LeoGrande, William M.; Robbins, Carla Anne
June 1980
Foreign Affairs;Summer80, Vol. 58 Issue 5, p1084
This article focuses on the political crisis in El Salvador and its potential impact on regional stability in Latin America. Less than a year after Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza was driven from Managua by the first Latin American revolution in two decades, neighboring El Salvador teeters on the brink of full-scale insurrection. In truth, El Salvador has hardly had a government over the past 12 months. The nation's nominal rulers have long since lost control of their own security forces and today stand isolated amidst a rising tide of political violence from both Right and Left. El Salvador is burdened with the most rigid class structure and worst income inequality in all of Latin America. For over a the social and economic life of the nation has been dominated by a small landed elite known popularly as the 14 families or Los catorce. The family clans comprising the oligarchy include only a few thousand people in this nation of nearly five million, but until recently they owned 60 percent of the farmland, the entire banking system, and most of the nation's industry. The tensions inherent in such a social structure are exacerbated in El Salvador by severe population pressure on the land. The dominance of the oligarchy and the persistence of rural poverty produced an immense potential for class conflict. For decades, the oligarchy's primary political objective has been to prevent this latent conflict from erupting into class war.


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