Amid the muddle of Central American politics, El Salvador emerged briefly as an international ""hot spot"" when the Reagan...

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EL SALVADOR IN TRANSITION

Amid the muddle of Central American politics, El Salvador emerged briefly as an international ""hot spot"" when the Reagan administration placed it at the center of Latin America's dominoes. Before the crisis flares up again, readers have the opportunity to orient themselves through this thorough review of Salvadoran history, the last 20 years in particular. And flare up again it will, U. of North Carolina political scientist Baloyra believes. The problem, as he sees it, is that whereas the military has played a modernizing role in other Latin American countries, in El Salvador it bas interceded only in the interests of the country's traditional oligarchy: the fabled Fourteen Families (there are actually more) who built their power on coffee and held El Salvador to this one plantation crop, while gradually branching out into banking, trade, retailing, and other pursuits. The oligarchy is portrayed as ruthless in suppressing every effort at redressing grievances; and the military, though distinct from it (generals, Baloyra notes, don't always get into San Salvador's most exclusive clubs), serves as its adjunct. Thus the spiral of violence that involves ""private"" death squads, as well as formal military units, in assassinations and ""disappearances."" Among the opposition forces, Baloyra plays down the leftist guerrilla groups, seeing them as the result of the counterinsurgency mentality rather than the cause. Instead, he emphasizes the Christian Democrats--who he says received the greatest support in the recent elections--and the mass organizations of students, peasants, and workers, which he distinguishes from the guerrilla groups. A democratic future for El Salvador, he maintains, can only evolve if these organizations are included, but their relationship to the Christian Democrats has not always been good and American policy shuns them. Despite occasional lapses into academic hair-splitting, and the sometimes-dizzying succession of personalities and parties, this is a sober, cogent accounting:the best available.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0807840939

Page Count: -

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1982