Pick a Region:. . Central America
Liberals vs. Conservatives
One area of dispute between Liberals and Conservatives was the type of government they favored. Conservatives favored a monarchy, while Liberals favored a republic with greater democracy.
Another area of dispute was the role of the church, a very important institution in Central America. The Liberals favored greatly reducing its wealth and political power and supported greater freedom of religion. The Conservatives sought to maintain the Churchs privileged position.
The third area of dispute between Conservatives and Liberals was the economy. The Liberals favored breaking up monopolies and moving toward free trade, while the Conservatives favored the status quo, in which trade was dominated by Spain. The struggle for power between these two groups continued for the rest of the century.
Listed in the chart below are the various issues the Liberals and Conservatives disagreed on and the positions they took.
Dictators and Revolutionaries
United States Intervention
In each case, the United States was attempting to ensure that governments friendly to the United States were in power. The specific reasons for each intervention vary. The intervention in Guatemala (1954) and Nicaragua (1980s) were directly related to the Cold War. In both cases, the United States feared that the governments in these two countries were too friendly toward the Soviet Union, and therefore, the Soviets would gain influence in Central America. Simply put, the United States did not want either country governed by rulers it perceived to be friendly to the Soviets. It was feared that if the Central American governments became communist, the rest of Latin America would become communist, including Mexico, which borders the United States. This chain reaction is often called the domino theory.
United States intervention in Nicaragua (1912-1933) is more complicated than in Guatemala. Civil war in Nicaragua had thrown the country into chaos; therefore, the United States Marines were used to stop the conflict from spreading throughout Central America, as well as to protect the interests of United States companies that had invested in Nicaragua. United States involvement in this case also served as a way to ensure the United States controlled the rights to any attempts to build a canal through Nicaragua. In turn, the Germans and Japanese, who had been considering plans to dig a canal through Nicaragua, were now prevented from doing so.
The reasons for United States intervention in Panama are somewhat debatable. Some of the contributing factors were Manuel Noriegas cancellation of elections that appeared to have been won by an opposing political party, his involvement in the drug trade, and his uncooperativeness with the United States (even though he used to be a part-time employee of the CIA).
In each of the interventions above, the people's reactions in the country are mixed. For instance, in Nicaragua (1912-1933), those individuals who shared United States interests (political and economic stability) generally appreciated United States involvement. On the other hand, foreign intervention by any country always arouses the anger of a significant group of people. In the Nicaraguan case, the most visible opponent to United States intervention was Augusto César Sandino. In the late 1920s he started a rebel movement in Nicaragua that fought against United States involvement. His name would eventually be adopted by the Sandinistas later in the century. Photo: General Sandino Photo © 1999 -www.arttoday.com
Peace in the Region
Since the militaries in these countries were responsible for a great amount of these human rights violations and these militaries are still very powerful, it has been difficult for the government to prosecute these criminals. On the other hand, if the human rights violators are not prosecuted, it is difficult to argue that justice has been served. These issues are not easy to resolve, but they must be for peace in the region. Nevertheless, the 1990s have been promising with respect to ending the raging conflicts in Central America.