Militarization without bureaucratization in Central America

James Mahoney*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In nineteenth-century Central America, the liberal reform period was initiated when political elites implemented policies designed to modernize the state and stimulate economic growth through export agriculture (principally coffee and bananas). In each of the five Central American countries, this period saw large increases in exportation, providing governments with access to new resources. These new resources, however, were not mainly used to build effective states run by professionally trained career civil servants. Instead, they were put toward building up the military, which typically consumed directly some 30 to 60 percent of government expenditures and an even higher percentage when indirect expenditures are included. Thus, the liberal reform was not only the epoch during which the Central American countries were fully incorporated into the world economy via export agriculture, it was also the period when most of these countries launched a general pattern of state militarization without bureaucratization. There was, of course, variation among the five countries. Militarization during the liberal era proceeded most extensively in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. In Costa Rica and Honduras, by contrast, military expansion was slight in comparison. No country experienced rapid bureaucratization. Only Costa Rica could be argued to have even gradually moved toward a state in which professionally trained civil servants played influential and well-defined roles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationState and Nation Making in Latin America and Spain
Subtitle of host publicationRepublics of the Possible
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781139342667
ISBN (Print)9781107029866
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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