Central American crisis

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The Central American crisis began in the late 1970s, when major civil wars and communist revolutions erupted in various countries in Central America, resulting in it becoming the number one region among US's foreign policy hot spots in the 1980s. In particular, the United States feared that victory by communist forces would isolate the rest of South America from the United States if the countries of Central America were to be installed with pro-Soviet communist governments. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, the United States often pursued its interests through puppet governments and the elite classes, who tended to ignore the demands of the peasant and working class. [1]

Communist revolution Type of revolution

A communist revolution is a proletarian revolution often, but not necessarily inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism, typically with socialism as an intermediate stage. The idea that a proletarian revolution is needed is a cornerstone of Marxism; Marxists believe that the workers of the world must unite and free themselves from capitalist oppression to create a world run by and for the working class. Thus, in the Marxist view, proletarian revolutions need to happen in countries all over the world.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

A country's foreign policy, also called foreign relations or foreign affairs policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries. The study of such strategies is called foreign policy analysis. In recent times, due to the deepening level of globalization and transnational activities, the states will also have to interact with non-state actors. The aforementioned interaction is evaluated and monitored in attempts to maximize the benefits of multilateral international cooperation. Since the national interests are paramount, foreign policies are designed by the government through high-level decision-making processes. National interests accomplishment can occur as a result of peaceful cooperation with other nations, or through exploitation. Usually, creating foreign policy is the job of the head of government and the foreign minister. In some countries, the legislature also has considerable effects. Foreign policies of countries have varying rates of change and scopes of intent, which can be affected by factors that change the perceived national interests or even affect the stability of the country itself. The foreign policy of a country can have a profound and lasting impact on many other countries and on the course of international relations as a whole, such as the Monroe Doctrine conflicting with the mercantilism policies of 19th-century European countries and the goals of independence of newly formed Central American and South American countries.


In the aftermath of the Second World War going into the 1960s and 1970s, Latin America's economic landscape changed drastically. [2] The United Kingdom and the United States both held political and economic interests in Latin America, whose economy developed based on external dependence. [3] Rather than solely relying on agricultural exportation, this new system promoted internal development and relied on regional common markets, banking capital, interest rates, taxes, and growing capital at the expense of labor and the peasant class. [2] The Central American Crisis was, in part, a reaction by the lower classes of Latin American society to unjust land tenure, labor coercion, and unequal political representation. [1] Landed property had taken hold of the economic and political landscape of the region, giving large corporations a lot of influence over the region and forcing formerly subsistent farmers and lower-class workers into very harsh living conditions. [1]



The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the 46-year-long Somoza dictatorship in 1979. [4] However, the United States opposed the Nicaraguan revolution, and instead backed the Somoza dictatorship [4] and later the Contras.

Sandinista National Liberation Front Nicaraguan leftist political party, founded in 1961.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua.

Somoza family

The Somoza Dynasty was an influential political dynasty who ruled Nicaragua as a family dictatorship from 1936 to 1979.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

El Salvador

Fought between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or umbrella organization of five left-wing militias. Over the course of the 1970s, significant tensions and violence had already existed, before the civil war's full outbreak.

Military Organization primarily tasked with preparing for and conducting war

A military is a heavily-armed, highly-organised force primarily intended for warfare, also known collectively as armed forces. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards.

El Salvador country in Central America

El Salvador, officially the Republic of El Salvador, is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador's capital and largest city is San Salvador. As of 2016, the country had a population of approximately 6.34 million.

Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front El Salvador political party

The Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front is one of the two major political parties in El Salvador.

The United States supported the Salvadoran military government and supplied them with 4 billion dollars, trained their military elites, and provided them with arms over the course of a decade. [5] [6] Israel also actively supported the government forces and was El Salvador's largest supplier of arms from 1970 to 1976. [7] The conflict ended in the early 1990s. Between 75,000 and 90,000 people were killed during the war. [8] [ verification needed ]


Following a CIA-backed coup ousting Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, civil war ensued in Guatemala between 1962 and 1996. [9] [10] In Guatemala, the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) fighting against the government were based exclusively in rural areas, and were made up of a large peasant and indigenous population. They ran a multifaceted operation and led an armed mass struggle of national character. [2] Guatemala saw an increase in violence in the late 1970s, marked by the 1978 Panzós massacre. In 1982 the resurgent guerrilla groups united in the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity. The presidency of Efraín Ríos Montt (19821983), during which he implemented a strategy he called "beans and bullets", is widely considered[ by whom? ] the war's turning point. The Guatemalan government and the severely weakened guerrillas signed a peace agreement in December 1996, ending the war. Over 200,000 people died over the course of the civil war, disproportionately indigenous people targeted by the Ríos Montt headed military. [9] On 10 May 2013, Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and sentenced to 80 years in prison. [9]

Central Intelligence Agency National intelligence agency of the United States

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.

