The recent coups and attempted coups in Haiti, Venezuela, and Peru serve as a sobering reminder of the military's central role in the political life of Latin America. Earlier assessments of the prospects for democratic consolidation now seem overly optimistic in light of these events. At a minimum, they point up the need to focus on the role of the military during transitions from authoritarianism and the consolidation of democratic regimes. As Stepan has suggested, prolonged military rule can leave important legacies which serve as powerful obstacles to democratic consolidation (Stepan, 1988: xi-xii). Understanding these legacies and the problems they present is essential in developing strategies aimed at democratizing civil-military relations.
This is no less true in El Salvador, where the prospects for democratization are closely linked to the future of the country's armed forces.