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POLSC 262, Day Session [Codes 4622, 4623, 4928] Prof. K. Erickson

Government and Politics in Central America Fall 2006

Central America, after decades of wrenching brutal conflict and wholesale abuse of the most basic human rights, is now in a period of democratic consolidation and conflict management. This course examines, through reading, discussion, and research, the origins of social and political conflict in Central America, and the region’s contemporary political evolution. It assesses the causal roles of what political scientists call “structure” and “agency” in these processes. That is, it examines the broad historical forces and processes (structure) and the roles of individual and institutional actors (agency) that have shaped the economies, societies, and polities of the Central American countries, facilitating the development of liberal democratic institutions in one while spawning revolutionary upheavals in three others. Principal emphasis is on (1) the process of revolution, with analysis of the domestic and international economic and political factors and actors that promoted the revolutionary process and those that opposed it; (2) the process of conflict settlement, democratization, and (worrisome) contemporary political dynamics; (3) the roles of other countries, and especially the interventionist role of the United States, for one cannot understand the Central American crises and the region’s evolution without analyzing the US role; and (4) the impact of contemporary neoliberal globalization on social, economic, and political institutions.
The required texts, available from Revolution Books, 9 W. 19 Street, just off Fifth Avenue

(tel: 212-691-3345), are:

Booth, John A., Christine J. Wade, and Thomas W. Walker, Understanding Central America:

Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change, 4th edition (Westview, 2006). [Abbreviated as UCA.]
Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace, 2nd edition

(Westview, 1995).

Menchu, Rigoberta & Elizabeth Burgos-Debray. I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in

Guatemala (Verso, 1984). [Any edition of this book is acceptable.]
Additional readings will be posted on Blackboard (instructions at, on electronic reserves (ERes) , or in the library reserve collection. When the ERes password for this course is posted, it will probably be erickson262.
Course requirements include a mid-term exam (20% of final grade); a final exam (40%); a written outside-the-class assignment (30%); and participation in class discussion on the readings (10%). The final exam will be comprehensive, covering all material treated in class and in reading assignments during the semester. To help students prepare for the exam and to highlight issues that the instructor considers important, this syllabus includes a sample list of comprehensive essay questions.
The written assignment, which is due December 12, may take one of two forms:

  1. a research paper on an issue in Central American politics, to be approved by the instructor; or

  2. a comparative analytic book review of two books relevant to the course (but not already on the syllabus), to be approved by the instructor. This paper must be submitted through, according to the instructions posted on Blackboard.

Students must consult with the instructor about research topics or books to review. A tentative choice of books or topics for the paper must be emailed to the instructor by November 7, and a copy should also be posted on It should be well written and explain why the topic interests you, what aspects of it you will cover, and what sources you have identified.

