Constructing the Limits of State Violence in Central America: Towards a New Research

Author(s): Robert H. Holden
Source: Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2 (May, 1996), pp. 435-459
Published by: Cambridge University Press
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Constructing the Limits of State
Violence in Central America: Towards
a New Research Agenda*


Abstract. This analysis of the historically high level of sta
in Central America, typically explained in terms of 'auth
military relations', argues for according it a more indepe
Three historic dimensions of state-sponsored violence
which caudillo violence was displaced upward in the late i
of subaltern collaboration with the agents of state vio
clientelist politics, and the intrusion of US military p
proposed. The implications for the utility of political cul
reevaluation of the literature on civil-military relations ar

The scale and intensity of state-sponsored or 'officia
dramatically after the I870s in most of Central Ame
weak states, substituting coercion for the consensus a
were beyond their reach, expanded the limits of
enhanced their capacity for destruction while turnin
of that power to increasingly autonomous military
that deployed it with impunity. This upward shift i
destructive power coincided with the beginning of a
isthmian international conflict, leading not to more w
but to more domestic violence.

Yet despite the pivotal role and often catastrophic consequences of
state-sponsored violence in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and

* The author gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Richard N. Adams, Marvin
Barahona, Brian Loveman, Michael McIntyre, Andrew Schlewitz, Michael J.
Schroeder, Marco A. Valle Martinez and Rina Villars for comments on earlier drafts of
this article and on the ideas presented here. I am especially indebted to the anonymous
reviewers for their helpful advice. Earlier forms of this article were presented as papers
at the Social Science History Association meeting in Atlanta, 13-16 October 1994, and
at the seminar 'Estado, participaci6n politica e identidad nacional en Centroamerica,
siglos xix y xx' in San Jose, Costa Rica, 23-25 February 1995, organised by the
Universidad de Costa Rica. I am indebted to the panellists and audience members
at both events for a relentless interrogation. Old Dominion University supplied
indispensable financial support.

Robert H. Holden is Assistant Professor of History at Old Dominion University,
Norfolk, Virginia.

J. Lat. Amer. Stud. 28, 435-459 Copyright ? i996 Cambridge University Press 435

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the reasons for its persistence and its social impact is rudimentary at best. social theorists have largely ignored the linkage betw modern state and the staggering increase in violence that marks t two centuries. 30.218 on Mon. Pe Smith.l I a from the case of Central America. the objection might run. Anthony Giddens suggested. that underlying both of these tradi themes is the growth in the scale and intensity of state-sponsored viol A reconceptualisation along these lines should yield both theoreti empirical benefits. would seem to pose major obstacles to historical investigation. The Nation-State and Violence. the latter giving rise to a vast body of research on t American military institution and its relations with 'society'. A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism. Peter H. Smith observed more than a decade ago tha American violence 'cries for research'. its ubiquitous and even commonplace nature. As a result. Journal of Interdisciplinary History. vol. Capitalist Devel and Democracy (Chicago. and so I will answer this objection by suggesting that an enduring . 1992). This content downloaded from 37. the range of human behaviour encompassed by the category 'violence' (state or non-state). Stephens. emphasis added. El tamano de nuestra democracia (San Salvador. Centralised control of the means of violence. the residuum of structural conditions or rational choices which are themselves the proper subjects of research. Yet. our understanding of its sources. II (B 1987). pp The civil-military relations literature is cited below. To be sure. 2 Anthony Giddens. Violence. pp. much of the social science literature turns on an elusive search for the 'obstacles to democracy' or on explanations of the persistence of authoritarian military rule. a concept even more nebulous than violence.2 Giddens's reas and Smith's invitation. and one of the analytical challenges detect and define the thresholds of acceptability'.jstor.128. stands with capitalism and class conflict as one o 'independent influences upon the development of modernity'. Chapter 6. 'A View from Latin America'.but nevertheless unacknowledged . 22-23. 3-27. Evelyne Huber Stephens and John D. while noting that some ki violence constitute 'workable and widely acknowledged instrumen promoting group interests. seem particularly compelling in the case of 1For recent examples of the 'obstacles to democracy' approach. My concern here is limited to the violence associated with the state. 'Central America and the Caribbe Edelberto . vol. see Die Rueschemeyer.. I-5. pp.436 Robert H.225. i992). 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. is only an artifact.theme of the historiography of Central America is state-sponsored violence enrobed as 'authoritarianism'.. Holden Nicaragua during the twentieth century. argues. first by clarifying fundamental research prop revolving around the distribution of power and second by fosterin ways to exploit the data available for testing those propositions.

This content downloaded from 37. 3 Historically grounded studies of proto-state violence as an autonomous category in this sense have been scarce for the rest of the continent as . 'Dismembering and Remembering the Nation: The Semantics of Political Violence in Venezuela'. 'coffee' or 'bananas'). has only just begun to incite scholarly interest in state violence as a research category.3 By emphasising its independent status I wish neither to propose state violence as the primum mobile of Central American politics nor to assert a parthenogenetic origin for it. pp. 288-9. 33. and the internationalisation of state violence. 2 (April I99I). Comparative Studies in Society and History. See 'Civilization and Barbarism: Cattle Frontiers in Latin America'.' Violence is too often 'reduced to a practical tool used by opposing social actors in pursuit of conflicting ends. Yet the historiography of the region frequently trivialises the growth of state- associated violence by treating it as an artifact of export-oriented capitalist development and class conflict (i. or instrument. Comparative Studies in Socciety and History. the mechanisms of which often have not even been limited to the formal institutions of coercion. my objective is to highlight the pivotal role of state-sponsored violence in shaping Central American society and to offer an explanation for its persistence.. subaltern collaboration with the agents of state violence. no. 4 (October 1978). 20. Whether treated as a cause. vol.218 on Mon. 587-620. understood as an independent subject worthy of study in its own right and not merely as the inevitable byproduct of political contention or class conflict.jstor. and the controversy evoked by the US government's prominent role as its quartermaster both before and during the bloody I980s. vol. I will begin by exploring both the concept of state-sponsored violence and its importance as a variable in Central American history by breaking it down into three distinct but closely related historical processes: statemaking and caudillismo. Their claim was echoed much more recently by Fernando Coronil and Julie Skurski's comment that 'Although political violence has played a central part in the formation of nations. Silvio R. State Violence in Central America 437 America. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. Duncan Baretta and John Markoffs observation nearly two decades ago that.128. Next I will show how these processes might be linked to a reassessment of both the literature on civil-military relations in Latin America and the concept of political culture. 'As a background condition violence is readily forgotten' by scholars who tend to see violence as 'straightforward and uncomplicated' is still an accurate one: their study of what they called 'the tradition of violence' on the cattle frontiers of Latin America is practically unique. function. implicitly minimising its significance before the period of export growth and insinuating that state violence would diminish as the economies diversify and modernise. its historical constitution and its role in representing nations have received scant attention.e. Rather. violence is generally assumed rather than examined in its concreteness'. no.225. The evident intractability of state violence in Central America. pp. while pleading the utility of a more holistic approach to what is typically identified as 'militarism'. where state agents have long been occupied principally with the organisation and deployment of violence.

