Today, from a geopolitical point of view, it would appear absurd to argue that El Salvador is of vital strategic interest to either the United States or Russia. Yet, not long ago, El Salvador was a focal point of US policy, with all of its ramifications, because the Reagan administration viewed the situation there as a challenge to US national will and a threat to US national security.Salvadorans consequently paid a heavy price for their entanglement in the Cold War—the loss of tens of thousands of lives, and economic devastation.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, we have seen a complete reversal: the Soviet Union no longer exists, the United States is working for a permanent peace, and the idea of democratic government has taken hold worldwide.What does this mean for El Salvador? Can we assume as a result of the dramatic shift in these external factors that the country will inevitably achieve democratic government? Most observers would agree that such an assumption is unfounded. To the contrary, the transition to democracy in El Salvador is a fragile process resulting from a combination of many elements.
With that in mind, the Latin American Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center organized a conference to study the United Nations‐ sponsored peace negotiations and the transition to democracy in El Salvador.Although a peace settlement was anticipated by the end of 1991, its timing was in doubt, which complicated the preparation for the event because the availability of key participants was compromised by their commitments to the talks in Mexico and New York.As it turned out, the US Department of State refused to allow members of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) negotiating team to attend the April conference, so we ultimately decided to hold two conferences, not one.