Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America

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Coffee and Power: Revolution and the Rise of Democracy in Central America

By Jeffery M. Paige
Harvard University Press, 1997
432 pp. $45.00
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Paige examines the remarkable transformation between 1979 and 1992 that saw El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua embrace democracy and free markets. Yet by examining the role of elite dynasties, he brings to the forefront the resilience and adaptability of the powerful family groupings that remain at the core of these countries' power structures. He shows how the violent conflicts that shook El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s had deep roots in the economic and political crisis of the 1930s, when the left challenged the role of coffee elites across the region. Paige reminds us that "the wealthy elite still faces a poverty stricken population, many outside the market altogether," and that this latter group, the cause of revolution in the past, is again growing. While Central American elites -- and U.S. policymakers -- believe that the new agro-industrial order will permit them to dispense with authoritarianism and resume the march of progress, Paige demonstrates that none of that should be taken for granted.