Magazine article The World and I

From Repression to Reconciliation

Magazine article The World and I

From Repression to Reconciliation

Article excerpt

The Central American experience shows that democracy and peace are possible.

The countries of Central America have historically been vulnerable to foreign intervention, social inequality, and a culture of violence and repression. Military rulers, conservative oligarchies, and conformist elites have dominated the region. Ideological tools, such as anticommunism, were often employed to justify or legitimize increased repression.

The culture of violence was based on a conception of modernity promoted by three agents that could be called a trinity. Church power, patriarchal relations as manifested through male control of the family, and oligarchic landownership constitute this trinity, which has deep regional roots. It is constituted of the three Ps: padre de familia, padre de la Iglesia, and padre de la tierra (father as head of the family, the [Catholic] Church, and the land). This trinity represents the social mechanisms of control that have historically defined and maintained order and identity in Central America. Based on physical, ideological, and legal domination, this identity has legitimized violence to protect itself against change.

Prior to the 1990s, regimes were part and parcel with this trinity, dominating through inequality and repression and manifesting their power through militarism, authoritarianism, and caudillos. These regimes include the dictators Anastasio Somoza (Nicaragua), Tiburcio Car'as (Honduras), and Maximiliano Mart'nez (El Salvador). Somoza in particular maintained the identity of Nicaraguans as religious and devoted, respectful of private property, and subject to patriarchal authority. …

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