Justice Deferred: Rule of Law in Central America

Justice Deferred: Rule of Law in Central America
A police officer and a soldier arrest a gang member in compliance with the government’s “Mano Dura” plan in San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct. 16, 2003 (AP photo by Victor Ruiz Caballero).

One of the primary causes of political violence in Central America during the second half of the 20th century was the absence of democratic rule of law. Elected or not, political leaders were rarely held accountable under the law. Laws were established and applied in an arbitrary fashion. As former Brazilian President Getulio Vargas is alleged to have said, “For my friends, whatever they want; for my enemies, the law.” “Justice” was often served by individuals working outside of official state sanction—that is, paramilitaries and death squads. When the law was applied, it favored those in positions of authority, often […]

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