Useful bibliographic sources for research materials or books to review are EBSCO, JSTOR, and Lexis-Nexis on the CUNY Library website ; CUNYPLUS; the Columbia University Library catalogue ; Google Scholar , and and . Keywords identifying your interests (e.g., politics and “Costa Rica”; policy and Nicaragua; military and Guatemala; “el Salvador” and “United States;” etc.) will bring up many recent book titles. Where the catalogue offers you the option to select by descending date, or by most-recent first, as in Columbia’s CLIO, choose that option. Similar searches on EBSCO, JSTOR, and Lexis-Nexis, and on, will locate sources in periodicals and websites. You can quickly build a working bibliography by copying or saving useful sources and then pasting the results into a document file. can provide links to excellent source material. For tips on how to use Google most profitably, consult the Powerpoint presentations, Google 101 and Google 201, along with other internet tips, on Patrick Douglas Crispen’s website: .
For reporting and analysis of relevant current events in the hemisphere that we may discuss in class, students are expected to follow the New York Times and other media sources. Let me also point out the often neglected (in this age of television) and truly outstanding news coverage of WNYC radio (AM 82 and FM 93.9). Weekdays, AM and FM carry "Morning Edition," the two-hour National Public Radio newscast from 6 to 9 o'clock. "All Things Considered," the NPR evening news program plays from 4 to 6:30 p.m. WNYC-AM broadcasts "The World," a joint NPR-BBC world news magazine from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., and other BBC newscasts at 5 a.m., 9 a.m., and midnight. It runs the audio feed of the televised PBS NewsHour from 11 p.m. to midnight. At other hours AM presents excellent current-affairs interview and talk shows.
And WBAI, the Pacifica Foundation station (FM 99.5), presents news and analysis weekdays on "Democracy Now" from 9 to 10 a.m. and the evening news from 6 to 7 p.m. (with a rebroadcast at 11 p.m.), as well as numerous features on Latin America and the Caribbean. New York's Spanish-language television often provides perceptive reporting on events in the hemisphere. Major media websites (,,,, etc.) make it easy to follow recent current events. Lexis-Nexis, mentioned earlier, allows one to search many media at once.
My office hours are: Tuesday, 3:40-4:10 and 7:00-7:30; Thursday, 4:30-5:00; and by appointment, in room HW1720 (tel. 212-772-5498). My e-mail address is: and also [Please note that the second userid does not end in "n"]. If you have a junk-mail filter in your email account, please be sure to program it to accept email from both of my addresses. When corresponding with me, always put the course number “262” in the subject line.


Sept. 1. Introductory session.

  1. Read syllabus carefully; and Booth et al, Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change [hereafter UCA], 1-40, 214-218, 220.

Sept. 8. UCA, 41-52, 197-212. [Next assignment also for Sept. 8]

Sept. 8. UCA, 115-131, 219.
12. Robert Trudeau & Lars Schoultz, “Guatemala,” in Morris Blachman et al,

Confronting Revolution: Security Through Diplomacy in Central America

(Pantheon, 1986), 23-49; and Menchu, I, Rigoberta Menchu, viii-49.

15. Menchu, 50-140.

  1. Menchu, 141-226.

22. No classes scheduled this Friday.

  1. Menchu, 227-247; and David Stoll, “The Battle of Rigoberta,” in Arturo Arias, (ed),

The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy (U Minnesota P, 2001), 392-410.

  1. Susan C. Peacock and Adriana Beltrán, “Hidden Powers: Illegal Armed Groups in

Post-Conflict Guatemala and the Forces Behind Them,” WOLA Special Report, September 2003, 1-11; and Guatemala News Packet (GuatNews2006Brief.doc), 1-27.
Oct. 3. No Tuesday classes; Monday schedule instead.
Oct. 6. Jack Spence, War and Peace in Central America: Comparing Transitions Toward

Democracy and Social Equity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua

(Hemisphere Initiatives, November 2004), 1-14, 43-46, 50-52, 54-58, 62-65, 67-71,

75-76, 81-83, 86-97.
Oct. 10. UCA, 95-98; and Tommie Sue Montgomery, Revolution in El Salvador: From

Civil Strife to Civil Peace (Westview, 1995), 11-49.

  1. Montgomery, 51-99; Larry Rohter, "A Church Asunder Awaits the Pope in El

Salvador," NYT, 2-4-96.

17. UCA, 98-108; and Montgomery, 101-154.

20. Montgomery, 155-183.

24. UCA, 108-114; and Montgomery, 185-243; and review for mid-term exam.

27. MID-TERM EXAM, on material through Montgomery, 126.

  1. Montgomery, 243-269.

Nov. 3. Jack Spence, War and Peace in Central America, 18-19, 41-43, 46-50, 58-62, 71-75,

and 83-84; El Salvador News Packet (SalNews2006Brief), 1-##.

Nov. 7. DUE: topic for book review or paper; and UCA, 169-196.
Nov. 10. Kissinger Commission Report (NY Times Summary) and appended World Policy

Journal excerpts (Spring 1984) from William LeoGrande's critique; and Morris Blachman, William LeoGrande, & Kenneth Sharpe, “The Failure of the Hegemonic Strategic Vision,” in Confronting Revolution: Security Through Diplomacy in Central America (Pantheon, 1986), 329-353.