225. How can the displacement of violence upward.' John Lynch. For an analysis of the earlier period of caudillo rule that emphasises the 'devastating' rivalry among regional strongmen. Victor Hugo Acuna Ortega. it gave birth to states that achieved remarkable success.218 on Mon. of all Latin America. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. ed. the countries of the isthmus were among the most politically fragmented during the ninetenth century by the centrifugal forces of caudillismo or regional strong-man rule. this trans- formation constituted the only success of the Central American states (outside Costa Rica). 4 While 'authoritarianism. Woodward. Caudillos in Spanish America. especially in the deployment of violence. whose governments tended increasingly to base their rule on the deployment of violence. while retaining caudillist features such as personalism. is Arturo Taracenca Arriola. 1870 (Cambridge. This content downloaded from 37.870s dictators worked in a more centralised environment and confronted more complex social forces.jstor. pp. Argentina. 429-30. was distinctive in two different.128. L. III. a feature of politics that persisted longer here than elsewhere on the continent. Holden Caudillismo To a degree unsurpassed elsewhere in Latin America. from caudillo armies to state armies. see R. progress in the formation of the state in Central America can be defined by the increasing concentration of destructive power in unified military institutions and by its more intensive application on a national scale. 471-506. in Las republicas agroexportadoras (I87o-I94y). Ranking higher in the dispersion of destructive power throughout the nineteenth century. And yet. C. Cambridge History of Latin America. the post. militarism and violence' have been 'transitory' features elsewhere in Latin America (Brazil. but the political process was no longer as crude as that of their predecessors. I870'. even paradoxical. I67-254. pp.438 Robert H. Vol. A historically grounded explanation of the intensity and scope of state-sponsored violence in twentieth-century Central America will rest on the answers to two key questions. rooted in the isthmus' 'economic reality. patronage and the use of violence.. 1993). pp. social organisation and political culture'. 'Central America from Independence to c. was still violence and state terror. it is true.5 Central America. El desencanto democrdtico: Crisis de partidosy transicion democrdtica en Centro Americay Panamd (San Jose. Chile. therefore. A descriptive treatment of this period of 'caudillismo frente a constitucionalismo' that highlights its centralizing tendencies. identified as 'oligarchic dictators' in Lynch's quasi-evolutionary schema of caudillismo. endured in Central America beyond their natural lifespan . Leslie Bethell. by the second third of the twentieth century. 21. Rodolfo Cerdas Cruz. traditional and permanent' in Central America. Uruguay) they have been 'quotidian. ed. Tomo IV of Historia general de centroamerica (Madrid. I993). I8oo-i8so (New York. 23. 5 A species of caudillo. in consolidating and deploying fairly unified instruments of coercion. From Independence to c. pp. One could add that in general. R. 'The sanction behind the modern dictatorships. ways relative to the rest of Latin America. institutions of surveillance and repression were absorbing the bulk of state resources and overshadowed in importance all other agencies of the state.4 By the 193os. I985). 1992). 'Liberalismo y poder politico en Centroamerica (I870-1929)'.

their routinised. 7 Charles Tilly. defining the modern-day 'perimeters to state violence'.218 on Mon. Therefore. But the process here relative to that in Europe and elsewhere in Latin America was not only more concentrated in time (c. it is above all the secular character of these limits. 68-9.7 But in the very midst of this 'warmaking-statemaking'. p. Coercion. and mechanisms for eliciting the consent of the subject population. perimeters to state violence. that would be of greatest relevance to the study of violence in the region. who applied it to the process by which power was transferred from feudal lords to the absolutist state in Lineages of the Absolutist State (London. This content downloaded from . from greater relative dispersion to greater relative concentration). I870-1930). Honduras.8 In Central America. AD g9o-I99o (Cambridge MA. and (c) informally deputise non-state agents in the exercise of state-sponsored violence (death squads). 1990). goods. and not only redistributed violence more radically (i. Di State Violence in Central America 439 be accounted for? And why was the outcome of that process marked by such extensive limits in the use of state violence?6 A basic framework of analysis is suggested by Charles Tilly's study of the statemaking process in Europe. the European states also bargained with their constituents over the limits of state-sponsored violence: 'The process of bargaining with ordinary people for their acquiescence and their surrender of resources . By 'limits' I mean the freedom of state agents to (a) both define and control (through sanctions or inducements) enemies of the state. though under conditions shaped by the bargaining process. 1984). also. labour power .' People gained oppor- tunities to participate in politics while the state extended its rule and its repressive apparatus. 76-9. Latin American Politics: A Theoretical Framework (Austin. While such variations would be most conspicuous during periods of intense change. pp. I9. with the state augmenting its own use of violence as it eliminated regional competitors and overcame potential rivals in the non-state sphere.128.jstor. pp. Big Structures. impunity). Capitaland European States. Tilly argued that in Europe statemaking in many ways was warmaking. I borrowed the phrase 'upward displacement' from Perry Anderson. Huge Comparisons (New York. 8 Charles Tilly. 99o0) pp. taken-for-granted quality over the course of decades and centuries.225. (b) avoid punishment for committing 'illegal' acts (i. the birthplace of the modern nation-state. Large Processes. I979). El Salvador and Nicaragua. see Torcuato S. Variations in the elasticity of these freedoms would constitute shifts in the limits of state-sponsored violence. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. for a discussion of violence in these terms.e. but also resulted in a markedly more generous 'perimeter' to the exercise of violence by the middle of the twentieth century in Guatemala. 9-IO.e. warmaking drove the displacement of violence upward from regional strongmen and local bosses to central authorities.engaged the civilian managers of the state in establishing the limits to state control.. it is to the period beginning in the last third of the nineteenth century that 6 By 'violence' I mean physical harm inflicted on people or their property.

Rafael Guidos Vejar. This content downloaded from 37. Estudios Universitarios. and a critical analysis of some of the theories by Steve C. dictatorial state ruling on behalf oligarchical or foreign interests everywhere in the isthmus by the lat I93os except in Costa Rica. 451/452 (mayo-junio 1986). the mechanisms governing the transition from local and regional power holders to a unified state apparatus of coercion and control in Central America remain almost completely unknown. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. Paul E. 425-30. 'Civil-Military Relations in Central America: The Dilemmas of Political Institutionalisation'. By returning to the two 'key questions' proposed above it should be possible to develop empirically sound analyses of the transition in each country.). I988). though the reasoning he is often vague and contradictory. Estudios Centroamericanos. 'Regimenes politicos en El Salvador'. 351/352 (enero-febrero 1978). 1984). Guatemala. Ronald H. Ropp. Nevertheless. Lynch. 'Teorias sobre el comportamiento de los militares centroamericanos'. The Military and the State in Latin America. Chap. Rift and Revolution: The Central American Imbroglio (Washington. Alain Rouquie. 2I0-12 (page references are to reprint edition). pp. I990). 139-52.440 Robert H. the fierce repression of reformers and reform movements. particularly after 1940. McDonald. El ascenso del militarismo en El Salvador (San Salvador. and the weakness of the oligarchies and the export economies in Honduras and Nicaragua to their corresponding . where the limits of state-sponsored violenc were sharply restricted after the collapse of General Tinoco's golpista 9 regime in I 919. Holden we must turn in order to comprehend the well-known outcome . 365 (marzo 1979). The Salvadoran. state terrorism. Guatemalan and Costa Rican states appear to have been the first to achieve a significant level of unified coercive control. trans. reprint. no. Sigmund (Berkeley.military domination. US intervention or hegemony also said to play a role. Caudillos. 411-30.225. 191-196. only the broadest of generalisations may be ventured about the transition from local and regional power holders to state- controlled instruments of coercion and surveillance in Central America. pp.218 on Mon. Tilly's claim that the European transition was 9 For standard interpretations of the transition see two articles by Nicolas Mariscal. no. pp. no. Estudios Centroamericanos. 9-27. At the moment. pp. The basic picture that emerges in th literature is of a military-dominated. in Howard Wiarda (ed.jstor. Historia de Centroamerica (Mexico. I29-66. Rodolfo Pastor.128. and 'Militares y reformismo en El Salvador'. by at least the second decade of the twentieth century. and impunity for the perpetrators of repression. 5. 1987). while neither the relative level of centralisation nor its character and timing can be specified with confidence. followed by Honduras and Nicaragua in the I93os. 1988. the achievement of centralised control in Costa Rica failed to broaden the limits of state-sponsored violence owing to its unique land tenure patte and a more 'capital-oriented' oligarchy. pp. pp. The historiography typically links strong 'coffe oligarchies' in the first two countries (and their dependence on agricultur exports) to their precocity in the consolidation of state-sponsored violence.

