by Daniel Fogel

"Revolution in Central America," by Daniel Fogel

Political history of revolutionary movements in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Fogel brings a social-class and multicultural perspective to the conflicts engulfing the region. Recent El Salvador history, Nicaraguan history and Guatemalan history are brought alive by working peoples' struggles to free themselves from tyranny and humiliation.

A crucial moment in El Salvador history occurred in 1980, when archbishop Oscar Romero took the side of the poor and their social-action groups in their life-and-death struggles against a military junta. "People are fleeing the countryside, coming here to San Salvador or going into the mountains to sleep, because if they are found at night by the security forces they will be killed," declared Romero. In a pastoral letter, the archbishop wrote: "When a dictatorship seriously violates human rights and attacks the common good of the nation, when it becomes unbearable and closes all channels of dialog, of understanding, of rationality -- when this happens, the church speaks of the legitimate right of insurrectional violence."

Romero, appointed as a conservative archbishop by the Vatican three years earlier, thus threw in his lot with passionate priests, nuns and church layworkers who worked and struggled alongside the rural poor, guided by liberation theology. On March 23, 1980, Romero scaled a peak in El Salvador history by declaring to the government's armed forces: "No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. It is time for you to come to your senses and obey your conscience rather than follow a sinful command... Brothers, you are from the people themselves... You kill your own brothers... I beseech you, I beg, you, I order you to stop the repression." The next day, while saying mass, archbishop Romero was shot dead by a right-wing gunman. Slaughters of unarmed poor people by the ruling clique intensified. With massive U.S. support to the forces of repression, the cruelest civil war in modern El Salvador history unfolded over the next ten years.

Revolution in Central America also gives a detailed account and analysis of the Sandinista revolution of 1978-79, which overthrew Nicaragua's dictator Somoza and seemed to mark a turning point in Nicaraguan history. However, the Sandinista regime squandered the creative initiative of the Nicaraguan masses by its sluggish moderation on land reform and chauvinistic mistreatment of the Miskitu Indians. 241 pages, with 28 photos, 5 maps, index.

“A polemical view of recent history in Central America written by a maverick left-winger who is not shy of criticizing revolutionary sacred cows.” — British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spain (October 1991)

DANIEL FOGEL has lived in Spain and traveled in Latin America. Fluent in Spanish, he has studied and experienced several Central American and Mexican cultures.

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