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Capsule Review

Central America and the United States: The Clients and the Colossus

In This Review

Central America and the United States: The Clients and the Colossus

Central America and the United States: The Clients and the Colossus
By John H. Coatsworth
Twayne Publishers, 1994 277 pp. $15.95 Purchase

John Coatsworth, Monroe Gutman professor of Latin American affairs at Harvard University, best known for his innovative writing on the economic history of Mexico, has turned his considerable expository talents toward Central America. The result is a remarkable book of historical narrative and interpretation, which will immediately become the standard reference. The question Coatsworth posed for himself is "why a region so closely tied to the United States should have become the site of so much bloodshed and brutality." He rejects the two traditional interpretations, the conservative position, which has tended to blame "outside agitators" for exploiting popular discontent in order to undermine democracy and U.S. interests, as well as the liberal view, which attributes social and political upheaval in Central America to internal causes such as widespread poverty and inequality. Coatsworth argues that the high levels of political and social turmoil in Central America result from "excessively close and subordinate ties to the United States." These ties explain "both the extraordinary intransigence of local elites and the unusual intensity and persistence of opposition movements." Coatsworth hopes that the end of the Cold War will provide a more positive relationship between the colossus and the clients.

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