Although US military and police assistance con- tributed decisively to the Central American regimes' capacities for violence. My alternative hypothesis is that bargaining between the state and subalterns was a much more common feature of the transition than the conventional view would suggest.1 the majority of the inhabitants of Central America shared little or no sense of national identity. I03-4. 122-4. Coercion. in effect 'foreigners' in a nation defined by the elite. bargaining over the deployment and application of violence did not cease 1o Caudillos in their relation with the popular sector were largely the agents of the elite. as they apparently did in Europe. the state in essence absorbing the protective function of the caudillos.225. under the social conditions prevailing in Central America. When and under what conditions was the transition mediated by bargaining? By violence? Among whom did bargaining take place? What. Bargaining with the lowly over protection from state-sponsored violence was not an option for two reasons: the agro-export development strategy that prevailed after 1870 depended above all on the elite's continued use of force to ensure ready access to land and labour.128. the process of upward displacement merely had the effect of amplifying the limits of official violence. 234-6. Capital. was exchanged? The literature reviewed above suggests an unproblematic answer to these questions. Lynch. And so military power was never 'nationalised' but remained instead an elite tool. Whatever bargaining accompanied the centralisation of state coercive power was a transaction limited to caudillos and the elite interests they protected. the absence of nationalism thus led to expanded limits for state violence.12 While elements of this interpretation may be sustained empirically. After the 1930s. 218-23. as a whole it omits essential features of the transition to a more centralised management of violence. State Violence in Central America 441 marked by a combination of violence and negotiation furnishes an especially suggestive framework to govern the isthmian investigation. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. whose interests they protected from popular insurgency and social unrest. These conditions prevailed to a much lesser extent in Costa Rica. caudillos were 'the necessary gendarme'. pp. 12 Tilly himself proposes this possibility for Third World societies after World War II. This content downloaded from 37. while racism in ethnically divided societies further inhibited elite interest in conceding protective privileges. Capital. pp. 11 Tilly. Coercion. Moreover.jstor.'? As a result. while contested notions of citizenship and nationality in fact played important roles in the bargaining process.218 on Mon. whereas a developing sense of nationality and citizenship among subalterns could have acted to restrict the limits of state violence. bargaining was unnecessary as the elites increasingly relied on the United States for military . They served not in citizen armies but as impressed peasants and Indians. pp. and as a result the bargaining process struck deeper roots there. Caudillos.

no. He was also a provider. land. built upon the authority of the patr6n and the dependency of the peon. N. 411-25. As the caudillos gradually yielded up their independent control of the means of violence to the state. p. Lynch argued. vol. The peon sought subsistence and security. spawning a 'clientelist state' system of linked. How can such a perverse result be explained? Subaltern Collaboration Bargaining. Government remained much less a source of policy than a source of patronage. it must be recalled. I984). pp.15 In the passage from caudillismo to the clientelist state. but their ability to do so rested on a relationship of exchange between them and their clients. an hacendado recruited apeonada. 14 Ibid. and could give employment. 406. 2 (June 1970). 58 (1956). see S. and favours in exchange for manpower.128.. recruiting officers. pp. 'Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society: Mexico'. loyalty.225. personalised power networks. two features of the old order persisted: violence and collaboration. What is not in doubt is the outcome: negotiation between the agents of the state and its subjects did not result in the shrinkage of Tilly's 'perimeters to state violence' but in their expansion. Caudillos may well have served elite interests.442 Robert H. 'Peasant Society and Clientelist Politics'. not citizens with rights'. Patrons. By providing what his dependents needed and using what they offered. which served as the 'model' of caudillismo in Latin America. pp. Holden after 1940. personalist politics hinging on loyalty to a leader and on relationships of exchange did not wither away but became entrenched elements of Latin American political culture.jstor.13 The caudillo offered offices. Clients and Friends: Interpersonal Relations and the Structure of Trust in Society (Cambridge. and rival bands. 231-44. 4-5. This content downloaded from 37. 15 The classic expositions of this model are Eric Wolf.218 on Mon. was finally incorporated into the state and became the model of caudillism. Thus the hacendado was a protector. Roniger. This promitive political structure. For a subsequent refinement. I065-78 and John Duncan Powell. Caudillos. were made to 'people as clients with expectations. The patron-client system itself began on the hacienda. according to Lynch: The landowner wanted labour. possessing sufficient power to defend his dependents against outside intruders. Eisenstadt and L. a vertical bond of loyalty and obligation that undermined class affiliations. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. 433-7. The centrality of violence in caudillo politics has been well established and requires little discussion 13 Lynch. born of personal loyalties. promises.14 The general model suggests that state centralisation and market expansion transform patrons into brokers. who developed and defended local resources. 64. pp. American Political Science Review. and service in peace and war. vol. and shelter. American Anthropologist. arms and supplies. was the soul of the patron-client relationship that defined caudillismo. in Lynch's . food.

' Comparative Studies in Society and History.. Hansen. I77. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. Although patron-client bargaining takes place within a vertical power relationship of gross inequality.225.218 on . clientelism was the rule as government supporters.jstor. third. above all in combination with the historic exaltation of violence and clientelism's endless potential for coercion. Patrons. has dwelled almost entirely on the unequal and coercive features of the patron-client relationship. see John Char Chasteen's recent reconstruction of the careers of the Saravia brothers. Han affirmed that caudillo leadership rested heavily on the demonstration of masculinit which they defined as two closely related attributes: the domination of females and readiness to deploy violence. no (January I967). Wolf and Edward C. I995). vol. Clients and Friends. The popular sectors as well as the state turned increasingly to violence political mobilisation increased. The state's use of civilian collaborators the application of violence and terror. a combination of potential coercion and exploitation with voluntary relations and mutual obligations. divided rural communities and further inflamed t 16 In their classic theoretical treatment of caudillismo. 174. a rather peculiar combination of inequality and asymmetry in power with seeming mutual solidarity expressed in terms of personal identity and interpersonal sentiments and obligations. the outcome favoured th expansion of Tilly's 'perimeters to state violence' and the privilege impunity for the agents of that violence.16 collaboration does.000 peasa in the 1970s. second. with the somewhat illegal or semi-legal aspect of these relations. For thick (and entertaining) description. when they got in trou the authorities would give them special consideration. a practice that began in t countryside in the i88os and culminated in the organisation of ORDEN the rural and anti-communist group that recruited some oo00. patrons or clients. ch. see Eric R. pp. not only in the isthmian countries but in all Latin America. Eric R. This content downloaded from 37.. 49.17 The historiography of what may be broadly classified as 'caudillismo'. State Violence in Central America 443 here. especially local leaders and occasionally base organiser received favors for participating in campaigns. 'Caudil Politics: A Structural Analysis. it embraces three kinds of contradictions: [F]irst. Yet its solidaristic and voluntary aspects. 17 Eisenstadt and Roniger. Wolf and Edward C. Heroes Horseback: A Life and Times of the Last Gaucho Caudillos (Albuquerque. In exchange for participation most political activists received only the satisfaction of belonging to a group t they perceived to be powerful. however. notwithstanding their status leaders or followers. p. In a pathbreaking study of state formation and violence in El Salvado Ana Patricia Alvarenga wrote that after the process of state build began in the I87os. decisively shaped the modern-day limits state-sponsored violence in Central America. 9. a combination of emphasis on such mutual obligations and solidarity. As the agents of the state a the local agents of subaltern groups bargained (not over 'democracy' b over special services or dispensations). and also the hope that.

