of our special series, Despues de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars, Sam Eaton looks at how the Central American story, and the hope of achieving real democracy, has played out over the last decade in the three Central American countries most affected by the wars of the nineteen eighties.
For more information about the issues raised in the segment Aftermath: Peace or Pieces - Central America Since the War, see the following books and articles.
(Note: this is not intended as a complete list. Check back for more recommendations and an opportunity to make your own recommendations soon.)
Williams, Terry Tempest, The Open Space of Democracy
Zarate, Juan Carlos: Forging Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Effects of U.S. Foreign Policy on Central American Democratization
Dominguez, Jorge I.: International Security and Democracy: Latin America and the Caribbean in the Post-Cold War Era
Brown, Timothy C.: When the Ak-47s Fall Silent: Revolutionaries, Guerrillas, and the Dangers of Peace
Castaneda, Jorge G.: Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War
Luciak, Ilja A.: After the Revolution: Gender and Democracy in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala
Sieder, Rachel et al.: Who Governs?: Guatemala Five Years After the Peace Accords
Sieder, Rachel: Central America: Fragile Transition
Barry, Tom, ed., "U.S.-Latin America Policy", The Progressive Response, 9 March 1999 Vol. 3, No. 7
Embassy of El Salvador in U.S.: The Peace Accords
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Photo at top left © 2004 Donna DeCesare www.donnadecesare.com