TROUBLE IN OUR BACKYARD: Central America and the United States in the Eighties by Martin--Ed. Diskin

TROUBLE IN OUR BACKYARD: Central America and the United States in the Eighties

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A symposium, in effect, on Central America: eight uneven articles--plus an introduction by editor Diskin (anthropology, MIT), a preface by Harvard historian John Womack, and an epilogue by Gunter Grass. Edelberto Torres-Rivas, a Guatemalan scholar now living in Costa Pica, provides a social science overview of the region. Agriculture has declined in economic and political importance, he contends, with more of the elite's money going into industry. The decline in agricultural labor is matched by an increase in service sector jobs--and salaried work is decreasing while self-employment rises. In Central America overall, Torres-Rivas writes, disparities between ""those who have nothing and those who receive a good deal"" are increasing; over half the population is illiterate, except in Nicaragua (where illiteracy ""has practically disappeared""); the ""new bourgeoisie"" occupies itself with finance and speculation. Chilean political analyst (and Allende aide) Luis Maira, now in Mexico, contrasts Jeane Kirkpatrick's reckless ideas with more moderate views assembled by the State Department. One of State's sources, Cuban-born U. of North Carolina political scientist Enrique A. Baloyra, contributes the piece on El Salvador. The problem in El Salvador is not the new oligarchy, he maintains, but the old one that will not die. Baloyra calls this regime ""reactionary despotism,"" and identifies it with those who have the most to lose through change. Stanford Latin American specialist Richard Fagen, studiously uncritical as regards the new rulers of Nicaragua, nonetheless points out that when the Somoza regime finally toppled, it was pushed by a real popular insurrection. The true Sandinistas did not have control over everyone who picked up a gun at that moment, so the regime was Short on disciplined cadres. The Frente leaders who are the country's de facto rulers felt that the revolution belonged to them; but the newcomers didn't necessarily agree--hence the political problems that have compounded the preexisting problems of a ruined economy. The additional contributions include two chapters on Guatemala, one on Honduras, and an unenlightened survey of liberation theology (which manages to avoid the issue of God). A middling collection, all in all. As a background source with immediate applications, see first Walter LaFeber's Inevitable Revolutions (p. 871).

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1983
Publisher: Pantheon