1954 Guatemalan coup détat June 1954 coup détat in Guatemala

The 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état, code-named Operation PBSUCCESS, was a covert operation carried out by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution of 1944–1954. It installed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of U.S.-backed authoritarian rulers in Guatemala.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.


Going into the Central American Crisis, Honduras's economy was framed by stagnating agricultural production, de-industrialization, deteriorating terms of trade, the continuing problems of the Central American common market, the decline of international financial reserves, salary decline, and increasing unemployment and underemployment. [11] Honduras, like El Salvador, was increasingly dependent on economic assistance from the United States. [12] In Honduras, efforts to establish guerrilla movements foundered on the generally conservative attitude of the population. Nevertheless, fears that the civil wars wracking its neighbors might spread to the country led to the killings and disappearances of leftists, spearheaded by the army's Battalion 316. Relatively stable Honduras became a key base for the Reagan administration's response to the crisis. US troops held large military exercises in Honduras during the 1980s, and trained thousands of Salvadorans in the country. The nation also hosted bases for the Nicaraguan Contras.

United States response


By the late 1980s, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras all implemented reforms such as privatizing state companies, liberalizing trade, weakening labor laws, and increasing consumption taxes in attempts to stabilize their economies. [13] As of 2015, violence still reigns over Central America. [14] A common legacy of the Central American crisis was the displacement and destruction of indigenous communities, especially in Guatemala where they were considered potential supporters of both the government and guerilla forces. [9]

Peace efforts

Several Latin American nations formed the Contadora Group to work for a resolution to the region's wars. Later, Costa Rican President Óscar Arias succeeded in convincing the other Central American leaders to sign the Esquipulas Peace Agreement, which eventually provided the framework for ending the civil wars.

See also

Related Research Articles

History of Central America aspect of history

The history of Central America is the study of the region known as Central America.

The history of El Salvador begins with several Mesoamerican nations, especially the Cuzcatlecs, as well as the Lenca and Maya. In the early 16th century, the Spanish Empire conquered the territory, incorporating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled from Mexico City. In 1821, the country achieved independence from Spain as part of the First Mexican Empire, only to further secede as part of the Federal Republic of Central America two years later. Upon the republic's dissolution in 1841, El Salvador became sovereign until forming a short-lived union with Honduras and Nicaragua called the Greater Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1895 to 1898.

Federal Republic of Central America former nation in Central America

The Federal Republic of Central America, also called the United Provinces of Central America in its first year of creation, was a sovereign state in Central America consisting of the territories of the former Captaincy General of Guatemala of New Spain. It existed from 1823 to 1841, and was a republican democracy.

Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity political party

The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity is a Guatemalan political party that started as a guerrilla movement but laid down its arms in 1996 and became a legal political party in 1998 after the peace process which ended the Guatemalan Civil War.

Central American music

Central America is dominated by the popular Latin music, or Black Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The countries of Central America have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others. One of the well-known forms of Central American music is punta, a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live across the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The marimba, a type of xylophone, is perhaps the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread throughout the region.

Operation PBFORTUNE, also known as Operation FORTUNE, was the name of a covert United States operation to overthrow the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz in 1952. The operation was authorized by US President Harry Truman and planned by the Central Intelligence Agency. The United Fruit Company had lobbied intensively for the overthrow because land reform initiated by Árbenz threatened its economic interests. The coup attempt was also motivated by US fears that the government of Árbenz was being influenced by communists. It was planned with the knowledge and support of the United Fruit Company, and of Anastasio Somoza García, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo and Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the US-backed right-wing dictators of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela respectively, who felt threatened by the democratic Guatemalan Revolution, and had sought to undermine it. The plan for the operation involved providing weapons to the exiled Guatemalan military officer Carlos Castillo Armas, who was to lead an invasion from Nicaragua. However, the US State Department discovered that details of the plan had become too widely known. US Secretary of State Dean Acheson became concerned that the coup attempt would damage the image of the US, which had committed to a policy of non-intervention, and so terminated the operation. Operation PBFORTUNE was followed two years later by Operation PBSUCCESS, another covert operation in which Castillo Armas played a prominent role, and which toppled Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution.

José Trinidad Cabañas President of Honduras

José Trinidad Cabañas served as President of Honduras for two separate terms: From 1 March to 6 July 1852. And 31 December 1853 to 6 June 1855. He was a General and liberal politician whose role in Honduran history began during the Civil War 1826-29. He became a Central America hero, when he attempted to reunite Central America, during Francisco Morazán's tenure and after the unionist's death.

Salvadoran Civil War 1979-1992 civil war in El Salvador

The Salvadoran Civil War was a conflict between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or "umbrella organization" of left-wing groups. A coup on October 15, 1979 was followed by killings of anti-coup protesters by the government and of anti-disorder protesters by the guerrillas, and is widely seen as the start of civil war.