Nov. 14. UCA, 69-93; and Jack Spence, War and Peace in Central America, 37-41, 52-54,

65-67, 76-77, 84-86.

Nov. 17. David R. Dye, Democracy Adrift: Caudillo Politics in Nicaragua (Hemisphere

Initiatives website: November, 2004), 1-11, 38-56; and

Nicaragua News Packet [NicNews2006Brief], 1-##.
Nov. 21. Leslie E. Anderson, “The Authoritarian Executive? Horizontal and Vertical

Accountability in Nicaragua,” Latin American Politics & Society, Summer 2006,



Nov. 22. [This Wednesday follows a Tuesday schedule.]

UCA, 53-68; and Iván Molina & Steven Palmer, The History of Costa Rica (Editorial

de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 1998), 85-142; and

Marc Edelman & Joanne Kenen, The Costa Rica Reader (NY: Grove Wiedenfeld,

1989), xv-xviii, 51-56, 83-89, 123-128, 187-193; and John A. Peeler, Latin American

Democracies: Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela (U of North Carolina P, 1985), 70-76.

28. “Introduction to the Costa Reader” and “Tropical Soundings,” and Carmelo Mesa-

Lago, “Social Development with Limited Resources,” in Steven Palmer and Iván

Molina (eds.), The Costa Rica Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke U P, 2004),

1-7 and 319-333; and Costa Rica News Packet (CRNews2006Brief), 1-##.
Dec. 1. RTBA.


Dec. 5. Lecture on Panama.
Dec. 8. Donald E. Schulz and Deborah Sundloff Schulz, "How Honduras Escaped

Revolutionary Violence," Ch. 9 of The United States, Honduras, and the Crisis in

Central America (Westview, 1994), 315-335 ; and UCA, 133-148; and

Honduras News Packet (HondNews2006Brief), 1-##.



Dec. 19. Final Exam, Evening Session, 5:20-7:20 (Tuesday).

Dec. 22. Final Exam, Day Session, 11:30-1:30 (Friday).


POLSC 262, Fall 2006 Exam Preparation

The mid-term exam will consist of four short essays (out of five), in which you will identify the terms presented (generally concepts treated in readings and class discussion) and show their relevance to political analysis and/or to the understanding of Central American politics. The short-essay part (20 percent) of the final exam has the same format as the mid-term, with terms drawn from materials covered since the mid-term. The long-essay part (for 80 percent) of the final exam is cumulative, covering the entire semester. Make-up exams do not have choices among questions.
Below are some questions on material we cover during this course, to help you recognize issues considered important by the instructor. These are typical long-essay questions. You are encouraged to form

study groups to discuss the materials and prepare for the final exam. You may bring one letter-size sheet of notes (8.5"x11") to the final exam with you, but not to the mid-term. Bear in mind tips from the writing tipsheet about writing essays, in particular the importance of illustrating generalizations with examples.

In addressing most of these topics, your essays will be strengthened if you analyze the role of both structural factors and agency.
1. In the era of violent political conflict in Central America in the 1980s, the authors of Confronting Revolution were critical of the Central American policy of both Republicans and Democrats, claiming that administrations of both parties based their policies on flawed logic. Discuss their criticism, showing the similarities and the differences of Republican and Democratic policies toward the region. Illustrate your argument with examples of US policies and their consequences. Be sure to analyze what the authors call the "hegemonic imperative" and their proposed alternative of "principled realism." In what ways has US policy evolved since they wrote?
2. Since the mid-nineteenth century, Central America has become increasingly tightly integrated into the world capitalist economy. Discuss the economic, social, and political changes that have accompanied this tightening integration over the last century and a half. Give particular attention to the impact of this process in the period since World War II, including the recent phase of neoliberal globalization. Illustrate your discussion with examples drawn from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In discussing Guatemala, be sure to draw some illustrative material from Rigoberta Menchu.