Williams.444 Robert H. 23I-65.18 By the I95os.19 Similarly in Guatemala. Thus did the ladinos succeed in dividing Indian communities throughout Guatemala as Indian militias sometimes even put down rebellions by other Indians. 'Terrorism . 289. The traditional native social divisions were respected. President Justo Rufino Barrios. Members of these units . In El Salvador the distinction between violence carried out by public officials and that by civilians became increasingly blurred: In such a society there is no clear distinction about the control of repressive mechanisms: it was socially accepted that civilians acted as policemen.. p. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. 62. vol.. its success in securing Indian participation in what Carmack calls 'the political order' 18 Ana Patricia Alvarenga. a state-directed strategy of paternalistic cooptation towards the country's numerous semi-autonomous India communities was characteristic not only of the mid-nineteenth centur conservative rule of Rafael Carreras but also of the liberal regimes that followed from the I87os to 1944.' which for a poor peasant family was worth most any sacrifice. 'Reshaping the Ethics of Power: A History of Violence in Western Rural El Salvador. Indians wer given not only a place in it.. University of Wisconsin.jstor. Local ladino caudillos successfully drew Indian leaders into their orbit. 7I-2. Terrorism went beyond the limits of the State. pp. 'The Military and Democratization in El Salvador'. men who had completed their obligatory military service) made up the core of an 'extensive paramilitary structure' in the Salvadoran countryside.. almost exclusively ladino under Barrios [i. With groups of armed civilians. . I (I993).org/terms . 1994.218 on Mon.. To impose power.e. 1880-1932'.128.. registering with local comandantes as members of so-called escoltas militares. This highly paternalistic political order was in place by the end of the nineteent century. In sum.. but also the opportunity to prove themselves and even become officers. the cooperation of armed men was more important than being on the side of the law.. landlords tried to impose their will on peasants and even on other rival men. to be present in daily relations between different social classes and within them'.were rewarded with medical and economic assistance. became the primary vehicle in this process. army reservists (i. Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs.. no. 47. 19 Knut Walter and Philip J. PhD diss. 365-78. 35. unpubl.. in El Salvador the legal framework was not a respected social code. Carmack: The militia. This content downloaded from 37.e. and violating the legal order. While this strategy did not succeed in completely subordinating the communities to the ladino authorities... Holden countryside. I87I-I885]. according to Robert M.. became fully integrated into the national culture based on the violent resolution of social conflict in all spheres of power relations.. 267.who numbered in the tens of thousands ..225.

murder and ritual terror became essential elements of a politics that was 'fundamentally violent'..23 20 Robert M. Sandino himself was only the most prominent of the chiefs who identified themselves with the movement that bore his name.jstor. 'Vana Ilusidn! The Highlands Indians and the Myth of Nicaragua Mestiza. 21 Michael J. Violent struggles within and between the sandinista bands were commonplace. Guatemalan Indians and the State: I540 to I988 (Austin. The Regime of Anastasio Somo. I990). pp. local jefes and their followers. was in fact composed of' networks of.218 on Mon. The 'gang-armies' that fought the frequent civil wars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries consisted of 'dense webs of personal relationships' held together by charisma and personal loyalty.21 Jeffrey L.22 President Anastasio Somoza consolidated his grip on power in the 193os by recruiting thousands of civilian National Guard collaborators into the extreme-right Camisas AZules and the Liga Militar Liberal Nacionalista. Hispanic American Historical Review. State Violence in Central America 445 accounts in large part for the stability of that order until the revolution of I944. pp. Etnicidad en el ejercito de la Guatemala liberal (I871-191I) (Guatemala. in the service of the national state. 1993. Sandino's army. unpubl. confirm a pattern of subaltern collaboration in the construction of the limits of violence by a Nicaraguan state still in formation as late as the mid-i93os.. regional and sub-regional power brokers. torture. PhD diss. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. following this pattern. 353-4. 73 (August 1993). and Sandino's army followed this tradition. Adams. 28-30. 420-I. I995). quote is at p. 121. II4. 23 Knut Walter. University of Michigan. a system of 'family-based patron-client networks and private irregular armies or gangs' in which political power was negotiated among national.). 'To Defend Our Nation's Honor: Toward a Social and Cultural History of the Sandino Rebellion in Nicaragua. relatively autonomous nodes of power connected by dense webs of relations to other such nodes of power'. 202. See also his article in this issue of the Journal. identifying themselves as Liberals or Conservatives.a. Michael J. For the deployment of Indian community militias in his own personal defence by Manuel Estrada Cabrera (I898-I920). II6-36. Gould and Knut Walter. I880-I925'.. Schroeder's recent reinterpretation of the Sandino rebellion of 1927-34 in Nicaragua places it firmly in the context of rural caudillismo. contracted the services of semi-autonomous 'gang leaders' to eliminate or harass opponents. in Carol A. 1927-1934'. Carmack. 22 Jeffrey L. pp. 209. Schroeder. vol.128. I96. Powerful regional caudillos. . 77. see Richard N. Smith (ed. peasants and workers followed patrons or party into battle.225. 97. in separate investigations. often captured coffee-plantation deserters fleeing debt-service jobs. 1936-19f6 (Chapel Hill. 'State and Community in Nineteenth-Century Guatemala: The Momostenango Case'. Indian community officials. This content downloaded from 37. I25-6. just as violence itself was 'ubiquitous' in the Segovias as Indians. pp.

446 Robert H. Holden For Honduras. men who often simultaneously held departmental governorships. but that the outcom not be read as simply a failed attempt adequately to limit the stat of violence.a policy that rei budding culture of violence. 'Estado. participaci6n politica e identidad nacional en Cent siglos XIX y XX'. Small. the linkage between the two institutions and their precise functions in the transition await further research that may well disclose a very similar pattern to that identified for El Salvador by Alvarenga. San Jose. the emerging of the isthmus furnished irresistible targets for an expansionist pow in effect became a kind of transnational caudillo. but was also a collaborative project that incl lowly as well. as presidential and legislative candidates for office promoted themselves by organising dozens and sometimes hundreds of temporary local committees to carry out propaganda activities.128. paper at the conference. The clubs began to appear in the I88os.218 on Mon. with disastrous consequences. Although the clubs were apparently overshadowed in importance by the political preferences of the local 'comandantes de armas'. traditions of personalism and clientage were not disca maintained as the state in effect informally deputed subalterns t its behalf in return for protection and favours .225. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. 23-25 February I995. The United 24 Marvin Barahona. Internationalisation The period of statemaking that opened in Central America in the of the nineteenth century coincided exactly with the onse increasingly dominating presence in the region by US business and the US government. This content downloaded from 37.jstor. Marvin Barahona identified two key institutions in the transition to centralised control of the means of coercion between I894 and 19 3: clubes politicos organised by caudillos with national aspirations and the comandantes de armas scattered throughout the country. The terms of the bargaining had been fixed long ag system of clientage. 'Caudillismo y politica en Honduras (i894-1913)'.24 What these examples suggest is that the process by which the state consolidated its control over the means of violence did include contestation and bargaining with . Costa Rica. as control means of violence was displaced upward from the caudillos to the state. distributing fav acquiring clients by playing on elite divisions. the intensification of state-spo violence and the expansion of its limits were not solely the respo of the new centralising states nor of the elites whose intere basically served. The examples point to a fundamental continuity b the age of the caudillos and that of the modern state. As a result. weak and divided.

Washington began to focus on the new military and police institutions. gradually converting them into accessories of US military power.26 While the precise domestic impact of outside collaboration with state-sponsored violence is notoriously difficult to gauge. I950-1990'. Virtually unmediated channels of communication between US and Central American military authorities for the conveyance of materiel.128. pp. the last to consolidate state coercive control. The essential role of arms transfers in international caudillaje was developed by Christopher C. 5 (July I963). 3 3-24. 14-15. 27 For an excellent review of the problem see Deborah J. 'The Real Diplomacy of Violence: United States Military Power in Central America. magnitude and character of US collaboration can be found in Robert H. i984). Lopez (eds. police and intelligence agencies were opened as early as the 1920S in Nicaragua but were formalised throughout the region by the I94os. bribes.27 US collaboration with state-sponsored violence in Central America can for our purposes be analysed most profitably along two 25 Norman A. 247-80. were increasingly sought through the selective enhancement of coercive power at the disposal of US clients. unified military and police institutions had everywhere succeeded in monopolising the use of large-scale violence. Bailey elaborated inventively on international expressions of caudillaje in 'The United States as Caudillo'. I988).org/terms . Holden.). 283-322. Shoemaker and John Spanier. With the generalised achievement of unchallenged control over the means of coercion by the Central American states. no.25 World War II marks the division between two periods in the internationalisation of state violence that correspond to the level of consolidation of the forces of coercion. pp. State Violence in Central America 447 collaborated in the extension of the 'perimeters to state violence' by arming favoured factions. XV.218 on Mon. Patron-Client State Relationships: Multilateral Crises in the Nuclear Age (New York. By about I940. direct intervention was unnecessary in Guatemala and El Salvador precisely because of the high levels of violence-induced stability and compliance with United States interests there. Gerner. pp.225. and expanded con- tinuously through the I98os. Stability and deference to US interests. Washington's principal objectives.jstor. 26 A quantitative analysis of the pace. This content downloaded from 37. Journal of Inter-American Studies. Before 1940 US military power was likely to be applied directly. 'Weapons for Repression? United States Arms Transfers to the Third World'. The International History Review. vol. pp. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. and using nonviolent devices (threats. diplomatic recognition and so on) to manipulate governments in power. although the demonstration effect on the rest of the isthmus was considerable. advice and technical support by a variety of US military. training services. 2 (May I993). Terrible Beyond Endurance? The Foreign Policy of State Terrorism (New York. in Michael Stohl and George A. vol. above all in Nicaragua and Honduras. loans. intervening militarily on their behalf.

