Turmoil in Central America

September 14, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 32
Will a wave of protests spark reforms?
By Kerry Dooley Young


Students of the National Autonomous University of Honduras clash (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Orlando Sierra)
Students of the National Autonomous University of Honduras clash with riot police on Aug. 20 during a protest against transportation price hikes. Demonstrators have been demanding the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández since his bitterly disputed election last December. As political unrest and violence continue to destabilize Central America, the effects have spilled north, as tens of thousands of people try to immigrate to the United States. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Orlando Sierra)

Anti-government protests have erupted in four Central American countries in recent months, aimed at leaders of a region long plagued by political corruption, gang violence, drug smuggling, poverty and weak law enforcement. Homicide rates in the Northern Triangle — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — are among the world's highest, and the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Daniel Ortega threatens stability in Nicaragua. The demonstrations are part of a fledgling anti-corruption movement in which protesters, prosecutors and investigative commissions have recommended that dozens of officials be jailed. But strongmen such as Ortega and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales are pushing back, triggering even more dissent. Tens of thousands of Central Americans — many of them unaccompanied minors — have in recent years tried to flee to the United States, prompting the Obama and Trump administrations to crack down on undocumented immigration along the U.S. southern border. Meanwhile, the United States has become increasingly concerned about China's growing political influence in Central America.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Latin America
Sep. 14, 2018  Turmoil in Central America
Jun. 05, 2012  China in Latin America
Mar. 2008  The New Latin America
Jul. 21, 2006  Change in Latin America
Mar. 14, 2003  Trouble in South America
Nov. 09, 2001  U.S.- Mexico Relations
Sep. 19, 1997  Mexico's Future
Jul. 19, 1991  Mexico's Emergence
May 05, 1989  New Approach to Central America
Mar. 06, 1987  Soviets' Latin Influence
Dec. 26, 1986  Pinochet's Chile
Nov. 08, 1985  Troubled Mexico
Apr. 10, 1981  Latin American Challenges
May 05, 1978  Central America and the U.S.A.
Sep. 23, 1977  Mexican-U.S. Relations
Jun. 04, 1976  Relations with Latin America
Oct. 21, 1970  Chile's Embattled Democracy
Jun. 24, 1970  Mexico's Election and the Continuing Revolution
Apr. 02, 1969  Economic Nationalism in Latin America
Jul. 19, 1967  Guerrilla Movements in Latin America
Dec. 28, 1966  Militarism in Latin America
Oct. 20, 1965  Common Market for Latin America
Aug. 04, 1965  Smoldering Colombia
Jun. 23, 1965  Inter-American Peacekeeping
Dec. 11, 1963  Progress of the Alianza
Oct. 05, 1962  Arms Aid to Latin America
Dec. 13, 1961  Land and Tax Reform in Latin America
Jul. 26, 1961  Commodity Agreements for Latin America
Jan. 11, 1961  Revolution in the Western Hemisphere
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Feb. 10, 1960  Inter-American System
Jan. 13, 1960  Expropriation in Latin America
Jul. 02, 1958  Economic Relations with Latin America
Mar. 02, 1954  Communism in Latin America
Jun. 20, 1952  Political Unrest in Latin America
Sep. 18, 1950  War Aid from Latin America
Oct. 31, 1947  Arming the Americas
Jul. 24, 1946  Inter-American Security
Jan. 02, 1942  Latin America and the War
Jul. 10, 1941  Export Surpluses and Import Needs of South America
Jun. 04, 1941  Economic Defense of Latin America
Jun. 25, 1940  Politics in Mexico
Nov. 01, 1939  Pan American Political Relations
Oct. 10, 1939  United States Trade with Latin America
Apr. 07, 1938  Protection of American Interests in Mexico
Mar. 04, 1936  Peace Machinery in the Americas
Sep. 27, 1933  Trade Relations with Latin America
Oct. 16, 1928  Pan American Arbitration Conference
Jan. 12, 1928  The Sixth Pan American Conference
Jan. 10, 1927  American Policy in Nicaragua
Dec. 27, 1926  Relations Between Mexico and the United States
Bilateral and Regional Trade
Crime and Law Enforcement
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process
Economic Crises
Economic Development
Financial Institutions
General International Relations
Global Issues
Humanitarian Assistance
Immigration and Naturalization
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
International Economic Development
International Law and Agreements
Latin American Conflicts
Organized Crime
Outsourcing and Immigration
Powers and History of the Presidency
Protest Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean
U.S. at War: Cold War
War and Conflict