Academic journal article Military Review

Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador's FMLN & Peru's Shining Path

Academic journal article Military Review

Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador's FMLN & Peru's Shining Path

Article excerpt

REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA: El Salvador's FMLN & Peru's Shining Path, Cynthia McClintock, United States Institute of Peace, Washington, DC, 1998, 298 pages, $19.95.

In Revolutionary Movements in Latin America, Cynthia McClintock, professor of political science at George Washington University, addresses the question of why major revolutionary movements emerged in El Salvador and Peru during the period from 1980 to 1992. How did these movements fit into existing political-science theories on revolutions? What were the reasons for their emergence? What was the US role in the successes and failures of these movements?

In the first of three major discussions, McClintock confirms French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's maxim that success is achieved more because of morale than materiel. In the examples she gives, evolutionary movements came close to winning because of a collapse of morale in incumbent regimes and their security forces.

In 1979-1981 in El Salvador, the farabundo marti national liberation front (FMLN) came close to a military victory. Morale was low because of the fear that the United States would withdraw the way it had abandoned the Somoza regime in 1979. US Presidents Ronald Regan and George Bush bolstered El Salvador's government and military confidence and saved the day.

McClintock builds a persuasive case that in Peru the Shining Path came close to victory in the early 1990s, even though it did not have the forces necessary to stage a final pitched battle for the capital. What it did have was a sense that its victory was inevitable because of the popular belief that it was the only effective organization in Peru. The belief was so strong that the nation's elite began sending assets and family members overseas in a scramble to avoid being left behind to face a Khmer Rouge-type reign of terror. Again, the key governmental victory was in the area of morale: the successful capture of Sendero Luminoso (SL) leader Abimael Guzman in 1992 showed that the government and military were capable of working efficiently.

In the second discussion, McClintock explores the part elections played. In El Salvador, between 1982 and 1992, the FMLN, distrustful ofter the oligarchy rigged the 1972 and 1977 elections, did not believe it would be allowed to come to power through elections. …

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