Detailed studies of that process should reveal just how the limits of state- sponsored violence were initially defined.28 The second dimension. The claim that those limits were shaped decisively by such 'international' factors as foreign demand for coffee. even if it did contribute materially to the maintenance of those limits. the question is. Not just violence but traditional clientelist arrangements themselves were displaced upward in this process. 'The Real Diplomacy of Violence'. The first dimension. i.128. The US programme of modernising and expanding the capacity for violence unquestionably inhibited tendencies favouring the reduction of the limits of state-sponsored violence. personnel skills and the like. caudillismo and collaboration. By the 940s. The trail of human and material wreckage left behind by a century of state- directed violence in much of the isthmus can be traced back to a specific historical process: the knitting together of dispersed power centres into a coherent organ of coercion beginning in the late nineteenth century.jstor. But 'modernisation' of the means of coercion was and remains the byword of this kind of US intervention. is partly a function of capacity but even more so of features of Central American history already reviewed above. This content downloaded from 37. it must not be confused with the creation of conflict or with the augmentation of the limits of state violence.448 Robert H. which were constructed within the region over a period of at least I 50 years. as warmaking and clientelist politics blended to endow state agents of violence with virtually unlimited reach. limits.e. Nothing was more important in 28 See Holden. a rough estimate of the proportion of coercive capacity attributable to the United States could be derived. by how much? Assuming the availability of appropriate documentation. Nor did US military and police transfers significantly enhance the limits of state-sponsored violence in Central America.218 on Mon. 307-II. drawing collaborators at all levels of society into a network of state-centred violence and forcing non- collaborators to resist violently. is contradicted by the Costa Rican case. in theory. Washington's collaboration with regional military and police bodies served mainly to enhance both their effectiveness and their legitimacy (in the ideological realm) as bulwarks against world communism (and therefore any individual or group who could plausibly be associated with world communism). That US transfers enhanced capacity is scarcely debatable.. which led to coercive labour relations and land expropriations administered by the state. and (b) the limits of state violence. can be measured by assembling before- and-after inventories of material . the expansive character of those limits had already been defined.225. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. pp. Holden distinct dimensions: the extent to which it augmented (a) the capacity of state agents to apply violence.

jstor. State Violence in Central America 449 extending.218 on Mon. genocidal campaigns of extermination directed against internal 'enemies'. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. The United States and the European states (including Russia) have devoted more resources to perfecting strategies of violence than to any other conceivable state activity. While the following review of that literature will therefore be a critical one. away from institutions and towards a more broadly social treatment of violence and the state. instead of the persistence of a singularly intensive level of state-sponsored violence that has marked the region for more than a century.29 It is time for a shift in emphasis. The result has been a lavish. two world wars and a half century of nuclear arms production are enough to overshadow Latin America in any accounting of state- sponsored violence.and offer a positive assessment of the use of political culture in research on state violence. I will return to a theme touched on above . erudite. focusing almost entirely on the military institution and the extent of its 'participation' in government while exaggerating the autonomy of the state from civil society. The ensuing internationalisation of state violence only hardened those limits. of course.225. In the civil-military relations paradigm. the investigative category into which the subject of state violence has been traditionally inserted. Along the continuum are points at which power is shared between civilians and 29 This is not to argue that Latin America is 'more violent' than the rest of the world. Countless imperialist forays. particularly that of the mid- 96os to the early i 980s. and 'policy-relevant' (and thus well-financed) effluence of scholarship geared to analysing or explaining discrete episodes of military rule. a paradigm that has tended to define state violence narrowly and ahistorically.128. now jealously guarded by military and police units authorised by their northern benefactor to defend the limits in the name of anti-communism. a realm in which the Latin American countries have clearly excelled since independence. Thinking about state violence in these terms has implications that raise questions about some of the fundamental assumptions of the literature on civil-military relations. The subject here. one being direct military rule and the other civilian control. is not violence between nation-states nor technical capacity but the intensity of overt violence accompanying statemaking within national frontiers. The following paragraphs summarise two shortcomings of the civil-military relations literature and then suggest how a broader perspective might profitably be applied to Central America.that of political culture . This content downloaded from . military participation in government is typically conceptualised as a continuum between two poles. Civil-Military Relations Much of the scholarship on the problem of state-sponsored violence has been confined to the study of'civil-military relations'. consolidating and above all publicly identifying the limits of state-sponsored violence than the practice of subaltern collaboration.

II (San Jose C. Hence one may logically speak of a 'transition to democracy' or 'redemocratisation'.. in Dirk Kruijt and Edelberto Torres-Rivas. vol. 1986). Among many others. has somehow managed to extirpate itself from society altogether. The burden of my argument is not that historians and political scientists have ignored the play of class interests.128. pp.R. Other recent examples: Augusto Varas. 2 (May I993). the literature on civil-military relations frequently suggests that the military. It follows that policies directed towards reducing the military's strength and augmenting civilian power will bit by bit drive society towards full civilian control of the military.. Argentine and Brazilian Transitions'. 'The Degree of Military Political Autonomy During the Spanish. in a spectrum ranging from direct rule by the military to increasing control by civilians over the military. 1970) and The Time of the Generals: Latin American Professional Militarism in World Perspective (Lincoln. mobilised or organised.218 on Mon. State-sponsored violence is therefore explained according to the level of military autonomy. and Jorge Zaverucha. Nunn . in Abraham F. a problem that I will return to below. I99i). 'Armies and Politics in Latin America: I975-I985'. America Latina: militaresy .The Army & Politics in Argentina I928-194 : Yrigoyen to Perdn (Stanford. pp.225. Latin Americans have a state but no civil society. prominent examples include R. Holden the military in different proportions depending on the proximity of those points to one pole or the other. coord.). vol. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. along with the state of which it is a part. Samuel Fitch. Samuel Fitch (eds. 1988). see especially Rethinking Military Politics: Brazil and the Southern Cone (Princeton. they manifestly have not done so. 1969) and The Army & Politics in Argentina 194-1i962: Peron to Frondizi (Stanford. New York. 283-300. Journal of Latin American Studies. A. no. Thus. 30 These two premises permeate the social science literature on the Latin American military. This content downloaded from 37..45 o Robert H. controlling the military is a matter of strengthening civil society vis-a-vis the state. Armies and Politics in Latin America (rev. or (in the Dahlian tradition) encouraging the formation of a plurality of institutions and associations capable of counterbalancing the state. or of a contrary 'remilitarisation'. for its influential character. and multiple examples could be cited. Lowenthal and J. tending in one direction or the other.30 What is too rarely acknowledged is that civil society. that of Alfred Stepan must be mentioned. economic forces or social pressures in the study of military rule. J. or at any rate a civil society insufficiently informed. 25. is neither democracy itself nor is it necessarily capable of spawning democracy. 26-58. particularly where clientelism predominates. 'Las relaciones civil-militares en la democracia'. 1992). pp. understood as that realm of public life beyond the grip of the state. I 53-80.and the work of Frederick M. Similar assumptions underlie the work of historians who write about the military. ed.jstor. One may detect points of ' accommodation' or' relative equilibrium' between the two forces. According to this tradition. 1980) . Secondly. Potash's two volumes on the Argentine army . civilian and military.Chilean Politics I920-9-31: The Honorable Mission of the Armed Forces (Albuquerque.

