Copyright 2004 Donna DeCesare
The most comprehensive coverage of Central America in years.
Award-winning radio to use as an educational and learning tool.
Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Contra hearings.

Archbishop Romero


Map of El Salvador

Map of Nicaragua

Segment 6:
Don't Know the Past? Can't Know the Future
A Look Back At The Polarizing Debate Over The U.S. Role In Central America
Senior Reporter: Richard Gonzales
Associate: Ruxandra Guidi

In the nineteen eighties, violent conflicts in Central America became one of the most controversial foreign policy issues confronting three successive American presidents. Two small countries, El Salvador and Nicaragua, were embroiled in civil wars, and the United States pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid to support its allies in the region. Almost two decades later, the volatile and divisive political debate over the U.S. role in Central America has faded and the American foreign policy establishment has focused its attention on other more pressing issues.

In this segment of our special series, "Despues de las Guerras: Central America After the Wars," produced by Graciasvida Productions, NPR's Richard Gonzales looks back at the polarizing political debate over Central America.

For over two decades the U.S. was embroiled in conflicts throughout Central America. Although many Americans today consider the cold war battles in that region a distant memory, for Central Americans the fallout from the region's wars continues to impact their daily lives. This segment of Despues de las Guerras provides listeners with an historical overview of the political context regarding US involvement in the military conflicts in Central America in the early 1980s, as well as a description of the nature of the conflicts themselves and their resolution.

For more information about the issues raised in the segment Don't Know the Past? Can't Know the Future: A Look Back At The Polarizing Debate Over The U.S. Role In Central America, 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.)

Cabezas, Omar, Fire From The Mountain: The Making of a Sandinista. New York, Crown Publishing Group, 1985
An insider's account of life in the mountains with the Sandinistas before they took power.

Dickey, Christopher: With The Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1985
This book is a first-hand account of traveling with the Contras. Author Christopher Dickey was Washington Post Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. He traveled in the mountains of Nicaragua with the Contras trying to topple the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

Leogrande, William M.: Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America,1977-1992. Raleigh: University of North Carolina Press, 1999

Moreno, Dario, U.S. Policy in Central America: The Endless Debate.
Miami, Florida International University Press, 1990

Walker, Thomas W., ed.: Reagan VERSUS the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War on Nicaragua. Westview Press

Oliver North From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Oliver North. Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver Laurence North (USMC-Retired) ...

The Iran-Contra Scandal From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Iran-Contra Scandal ...

President Ronald Reagan Speeches on Iran Contra

Produced by GraciasVida Media Center, the independent journalism resource for Latin America.

For more information, contact:
Producer Maria Martin email:
or telephone: 415.670.9717

Funded by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

© Maria Martin

Photo at top left © Donna DeCesare