Cool News: The Absence of Turmoil Does Not Mean That Central America Has Settled for Conservatism

By Dunkerley, James | New Internationalist, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Cool News: The Absence of Turmoil Does Not Mean That Central America Has Settled for Conservatism


Dunkerley, James, New Internationalist


CENTRAL America went out of the news some time ago. 'Anglo - Saxons expect Latin politics to be hot,' says one leading Central American politician of the centre - left, 'to be vividly expressive of either high expectations -- as in the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions -- or of heroic defeat, as in the Chilean tragedy. Now the fighting is over we have lost the interest and the audience.'

Nobody living between the jungles of the Peten in northern Guatemala and the Darien Gap in Panama could possibly regret the passing of the massacres that afflicted the region in the 1980s. But in the process Central America appears once again to have become an impoverished backwater under the uncontested dominion of powerful landlords and transnationals.

The Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the former guerrillas of the FMLN in El Salvador lost elections, while the rebels in Guatemala have been strategically defeated. The 1989 US invasion of Panama proved uncontroversial at home, relatively easy to stage and provoked minimal diplomatic embarrassment for Washington. In Honduras and Costa Rica -- where there was no military conflict in the 1980s -- conservative forces have held their own without great difficulty despite introducing fierce neo - liberal policies.

Now all eyes are on Cuba, long depicted as the most dangerous sponsor of local insurgencies and now so wracked by economic failure that charges for basic medicines have been introduced for the first time since 1959 -- a move seen by some as signalling the end of the Revolution.

North American commentators and officials have lost their nervousness of a few years back. Their style is now casually bullish. Few of their blandishments are neutralized by the solidarity movements in the US or Europe, which have lost popular support -- although non - partisan campaigns over human rights have maintained their influence.

All this suggests that politics in Central America reflect the end of the Cold War and the general decline of the Left. Nonetheless, the retreat from armed conflict has proved rather more difficult to conduct than weary cold warriors anticipated. Progressive forces have proved more tenacious and influential in the post - war period than Washington and regional right - wingers would like to admit.

In Nicaragua the Sandinistas remain by far the largest and strongest single political party. …

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