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date: 07 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The armed forces of Central America predate the development of the modern nation-state. It is difficult to understand the political and social history of the region without examining the role of the military. Strong men leading local armed militias emerged out of the ashes of the Spanish Empire to rule the newly independent nations. As military institutions developed, an alliance between the armed forces and powerful economic elites sought to govern the nation-states by suppressing and exploiting popular sectors often through brutal repression. Authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment led to multiple uprisings which helped shape the nature of politics and democratic governance in contemporary Central America. In explaining this we explore the evolution of the armed forces, focusing particular attention on the political influence of the military in the development of the modern nation-state, and on the process of democratization in the late twentieth century. We then examine the role the United States has played in promoting and sustaining military rule. Finally, we analyze the consequences of late-twentieth-century peace processes on the retreat of military power and on the building of democracy.

Keywords: armed forces, military, caudillos, civil-military relations, Cold War, Peace Accords, revolutions, Sandinistas, FMLN, democratization

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