Civial Affair Essay, Research Paper
A Civil Affair
There are many different reasons why civil wars occur. These violent conflicts arise in a nation and usually destroy and split the country. The United States felt the pain that civil war causes because of the issue of states rights and slavery. Spain experienced the agony of civil war firsthand because Gen. Franco attempted a coup and tried to install a Fascist government. These two countries experienced civil wars because of political decisions and government policies. The civil wars that occurred in El Salvador and Guatemala were different from those of the United States and Spain. These countries suffered from many problems that neither the United States nor Spain had to endure. In Central America both El Salvador and Guatemala had conditions that were conducive to violent civil war.
El Salvador is a small country in Central America. Coffee production is the major source of income for the country. With this much importance on one crop, the country began to expand the production of coffee. As coffee production grew, there was less and less land available for the every day farmer to use for crops to feed his family and try to make a living. The Salvadoran government began to take away the opportunities many of the poor had to live on. This lead to a migration out of El Salvador and into Mexico and the United States; however, this still left a large number of unhappy Salvadorans who were still in El Salvador. By the early 1900’s the landowners were pressing to get more land for the production of coffee. In the 1960’s El Salvador had the worst land to people ratio in the world. The landowners wanted more land and the poor Salvadorans wanted land themselves. The conditions in El Salvador were quickly becoming hostile. The elite had no care for the welfare of the poor. They were producing coffee for export to the world. The poor would never make enough to buy coffee produced in El Salvador. The conditions in 1960’s El Salvador were quickly leading to problems.
In the 1970’s El Salvador began to become more violent. The government began to develop a militaristic side. The poor began to form guerilla movements to show the government that they were fed up with the situation that existed in the country (Rosenburg 14). Over the years the economic system that developed in El Salvador was a push for the poor to become involved with the guerilla movements that existed. They had seen that their government would not take care of them. Even if they did not join the guerilla movement they would help the guerillas out in any way if they could. Soon the guerillas were waging terrorist attacks and kidnappings to cripple the Salvadoran economy and system. The government and the elite were waging their own attacks against the guerillas. The two sides basically beat each other up over and over again, but neither side really had the advantage. This lasted until, in the 1980’s, the guerillas rose up in one last attempt to take control of the country. When this failed both the guerillas and the government realized that peace was needed.
Peace was finally reached and the civil war in El Salvador finally ended. Throughout the duration of the civil war the elite justified their actions several ways. From the 1930’s on violence and terror were considered a viable tool that the elite could utilize for their cause. In 1932 the military crushed a revolt by poor Salvadorans and since that time violence has been a tool of the elite. By using violence in 1932 and continuing to use it, the practice of violence against the poor became a part of elitist society (Rosenburg 12). The elite began to use violence in any situation, and they taught their children that violence was appropriate for dealing with the poor. From the start of El Salvador’s coffee boom, the elite in society began to develop an attitude that would allow them to see the violence that took place as a natural occurrence that should take place.
Much like El Salvador, Guatemala was a hot zone for Civil War. The production of coffee and cotton for export placed a great deal of pressure on the land. The poor were getting pressured off the lands that they did have so the government and the elite could have more land. The original guerilla movement that developed in the 1960’s in resistance to the wrong doings of the government was eventually defeated. These actions led to the military gaining a great deal of strength in Guatemala.
In the highlands of Guatemala there were a good number of Indian cultures, which were settled in the area. They farmed what they could and were used as labor on the plantations throughout the country (Menchu 3). The Indians were looked down upon and were considered sub-human. These Indians moved into the highlands so they could have their own land, but the government moved in and tried to take control of the land. The Indians wanted to keep their culture in tact and this lead to many Indians becoming involved and interested in the guerilla movement.
Rigoberta Menchu and her family were Indians, who lived in Guatemala at this time. Rigoberta and her family were leaders in the organization of much of the resistance. They believed that resistance was very important so they could keep their culture. They realized that the Guatemalan government would rather exterminate the Indians than keep most of them around. They realized that resistance was their only hope to accomplish their goals.
The Indians in Guatemala were treated badly and just like every other people who were forced to suffer, they to had to deal with the church. The church promised them salvation and tried to teach them acceptance of their situation. The Indians did not see acceptance in Christianity. Rigoberta and her people knew that God had a “kingdom for the poor”, but they also knew that it was not “Gods will that we should live in suffering, that God did not give us that destiny, but that men on earth have imposed this suffering, poverty, misery, an discrimination on us” (Menchu 13).
The Indians and the poor of Guatemala saw how they were being treated and began to go against the government. The Civil went on with neither side winning until a formal peace plan was signed in 1996. This civil war was one that occurred due to the lack of available land, much like the other civil wars in Central America. The resistance to the government was unique in that the Indians who participated faced extermination. They were protecting their culture and religion by taking part in the civil war. This factor gave them the determination enough to push on until the last of their kind was gone or until they got a victory. This determination allowed them to remain a people.
In the countries of Central America, land is a serious problem. There is not enough to go around. The large landowners in these countries thought of profit over the well being of their fellow human beings. These actions led to the rich becoming richer and the poor sinking slowly into the depths of landless poverty. Through repression and violence the elite and the governments they supported attempted to keep the poor in their place; however, the poor fought back to get what they deserved. The elite in these societies attempted to keep their places of luxury and became blind and uncaring to the suffering of the people. The people in turn rose to challenge the elite. These actions led to the violent civil wars that tore El Salvador and Guatemala apart. In the end these conflicts proved to be anything but civil.