The years 1944 to 1949 represent a crucial period for Central America. The strong-armed dictatorships that had taken control of most of the states in the 1930s began to crumble; and there were signs that more moderate forces, representing middle sector and working-class interests opposing the elitist oligarchies, were emerging to modernize Central America's political structures and to broaden the base of its economic development. Guatemala's Ubico and El Salvador's Hernández Martínez both fell in 1944. Carías's long rule in Honduras ended in 1948, and Anastasio Somoza stepped down from the Nicaraguan presidency in 1947, though he continued to run the country through his control of the Guardia Nacional. The 1948 civil war in Costa Rica, checking both the growth of leftist radicalism and continued rule by the populist National Republican party, brought to power the long-term social democratic influence of Pepé Figueres's National Liberation party. The hegemony of the United States in the political, economic, and military spheres, so thoroughly solidified during World War II, was suddenly being challenged by these new forces. The policy the United States pursued toward Central America during and after these years would have much to do with the quality and manner of development for the remainder of the twentieth century.
The perceptions of Central America by U. S. policymakers thus take on important dimensions for this period. A number of recent studies ( Aybar, Millett, Bell, Immermann, and others) have focused on the events of this period and the ramifications of U. S. policy. What is unique about this new work by Thomas Leonard is its emphasis on the events and people in Central America in the late 1940s as perceived by