3. Identify both historical and immediate causes of the revolutionary turmoil that wracked Central America in the 1970s and 1980s, discuss the dynamics of the revolutionary process, and illustrate with case studies from at least two countries. In doing so, draw from multiple sources covered this semester, so that you indicate the principal interpretive and analytic approaches and the factors and concepts they emphasize. Be sure to include among them, and to evaluate, the approach of the Kissinger Commission Report of 1984.

4. Costa Rica and Honduras are considered exceptions in Central America, though in different ways. Present and illustrate the historical and contemporary economic, social, and political factors that account for their exceptionalism, i.e., that help explain how they escaped the revolutionary turmoil that wracked their neighbors, and how they differ from each other.
5. Trace the efforts to achieve peace in Central America, beginning with the Contadora Initiative. Draw, in detail, from the experiences of at least two countries, illustrating the Central American and the external forces and parties involved, and the factors contributing to success or to obstructing the peace efforts. Assess the outcomes to date.
6. Today, all of the Central American countries have democratically elected legislatures and chief executives. Identify and discuss the key factors that facilitated the transition to democracy in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Use the criteria that the Understanding Central America authors advance for assessing the degree to which democracy in these countries has been consolidated. In your country cases, be sure to indicate which factors can support optimistic prospects for long term democratic consolidation and which provide grounds for caution.

A reminder: In a good essay, all generalizations and arguments should be supported with illustrations and data. And a good essay should be so organized that it has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

All essays should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Essays should make a point or an argument.
Consider the argument of a book review. In most cases, monographic studies address a debate in their discipline. They take a position that accepts, illustrates, and perhaps refines the prevailing wisdom (dominant paradigm) in the field, or they criticize that prevailing wisdom and present data to support an alternative explanation of the phenomenon under study. Reviewers should present the main point or argument of the book or books they treat, along with their evaluation of the arguments, logic, evidence, coherence, and clarity of the book or books. Student reviewers should be able to reread their reviews two years after writing them and effectively recall the key ideas and substance of a book, as well as their evaluation or criticism of it.
Writers should always make the logic of their thought explicit, on the level of overall organization, on the level of paragraphs, and on the level of sentences. They should also make explicit the logic of the processes they describe or analyze. One effective way to make clear the overall logic of a paper, chapter, or dissertation/book is to begin it with an introductory, “roadmap,” paragraph or section.
Paragraphs should begin with topic sentences, and long paragraphs should be broken into smaller ones, each with its own topic sentence. One of the reasons why long paragraphs usually do not make their thought as clear as shorter ones is that long paragraphs include more than one component of a thought, but they contain only one topic sentence. Breaking up a long paragraph into two or more smaller ones, therefore, is not simply responding to esthetic desires for more white space on a page. Rather, when writers break up long paragraphs, they necessarily must link the components of an argument with more topic sentences, thereby making their logic more explicit.
Illustrations, preferably brief, should be provided for each generalization.
Writers should write for a hypothetical intelligent but uninformed reader, so that they are forced to make explicit the logic and the data on which they make their argument.
In selecting words for strong and effective argument, remember that verbs are much stronger than nouns or other types of words, and that transitive verbs (those that force the reader to include a subject and an object, i.e., to state who did what to whom) in the active voice are the strongest. Avoid passives and intransitive verbs (for they tend to lose information, because passives do not require a subject and intransitives do not require an object) and impersonal constructions where nouns replace verbs. For example, "there was a meeting where it was decided that…" conveys less information and thus is not as strong as "party leaders held a meeting where they decided that…."
Fernando Fajnzylber's phrasing below, for example, in his brilliant but difficult to read (and therefore impossible to assign as required reading) Unavoidable Industrial Restructuring in Latin America (1990), p. 47 relies on nouns that he could have replaced with verbs: "In Japan and in large U.S. corporations, estimates have prognosticated a duplication in the production during the next fifteen to twenty years, with a reduction in employment of between 25 and 40 percent."

