Democracy and Elections in Central America Autumn of the Oligarchs?
John A. Peeler
Everything had come to an end before he did, we had even extinguished the last breath of the hopeless hope that someday the repeated and always denied rumor that he had finally succumbed to some one of his many regal illnesses would be true, and yet we didn't believe it now that it was, and not because we really didn't believe it but because we no longer wanted it to be true, we had ended up not understanding what would become of us without him, what would become of our lives after him. . . .--Gabriel García Márquez, The Autumn of the Patriarch
T he Reagan administration, like many before it, has proudly claimed credit for the emergence of democracy in Central America, as well as elsewhere in Latin America.1 The contributors to this volume have demonstrated that such a claim is unfounded: Central American political evolution has indeed been decisively shaped by the United States, but the regimes established and the elections held under strong U.S. pressure cannot by any reasonable standard be called democratic, and their prospects for long-term stability are minimal. This chapter attempts to synthesize the arguments and evidence presented in the preceding chapters by investigating the political and economic constraints on democracy in Central America and by examining the nature of electoral experiences in the region. It concludes with a discussion of prospects and problems in Nicaragua's revolutionary approach to democracy.
As small countries deeply embedded in the U.S. sphere of influence, the Central American nations cannot be adequately understood