251. These limits are of course subject to redefinition by the military institutions . The point is that the dependent variable has been largely limited to 'the military' and to 'military rule'. The Nation-State and Violence. II of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Cambridge. 194). This content downloaded from 37. civil society itself frequently tolerates or even collaborates in the application of violence and the maintenance of its limits. thus subduing disorder and conflict (p. I have sought in this article to subordinate the notion of a continuum of civilian versus military power and to substitute that of variations in the limits of state-sponsored violence. claiming that increasing political disorder called into being an interventionist military institution with middle-class roots that would somehow midwife 'modern' civilian political institutions. 32 Anthony Giddens. when in fact victims of state-sponsored violence experience not merely the military or the police or their surrogates but civilian bureaucrats. To return to Giddens: 'The issues raised by the existence of the modern military must concern not just the distinction between civil and military regimes. Huntington's Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven. Berghahn. and all but excluding any interest in the historical dimension.31 Nor is my critique intended to question the validity or importance of the research carried out within the civil-military relations paradigm. Of course. The generous character of these limits may furnish non-military state agents as much freedom to act as the men in uniform.225. or even centuries. 76. I982). they also launched a very different argument from that platform than the one that I am proposing to make. Authoritarianism. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. focusing not on the broader question of state-sponsored violence but on 'military rule'. I968) a pathbreaking achievement was its claim that it was not the military itself but the 'political and institutional structure of society' that explained military intervention in politics.128.218 on Mon. The historically and culturally conditioned limits on the exercise of violence that were established during the secular process of state formation shaped the behaviour of soldiers and civilians alike. demonstrates. However. Further. 1985). and much of the work that preceded it. vol. see Volker R. neither of the two principal assumptions underlying the literature on civil-military relations can be said to fit Central American reality. Militarism: The History of an International Debate i86--I979 (New York.jstor. professional politicians. impunity and the 31 Among the insights that made Samuel J. State Violence in Central America 45 as the 'bureaucratic-authoritarian' literatuie. but their very freedom to do so is itself a function of historically defined limits. p. p. Detecting the limits of state-sponsored violence means more than identifying the constitutional space occupied by men in uniform. Civilian state agents as well as the military and the police institutions operate in a certain socio- political context in which the limits of state violence have been shaped over the course of decades. For the originality of Huntington's observation at the time.'32 Therefore. For that reason. but the use of force in the process of governing. judges and non-state actors who happen to enjoy informal access to state agents whether the military is 'in power' or not. Huntington and his disciples largely confined themselves to studying the contemporary role of the military as an institution.

The first step in understanding the sources of'militarism' in Central America is to look beyond the military as an institution. and Preemption in Argentina'.218 on Mon.4 5 2 Robert H. Both the clientelist and corporatist traditions in Latin America have supplied multiple opportunities for reciprocal exchange between 'state' and 'society'.' in which organisation and function are not coterminous but highly elastic. pp. in Martha K. 'Why does the military dominate politics?' but 'Why does violence dominate politics?' This framework turns away from discourse about institutions and places the emphasis where it should be: on social relationships.D. The proper referent is state-sponsored violence. 1986). I. 35 Fernando Garcia Argaiaris. Historical Systems and Civilizations). develops this point to explain the frequency of transactions that 'blur the boundaries between the state and the private realm'. i76o (Cambridge. El Salvador and Guatemala that it is wrong to lump them together as a problem in 'militarisation' or 'the military domination of society'. . 'The Mechanisms of Accommodation: Bolivia. 2 (Spring 1992). porous and overlapping borders defined over the course of state formation. People. 195 2-71. The question is not. Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America (New York. The Sources of Social Power.35 It follows that a distinctively Central American or Latin American pattern of state-sponsored violence cannot be attributed to one institution but to the particular way in which violence was diffused across many different kinds 33 Laura Kalmanowiecki insightfully links police corruption and violence in 'Police. XV. They are such well-rooted and extensive elements of the national political culture of Honduras. and even of much of the private sector.225. pp. vol. Holden kind of corruption that one associates with violence33 are characteristic not only of the formal institutions of coercion but also of the state's civilian institutions.' Review (Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies. A History of Powerfrom the Beginning to A. 292-94.34 'The military' has never acted independently of other. I. Huggins (ed.jstor. and the controlling question should be: 'How were the limits of state-sponsored violence established?' One way is to map the process by which state-sponsored violence has been diffused and reconcentrated over time by imagining the existence of state and non-state fields of violence divided by shifting.128. This content downloaded from 37. and none of those agents has ever acted independently of civil society. 34 This line of argument is bolstered by Michael Mann's dictum to think about societies not as ensembles of 'subsystems' but as 'multiple overlapping and intersecting sociospatial networks of power. This way of framing the problem links the components of a structure of violence that underlies the prominence of the military in politics and addresses that structure. vol.). 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. Ch. I991). non-military agents of the state. 47-60. capricious or 'promiscuous' over time. the evident potency of vertical linkages stemming from the hierarchical. non-contractual character of both traditions effectively refutes the state-society dichotomy argument.

not only the oligarchy. II (Mexico. For Central America.. with civilians on one side and the military on the other [emphasis added]. privileged workers and sectors of the middle class and a good part of the bureaucracy. Nor do young professionals or ambitious businessmen.218 on Mon. Centro America: Subdesarrolloy dependencia. merit citation. Edelberto Torres-Rivas observed that 'In Central America the authoritarians are not only the military but numerous social forces of society [sic] that call on them and utilise them'. research aimed at uncovering the articulation of the two. vol. artisans. This content downloaded from 37. 1918).37 Twenty years later. El tamano de nuestra democracia. 37 Mario Monteforte Toledo. 2I6. The Five Republics of Central America: Their Political and Economic Development and Their Relations with the United States (New York.38 Alain Rouquie's equally trenchant observation on Bolivia is a reminder that in this respect. despite their 'immense power'. Contrary to a view marked by liberal ethnocentrism.36 Mario Monteforte Toledo's history of the isthmus concluded that Many social sectors. 42-3. the following uncommon observations. Far from provoking a sacred union of the political class or of the social forces organised to defend democratic institutions in danger.. any military uprising will enlist the public support of certain civilian forces competing with their rivals. makes the 'extrication' of militarism and the 'civilianisation' of power difficult.. the permanent articulation of the two spheres. 36 Dana Munro. they acknowledge a feature of state-sponsored violence that has so far largely escaped the attention of researchers. 38 Torres-Rivas. One cannot exclude from this attitude a great number of Indian peasants. there do not exist two worlds entrenched like two camps prepared for battle.225. at least. prefer order and stability under the military to the uncertainty of free political struggle and the possibility of structural transformations. Dana Munro observed in 91 8 that military officers in Central America.128. I972). p. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. in a system so militarised. such as that of Alvarenga. is rarer still. pp. p. who see the possibility of advancement under the protection of a team that always needs members of that sector to govern and to mobilise the economy. which has nothing to fear from a new regime that takes over without commitments [compromisos] and without party members to whom it must provide public employment. State Violence in Central America 4 3 of social relationships and reconcentrated in particular ways within the organs of state . were 'usually merely the tools of the civilian politicians. who secure their support by giving them money and conferring military honors upon them'. made at three widely separated moments during the twentieth century.jstor. A military clique rarely launches a 'putschist' adventure without a sectional endorsement or without an alliance with civilian groups. The civilian-military overlap. Central America is not unique in the continent: Civilian political sectors have always been implicated in the military interventions. Yet only rarely has the historic imbrication of the civilian or non-state sphere (at both the elite and the subaltern levels) and the state been recognised by scholars of Latin America. 45.