A sharp copyeditor could have forced him to check his data and change his formulation to something like: "Japanese and US corporate studies predict that, over the next fifteen to twenty years, production will double while employment will decline by 25 to 40 percent."

Students are expected to proofread their papers before submitting them, so that typographical errors and spelling errors have been corrected. Students should routinely do such proofreading, out of self-respect as well as out of respect for their instructor.
In the case of papers submitted for this course, those averaging more than three spelling or typographical errors per page over three or more pages will be returned ungraded. The corrected version, when resubmitted, will be graded two-thirds of a letter grade below the grade the work would otherwise earn (e.g., a B+ would become a B-, and a B would become a C+). Students who are not strong spellers should be attentive to prompts from their word processor's spelling checker.
Papers for this course should be typed, double-spaced, stapled, and not in plastic or other folders. Hand-written exams should also be double-spaced.
I grade papers on the basis of their organization, logic, coherence, originality, evaluative criticism, data, and clarity.
Some symbols I use in my penned comments:
Circled words or letters indicate spelling errors. A line linking circled words suggests overuse of a word, inconsistency or contradiction in use, or some other problem.
[ ] Brackets indicate a word choice that I question. This is often a matter of usage, and you may choose to stick with your original word. Brackets also may indicate a passage that I have commented on in the margin. I sometimes add delete marks to brackets, suggesting that you drop the passage.
d A lower-case "d" in the margin is for diction, i.e., that the sentence next to the "d" does not say well what it seeks to say, perhaps for reasons of grammar or simply due to confusing construction or word choice (e.g., Fajnzylber’s sentence above).
ant "antecedent," raises questions about the antecedent of a pronoun or adjective, i.e. ambiguity or error in attribution, as with "they" to refer to a singular noun earlier in the sentence. I sometimes use it also to indicate that you are treating a topic as if the reader is already familiar with it, when in fact it has not yet been introduced.
logic When I write "logic" in your ms., it is to signal some break in the internal logic that your exposition seeks to develop.
trans Transition needed between components of a thought.

Parallel upright lines, with diagonal line through them. Grammatical structures or arguments are not parallel.
Notes drafted for inclusion on syllabi (graduate and advanced undergraduate courses), as guidelines for organizing scholarly papers:
Political science, like any other discipline in the natural or social sciences, seeks to identify patterns, processes, or phenomena and to explain how and why they work the way they do. To explain or illuminate such processes or phenomena, political scientists use analytical concepts to organize data and to formulate and assess explanatory theories and hypotheses. Students writing in the discipline of political science therefore should focus their research and write-up on a key conceptual/theoretical issue of importance to them and to the discipline.
Ideally, in papers, theses, and dissertations, and later in journal articles, one should (1) begin with a brief review of conceptual/ theoretical interpretations or explanations of how some political process or phenomenon works, then (2) show how the prevailing explanation or concept falls short in some way, and finally (3) propose some new concept or refinement of a hypothesis that would better explain the phenomenon. Then one can (4) move to specific, operationalizable hypotheses or propositions that can be examined with real data in order to infer the answer to the overarching, broader hypothesis.
Within this framework, one can then elaborate a case study that assembles the data to answer one's questions. And as one proceeds with the case material, one needs to make systematic, explicit reference to the theories or hypotheses that the case material helps one address. That is, one should provide the reader with explicit connective tissue that integrates the empirical components of the study with its theoretical and conceptual framework. This task of making a writer's logic explicit, addressed in the writing tipsheet, is what distinguishes an inspired, outstanding manuscript from an inspired but merely good one, and this increases its likelihood of being accepted for publication by the editors of a journal or press.
The identification of shortcomings or needed refinements in a theory or hypothesis usually comes after some work in graduate school, so students at earlier stages are more likely to draw upon an accepted concept or hypothesis to gather and order data to illuminate some specific problem or issue. In comparative politics, for example, one might use a generally accepted hypothesis to organize the questions asked and the data gathered about some process in a country or context of one's choosing, for example, the role of elite pacting in democratization or the impact of electoral or parliamentary rules on party accountability.
Well designed case studies of this type have considerable academic value. When preparing a manuscript to submit for publication in comparative politics, one should keep in mind that the board of a journal will surely prefer a ms that seeks to refine an accepted concept or to develop a new one. Such a journal, however, will also consider seriously a case study applying an accepted concept in a way that can be replicated, cumulatively, in other contexts for the development of comparative analysis. And journals devoted to specific regions or nations explicitly seek out such case studies.

