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Dirk Kruijt


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Three parallel wars were fought in the latter half of the twentieth century in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. These wars were long and brutal, dividing international opinion sharply between US support for dictatorial regimes and the USSR’s sponsorship of guerrilla fighters. This fascinating study of the ‘guerrilla generation’ is based on in-depth interviews with both guerrilla comandantes and political and military leaders of the time. Dirk Kruijt analyses the dreams and achievements, the successes and failures, the utopias and dystopias of an entire Central American generation and its leaders. Guerrillas ranges widely, from the guerrilla movement’s origins in poverty, oppression and exclusion; its tactics in warfare; the ill-fated experiment with Sandinista government in Nicaragua; to the subsequent ‘normalization’ of guerrilla movements within democratic societies. The story told here is vital for understanding contemporary social movements in Latin America.
Dirk Kruijt is Professor of Development Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University. For many years he served as a development diplomat and policy advisor in Central America. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in the UK and in Brasil and Mexico, the Andean countries and Central America. His research includes urban poverty, informality and social exclusion; the military and democracy; political conflict and post-war reconstruction in Latin America and the Caribbean. He is co-editor of four previously published Zed titles: Fractured Cities: Social Exclusion, Urban Violence and Contested Spaces in Latin America (2006); Armed Actors: Organised Violence and State Failure in Latin America (2004); Political Armies: The Military and Nation Building in the Age of Democracy (2002); and Societies of Fear: The Legacy of Civil War, Violence and Terror in Latin America (1999).
‘Lucidly written, exceptionally well-informed and admirably honest, this study provides a remarkable portrait of a generation radicalized to the point at which armed struggle was an inevitable duty. Through his interviews with comandantes and regular fighters, Dirk Kruijt has built a vividly illustrated work of contemporary history.‘ James Dunkerley, University of London 'This book helps bring the reader inside the movements and their inspiration in a way that gives a rich insight into the mentalities and motivations that lay behind the resort to arms. As such, it is a major contribution to assessing the legacies of the period and reminds us of the unfinished business that is still pending twenty years later' Peadar Kirby, University of Limerick 'Uniquely illuminates a 'guerilla generation....radicalized to the point where armed struggle becomes an inescapable duty. Lucid, well-informed and admirably presented.. this is an excellent book' CHOICE 'A remarkable portrait of a bloody era...exceptionally valuable' Gavin O'Toole, Latin American Review of Books 'Impeccably researched.' Tribune 'Dirk Kruijt has crafted this beautiful book out of two decades of concern and deep engagements with Central Americans. With his clear head and unflinching gaze he brings alive both the vicious encounters between governments and revolutionaries that so profoundly affected the lives of Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans, and the years of aftermath. If I were to choose a first book for some deep learning about the revolutionary guerrilla wars of Central America, this book would be it.' Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley, Georgetown University

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents v
Acknowledgements vii
Foreword x
Abbreviations and Spanish Terms\r xvii
Introduction: Guerrillas and Comandantes 1
Terminology 3
Data\r 6
Structure of the Book 7
1 Dictators and Civil Wars\r 12
Poverty and Exclusion\r 16
Societies of Repression and Fear 19
Chronology of the Guerrilla Wars\r 30
2 Genesis of a Guerrilla Generation 39
Student Movements 44
Liberation Theology and Base Communities 47
Marxism–Leninism and the Cuban Revolution 54
Splinter Parties and Enduring Loyalties 59
3 Inside the Guerrilla 67
Guerrilla Strategy in Practice 68
Arms, Financing and Logistics 82
Daily Life and Relations with the Local Population 88
4 Utopia and Dystopia, Nicaragua 99
Managing the Revolution 103
Alienation, Exclusion and Opposition 115
The Contra War 119
Electoral Defeat 127
5 Negotiations, Peace and Post-war Reintegration 133
Negotiations and Peace 135
Integration into Society 149
6 Legacies and Ambivalences\r 163
Legacies 166
Ambivalences 172
Appendices 179
1 Politico-military Organizations 179
2 Demographic Data on Central America 185
3 List of Interviews 186
Notes 202
Foreword 202
Introduction 202
Chapter 1 202
Chapter 2 207
Chapter 3 210
Chapter 4 213
Chapter 5 219
Chapter 6 222
Appendices 223
References 224
Index 239