IN January 1944 El Salvador was deceptively quiescent. Actually, it was a potential powder keg. Since 1931, General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez had controlled the nation's life with an iron fist. Propped by the military, he politically isolated the landowning elite, which remained content so long as its wealth and status were not threatened. The middle sector was disorganized. The laboring masses were leaderless, in part attributable to the power of Hernández, who played upon their sympathies but did little to alleviate their poverty. Unexpected by U.S. officials, an eruption of the middle sector in the spring of 1944 paralyzed the nation with a general strike and forced Hernández to resign on May 8. The success of the middle sector, however, was short-lived. Following the election of General Salvador Castaneda Castro in January 1945, it was no longer a potent political force. The landowners aligned themselves with the older military officers and pressured Castaneda not to alter their status. From 1945 to 1949, the middle sector leaned toward the younger military officers, who rallied behind Major Oscar Osorio. This liberal element was primarily interested in constitutional government. The laboring classes remained politically dormant.
Salvador's economic evolution and political history explain the poten-