[Revised June 2006]

Academic Dishonesty and University Policies

In June 2004, CUNY updated its policy on academic integrity. It can be viewed in detail at: . The Hunter College Senate passed the following resolution on May 11, 2005: “Hunter College regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The college is committed to enforcing the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity Procedures.”
The College and University policy on academic honesty and dishonesty is set forth in the Hunter College Undergraduate Catalogue, 2004-2007 (p. 61): “The use of material (whether or not purchased) prepared by another and submitted by students as their own will result in disciplinary proceedings.” Section 15.3.a of the Student Disciplinary Procedure Bylaws of CUNY (on p. 248 of the same catalogue) instructs members of the college community: “Any charge, accusation, or allegation…must be submitted in writing in complete detail to the office of the dean of students promptly by the individual…making the charge.” The dean’s office then investigates and disposes of such cases.
The reason that academic communities consider academic dishonesty such a serious offense is that scientific research and learning—and hence the very life of the academic enterprise—are built on a foundation of truth. Without that foundation, academic institutions would lack the integrity that permits critical analysis and that, from a utilitarian perspective, fosters scientific, economic, and social progress.
To make the case that academic honesty is indispensable to scholarly work in the social sciences, let me begin with a discussion of the natural sciences. Students who perform laboratory experiments to verify whether their findings are correct must carefully record their procedures in their lab reports. This is not simply a make-work exercise. Students follow the same procedures as professional scientists, who must keep careful records of their work so that their colleagues, critics, or successors can replicate the original experiments to test their work and verify (or, depending on the results, qualify or reject) their findings.
For library research in the social sciences, correct and complete citation is analogous to rigorous laboratory procedure in the physical sciences. Scholars in the social sciences take careful notes so that their evidence can be checked and their work replicated or challenged by other social scientists. This enables knowledge and understanding to evolve as researchers confirm, refine, or reject prevailing paradigms of explanation. And, just as laboratory experiments and lab notes must represent a student’s own work, so too must research papers or other written work—properly documented—be the student’s own.

Last revised, 8-29-06


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Sept. 29. Susan C. Peacock and Adriana Beltrán, “Hidden Powers: Illegal Armed Groups

in Post-Conflict Guatemala and the Forces Behind Them,” WOLA Special Report,

September 2003.
Oct. 6. Jack Spence, War and Peace in Central America: Comparing Transitions Toward

Democracy and Social Equity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua

(Hemisphere Initiatives, November 2004)

Oct. 13. Larry Rohter, "A Church Asunder Awaits the Pope in El Salvador," NYT, 2-4-96,

can be found via Lexis-Nexis.
Nov. 17. David R. Dye, Democracy Adrift: Caudillo Politics in Nicaragua (Hemisphere

Initiatives website: November, 2004).
Nov. 21. Leslie E. Anderson, “The Authoritarian Executive? Horizontal and Vertical

Accountability in Nicaragua,” Latin American Politics & Society, Summer 2006,

    1. [This article is not available from off-campus web accounts but will be

on ERes and Blackboard.]

POLSC 262, Day Session, Fall 2006, p. [Syllabus, Revised 12-9-06]

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