Reform with Repression: The Land Reform in El Salvador

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Fabrice Lehoucq, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: We shall seek to analyze two aspects of Salvadoran society-- one prevalent for a long period of time, the other a response more recent in origin.1 First, we will investigate the conditions that have been developing in recent years in the countryside of El Salvador and the ramifications of these developments for the peasantry. Second, we will analyze the political response, namely the land reform that has been formulated and partially implemented in a calculated effort to ameliorate a century-long process of rural stratification and, thereby, terminate rule by a landed oligarchy while frustrating a radical revolution. The task delineated above becomes important because of the problems currently afflicting El Salvador. In the cloud of misinformation that the U.S. government and the "civilian-military" junta of El Salvador have released in recent months, the virtues of the land reform stand out prominently. It is our view, however, that the actual results of the reform are quite limited at best and brutal at worst. The dismal reality becomes apparent once the reasons for carrying out such a reform are understood. The reform was implemented not so much to relieve the economic distress of the peasants as to "steal" the initiative from the left. The aim of the reform was to create a formidable group of peasants loyal to, and dependent upon, the embattled "civilian-military" junta to counter the threat from the Catholic comunidades de base – inspired by the preachings of liberation theology -- and from the supporters of the "Marxist-Leninist" guerrilla organizations.2 The uncertain effects of this reform, by extension, are to be forced upon the majority of the peasants who do not, and will not, benefit from the much-vaunted land reform. In short, this reform serves a dual purpose: it divided the peasantry internally into a minority who are, or who will become, supporters of the junta and a majority who are not; and in addition, it serves internationally as a symbol of the junta's "moderation."

Additional Information

ISHI Occasional Papers in Social Change, No. 6 (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1982)
Language: English
Date: 1982
El Salvador, Land reform, Rural stratification, Peasants

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