1986). 29. Greenberg. 'Introduction: Revealing Conflicts Across Cultures & Disciplines'. Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead (eds. Schmitter's observation that demilitarisation is not a problem referring only to the military. where: 39 Alain Rouquie. Divine Violence: Spectac Psychosexuality & Radical Christianity in the Argentine 'Dirty War' (Boulder. Juan E. A US-based coalition of mainstream religious bodies issued a call for research proposals in November 1995 in order to better understand 'political and social violence' in Peru and Chile. leading him to suggest that liberal-constitutionalism 'must confront models of behavior that have been strongly internalised'. Also see James B. An excellent review of some recent work on the Andes Enrique Mayer's 'Patterns of Violence in the Andes'. 'Demilitarization and the Institutionalization of Military-dominated Polities in Latin America'. Warren (ed.). Huggins (e Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America (New York.). Rouquie is not alone in making this point. Latin American Research Revie vol. but it is one that seems to be rarely developed beyond a kind of moralistic admonition. Holden A similar situation prevails in Argentina. I9 Deborah Poole (ed. The political tradition of the countries examined here [i. This content downloaded from 37. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. culture and . 1992). pp. pp. For O'Donnell and Schmitter's comment. 1994). The liolence Within: Cultural and Political Opposition in Divided Natio (Boulder.128.).454 Robert H. p. 1-24. p.. 3I. part 2. and some of the essays in Martha K. in no case has the military intervened without important and active civilian support. 40 For a brief critical review of social-science approaches to national-level violence Kay B. Rouquie continued.). in Latin America] has been plagued (and continues to be plagued) by civilian politicians who refused to accept the uncertainties of the democratic process and recurrently appeal to the armed forces for 'solutions'. as in Guillermo O'Donnell and Philippe C. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Comparative Perspectives (Baltimore. Power. Unruly Order: Violence. Corradi. Philippe C. Patricia Weiss Fagen. disguising their personal or group interests behind resounding invocations of the national interest.218 on Mon.225. Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in La America (Berkeley. and that thus require 'profound societal and cultural transformation'. Warren.jstor. 14I-7I. 133. and Cultural Identity in the Hi Provences of Southern Peru (Boulder. in the same volume part 4. but above all an awareness that it is time to look beyond the military in the search for the sources of violence. 2 (I994). see 'Opening (and Undermining) Authoritarian Regimes'. Frank Graziano. Manuel Antonio Garret6n (eds.40 Not only intellectuals but practitioners in the fields of development and human rights are expanding the traditional boundaries of debate on the subject.e. in Guillermo O'Donnell. I989). Blood Ties: Life Violence in Rural Mexico (Tucson. no.39 Political Culture Alvarenga's claim that terrorism in El Salvador surpassed the limits of the state and 'became fully integrated into the national culture' reflects not only a growing interest among students of Latin America in the convergence of the themes of violence. I99 ). I993).

'Interfaith Hunger Appeal Announces Grants For Overseas Research'. This may be partially because NGOs [non-governmental organisations] have considered peace as something that others should obtain (i. pp. ix-xi. 'Foreword: The Return to Political Culture. itself shaped by interaction with institutions and structures of domination. 362-87. 25. Ruth Lane analyses the application of the concept since its introduction in 1956 by Gabriel Almond. 'Introduction'. as part of our societies. has since emerged. the military) and not something to be constructed day by day. 82. no. Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries (Boulder. 42 Gabriel A. understood as learned orientations to action. I993). and its reciprocal relationship with political action.jstor. 44 Harry Eckstein. political culture theory has returned. Comparative Political Studies. vol. 3 (September i988). 'Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies'. 5I (April i986). 789-803. pp. 1995. p. American Sociological Review.e. what aspects of a cultural heritage have enduring effects on action. 'A Culturalist Theory of Political Change'. 43 Ann Swidler.43 Similarly. The Appeal identified its 'partner agencies' as Catholic Relief Services. 3. are stressed by Keith Baker. no. as Gabriel A. vol.42 Long hindered by a conception of 'culture' as a timeless entity.. Political culture as a 'historical creation'. State Violence in Central America 45 5 Peace is always in the distance. Harry Eckstein affirmed the explanatory value of 'political' culture. Swidler urged a search for new analytic perspectives that will allow more effective concrete analyses of how culture is used by actors. exulted not long ago. a toolkit or repertoire out of which strategies of action are constructed. p. in Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge.225. favourably assessing its utility for integrating 'the sociological and the individual' in 'Political Culture: Residual Category or General Theory'. Ann Swidler's seminal contribution to the debate over culture's causal role in directing human action regards 'cultural products' as a kind of resource base. This content downloaded from . how cultural elements constrain or facilitate patterns of action. An alternative image of culture as a kind of portable inventory of meanings and social practices. How can we promote a vision of peace as part of human dignity and therefore part of human development? How does violence reproduce itself in society? How does this articulate with sectarianism and ethnic. Lutheran World Relief and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.). and what specific historical changes undermine the vitality of some cultural patterns and give rise to others. Nov. by emphasising culture's flexibility and proposing a way to reconcile the continuity implied by a cultural approach with political transformation.218 on Mon. its principal architect. Io.44 Alicia Hernandez Chavez recently resurrected the concept to frame a reinter- 41 Interfaith Hunger Appeal. 3 (October I992). even as daily operations continue. pp. Arguing for a restoration of culture 'to a central place in contemporary social science'. American Political Science Review. after two decades of shunning and disparagement.' in Larry Diamond (ed. theories that drew on it as an explanatory variable were notoriously unable to explain change over time. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. vol. religious and political fanaticism?41 In short. 284. Almond. Internet bulletin. Church World Service.128. 1990). Almond.

. 7-9. The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Sp America (Berkeley. who traces the caudillo's ability to 'to use force w good conscience' to a Thomistic 'dual morality'. The Latin Americans: Spirit and Ethos (Boulder. Kindred historical interpretations have offered by Glen Caudill Dealy. Cultura politica democratiraci6n (Santiago. 329-59. heavily cited Morse. See: Dealy. Beginning with the colonial period.). p. suggests that values and beliefs have played a role. 253-4 and Lechner. 'Toward a Model of Social Change Political Development in Latin America: Summary.' The result is a political culture as readily capable of association with 'hierocracy' as with 'democracy'. pp. Brian Loveman postulated a 'diverse. Claudio Veliz. New World Soundings: Culture and Ideology in the Americas (Balti I989). juxtaposing the absence of a 'democratic culture' with unspecified lines of continuity between dictatorial regimes and the distant past.218 on Mon. in Lechner (ed. Spanish American political culture' whose central feature he identified as 'a lack of consensus regarding the legitimacy of any particular political regime and a tend for violence to determine the timing and character of governm succession'.456 Robert H.46 Norbert Lechner gingerly grasped this thread. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. 47 Norbert Lechner. should also be mentioned here..128. La tradicidn republicana del buen gobierno (Mexico. I33-4. Holden pretation of Mexico's political history. pp. as well as 'a nasty mixture of Spanish and liberal intoler 45 Alicia Hernandez Chavez. recognising that not all interpretations of authoritarianism can be reduced to the socioeconomic structure. but widely shared. Politics and Social Change in Latin America: The Distinct Tradition.225. 'La democratizaci6n'. Frontiers'. Morse argued for the primacy of patrimonialism (via neo-Scholasticism) over feudalism in Spain and her territories overseas. who holds up a distinctly Latin corpor tradition. who conceded that his subject was a 'ticklish' one. 2zz-6. The work of Roberto Da . who locates L America's political culture in a centralist tradition stemming from the Coun Reformation. p Veliz. fashioned by individuals 'para dar orden a traves de la politica a las diferencias y tensiones que se dan entre ellos. 210.jstor. but a 'relational ethic' that has yielded 'structures of authority [as opposed to structures of legal-rational domination] and casuistical applications of principle.'45 Among historians of the region. 2n (Amherst. defining political culture as 'normas de convivencia'. 1994). in Wiarda (ed. 1993 46 Richard Morse. Chile. and Howard Wiarda. Implications. 1987). I982).47 Similarly. giving rise to societies guided not only by the familiar (to North Americans) individual ethic. 98-o06. no one has searched more diligently for (and written more convincingly about) the roots of a distinctive political culture in Latin America than Richard Morse. in his study of Latin American 'regimes of exception'. Wiarda. variable over time and space. 1992). This content downloaded from 37. And it is clear that 'democratic' values and beliefs have not been prominent among them. pp.). pp. in which 'authoritarianism belongs to a past cycle and expresses its crisis'. 'Presentaci6n'.. Lechner.