Latin America–United States relations Multilateral and interregional relationships

Latin America–United States relations are relations between the United States of America and the countries of Latin America. Historically speaking, bilateral relations between the United States and the various countries of Latin America have been multifaceted and complex, at times defined by strong regional cooperation and at others filled with economic and political tension and rivalry. Although relations between the U.S. government and most of Latin America were limited prior to the late 1800s, for most of the past century, the United States has unofficially regarded parts of Latin America as within its sphere of influence, and for much of the Cold War (1947–1991), actively vied with the Soviet Union for influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Operation Charly, was allegedly the code-name given to a program undertaken by the military establishment in Argentina with the objective of providing military and counterinsurgency assistance to Central America to kill left-wing activists. The operation was either headed by the Argentine military with the agreement of the Pentagon, or was led by the US administration and used the Argentinians as a proxy. All of the Junta members are currently in prison for convicted for crimes against humanity.

Central American Integration System economic and political organization of Central American states

The Central American Integration System has been the economic and political organization of Central American states since February 1, 1993. On December 13, 1991, the ODECA countries signed the Protocol of Tegucigalpa, extending earlier cooperation for regional peace, political freedom, democracy and economic development. SICA's General Secretariat is in El Salvador.

Index of Central America-related articles

This is an Index of Central America-related articles. This index defines Central America as the seven nations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

The Central America-4 passport is a common-design passport issued by the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement member states. Although the design had been in use by Nicaragua and El Salvador since the mid-1990s, it became the norm for the CA-4 in January 2006. The main features are the navy blue cover with the words "America Central" or "Centroamerica" and a map of Central America, with the territory of the issuing country highlighted in gold. This substitutes one map for four national symbols.

History of the Central Americans in Houston

The City of Houston includes a significant population of Central American origin, including origins from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and other countries.

2014 American immigration crisis

The 2014 American immigration crisis was a surge in unaccompanied children and women from the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) seeking entrance to the United States in 2014. According to U.S. law, an unaccompanied alien child refers to a person under 18 years of age, who has no lawful immigration status in the U.S., and who does not have a legal guardian to provide physical custody and care. The surge increased rapidly, doubling in volume each year previously, reaching extreme proportions that provoked a response from the U.S. government in 2014 when tens of thousands of women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras migrated to the United States. Many of the children had no parent/legal guardian available to provide care or physical custody and quickly overwhelmed local border patrols.

Economy of Central America

The economy of Central America is the eleventh-largest economy in Latin America, behind Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia, According to the World Bank, the nominal GDP of Central America reached 204 billion US dollar in 2010, as recovery from the crisis of 2009, where gross domestic product (GDP) suffered a decline to 3.8%. The major economic income are the agriculture and tourism, although the industrial sector is in strong growth, mainly in Panama.

Truth Commission for El Salvador truth commission approved by the United Nations to investigate the wrongdoings that occurred throughout El Salvador’s twelve year civil war

The Truth Commission for El Salvador was a restorative justice truth commission approved by the United Nations to investigate the grave wrongdoings that occurred throughout the country's twelve year civil war. It is estimated that 1.4 percent of the Salvadoran population was killed during the war. The commission operated from July 1992 until March 1993, when its findings were published in the final report, From Madness to Hope. The eight-month period heard from over 2,000 witness testimonies and compiled information from an additional 20,000 witness statements.

The Sumpul River massacre took place in Chalatenango, El Salvador, during the Salvadoran Civil War. On May 13, 1980, Salvadoran Armed Forces and pro-government paramilitaries launched an offensive to disrupt the activities of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). The offensive created many refugees, who were attacked the next day by the Salvadoran forces. The Honduran military prevented the refugees from fleeing into Honduras. At least 300 and possibly 600 refugees died. Both El Salvador and Honduras denied responsibility for the incident. In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission described the incident as a serious violation of international law.



  1. 1 2 3 Weeks 1986.
  2. 1 2 3 Torres-Rivas 1981.
  3. Torres-Rivas 1981; Weeks 1986.
  4. 1 2 Marcus 1985.
  5. DiPiazza 2008, p. 32; "El Salvador"; Flemion et al. 2018, sec. "Civil War".
  6. "Supply Line for a Junta". Time. New York. 16 March 1981. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  7. "Statistics" 1978.
  8. Betancur, Figueredo Planchart & Buergenthal 1993.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Lloyd, Siobhán (2013). "Guatemala". Socialist Lawyer. No. 64. pp. 38–40. doi:10.13169/socialistlawyer.64.0038. ISSN   0954-3635.
  10. Blakeley 2009, p.  92.
  11. Rosenberg 1988.
  12. Rosenberg 1988, p. 3.
  13. Miguel Cruz 2015, pp. 44–45.
  14. Miguel Cruz 2015, p. 46.


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Blakeley, Ruth (2009). State Terrorism and Neoliberalism: The North in the South. Routledge. ISBN   0415686172.
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"El Salvador". The World Factbook . Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
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