34. 50 Comisi6n Especial. Such violence is rooted in asymmetrical power relations that go back to the Incan era and that have impeded the formation of an integrated and democratic nation. Yet. It identified 'structural violence' as the outcome of a long-term process in which 'order. in its composition and in its behaviour. Opponents were dangerous enemies and critics were heretics who threatened the revealed truth of the new order . military dichotomy so that the problem appears to be one of 'military rule'. Enrique Mayer divided the problem into different arenas of violence. which stands in the background and reinforces other manifestations of violence. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. to express itself as an entity that developed tendencies toward privileging the use of violence. This excellent study of the long history of constitutional protection for tyrannical regimes is basically framed by the familiar civilian vs. 63. pp. This content downloaded from 37. 1989). 124. State Violence in Central America 45 7 for so-called enemies of the state. with violence operating at the centre of social dynamics. The Constitution of Tyranny: Regimes of Exception in Spanish America (Pittsburgh.48 One of the most suggestive statements of the connection between culture and state-sponsored violence appeared in a recent study by a special commission of the Peruvian Senate. and the organisation of power become expressions of a structural violence that accumulates.' The threat of violence or the use of violence make up part of the political repertoire at the disposal of various social groups. What the Commission called 'illegitimate' state violence 'is in reality part of the historically accumulated structural violence' of Peruvian society. The state. a society was structured with authoritarian patterns and behaviours that led the State. factions.49 The Commission goes so far as to identify an underlying 'culture of violence' in Peru: In a generic way one can argue that the process of socialisation in Peru. coating it with legality. and subversives. school. 39. and (2) the late Bourbon policy of turning over internal administrative functions to the military (3 5-6). social relations and communications media. p. reflects the broader social conditions of violence: 'In .and the government in power'. legality. Violencia j pacificacidn (Lima. like Morse.128. reproduces itself..225. p..50 Observing that this kind of' structural violence' has been present in the Andes even during nominally peaceful times. one associated with domination 48 Brian Loveman. which has habitually preferred violence to dialogue and negotiation.218 on Mon. 49 Comisi6n Especial del Senado sobre las Causas de la Violencia y Alternativas de Pacificaci6n en el Perui. and tends to perpetuate itself. through the family. 43. lViolenciay pacificacion. Loveman also recognises the complex origins of a political culture that nourished authoritarianism. has collaborated in the creation of a culture of violence [emphasis in original]. he points to the deadly combination of (i) the absence in colonial Spanish America (unlike in Spain itself) of any parliamentary or representative institutions that might have constrained the authority of the monarch and the consequent practice of rule by royal decree.'. I993). The colonial-era practice of yielding broad administrative authority to military powers was adopted and updated by the former colonies (393-5).

Torres-Rivas pointed out that it is one thing for a revolutionary movement to destroy the institutions of an authoritarian regime .). As community violence came into contact with the patron-client structure of Mexican politics (itself. vol. thus undermining (it would seem) the explanatory power of the very 'conditioning factors' that he is attempting to illustrate. the region remains burdened by 'an authoritarian culture that infects social relations. Similarly. 53 But Chasteen. 'El concepto de lo politico segiin Carl Schmitt'. to what extent are there long- term institutionalised patterns of violence that have been imposed by state. argues that 'cultural patterns are entirely as contingent as economic ones. Not so readily replaced. Franz Hinkelammert noted that in Central America. is there an Andean cultural pattern of violence?'51 In this configuration. regulations. the collective mentality that comes out in the everyday conduct between the dominant and the dominated in the variety of their relationships'.225. 41. 29. 'a well-known source of rancor and violence'). Greenberg's study of the high level of daily violence among the Chatino people of Mexico. and ruling elites? Secondly. the state and its allies initiate the cycle of violence. This content downloaded from 37. courts. 38. 83-1 .128. The opposition must constantly demonstrate that it is a defender of the social system in order to be accepted. pp. are 'the mores. 'Fighting Words: The Discourse of Insurgency in Latin American History'. Substitutes can readily be fabricated. generating a distinctive 'popular' kind of violence in response. in Lechner (ed. 'the first thing that a government requires of the opposition is to demonstrate that it is not its enemy. according to Greenberg. regarding the responses from below. penal system. the deep-seated habits.45 8 Robert H. and the customs of Central Americans'. 3 (1993). 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. Latin American Research Review. A more holistic approach is suggested by James B. Even today. pp.54 Since the late nineteenth 51 Mayer. in his haste to disavow cultural determinism.53 Perhaps the most telling evidence of a shift in interest towards a more culturally-sensitive understanding of state-sponsored violence comes from the work of the distinguished Central American historian Edelberto Torres-Rivas. 'Patterns of Violence'.218 on Mon. in process no less constantly and multidimensionally'. which he ties to the emergence of capitalist relations of production and exchange. Cultura politica. values. best known for a bluntly structuralist interpretation of Central American history anchored in dependency theory. he noted. some of its dominant themes and primary figures of speech'.the army. Writing in 1992 of the fallen Sandinista government in Nicaragua. etc. pp.' Hinkelammert. laws. 28. local and regional political violence intensified. as they were in Nicaragua after 19 July 1979.52 John Charles Chasteen's analysis of the 'discourse of insurgency' along the Brazilian-Uruguayan border in the late nineteenth century is a tantalising attempt to 'identify some of the conditioning factors and constituent procedures of Latin American political culture. 143-4. no. however. Holden and the other with subordination: 'First. church. 52 Greenberg.jstor. 235-6. 54 El tamao. pp. Blood Ties.

218 on Mon.225. El tamaio. This content downloaded from 37. But that autonomy was achieved. This is the dimension of state-sponsored violence that now awaits the attention of researchers. to quote . that is contagious and endemic'. (3) the arbitrary and discretional quality of many public functions. The limits of state-sponsored violence were thus constructed well before the large-scale intrusion of foreign military power that began with World War II. and (4) a political intolerance that turns politics into warfare. hinders much-needed research into its sources and persistence while undervaluing its broad. 'quotidian. or as a problem in civil-military relations. a political culture of authoritarianism has been evident in: (i) the absence of fair elections. 15 May 2017 12:51:41 UTC All use subject to http://about. it seems likely that clientelist politics led to a certain level of collaboration (or at least a tacit agreement not to cooperate with those who resisted) with the agents of state violence. among non-military agents of the state and within civil society itself. While historians have traditionally sought evidence of resistance to the state. Washington's subsequent modernisation and expansion of the region's military and police forces decisively enhanced the capacity for state violence while inhibiting any tendencies towards contraction in the limits. Contraction was also inhibited by a distinctive political culture in which clientelism and the recourse to violence had practically become. State Violence in Central America 459 century.55 Conclusions I have tried to suggest that treating state-sponsored violence as a mere derivative of class conflict and international economic forces. p. a 'sickness. During the twentieth century Central America has been scarred by this kind of violence as few other Latin American societies have been.. (2) a persistent inability to distinguish between the public and the private spheres. on the part of subalterns as well as different factions of the elite. A description of the mechanisms by which caudillo violence was transformed (albeit at different moments and with distinctive outcomes) into state violence still awaits us.jstor. according to Torres-Rivas. 56 See note 4. 29. constitutive character.128. traditional and permanent'. by a correspondingly high level of tolerance for and collaboration with the state's agents of repression. 55 Torres-Rivas. and has been sustained.56 The armed forces and their police agencies on the isthmus achieved an extraordinary level of informal autonomy even for Latin America..