‘The Violence of Development’ website follows the same structure as ‘The Violence of Development’ book with the exception that the website includes one extra chapter that was omitted from the book because of the need to reduce its word count. That extra chapter is now Chapter 10 (Other Issues). This means that Chapter 11 (Whither Development?) in the website is equivalent to Chapter 10 in the book.


Chapter 1: Introduction

Essentially this is a book about development issues. It asks: what is development? How has development shown itself over recent decades? Is it the goal that the world should aim for? I wish to be skeptical about the term ‘development’ and to recognise that it has become something of a religion. I am aware of the dangers of simply carrying on with the assumption that it is unquestionably a good thing.

This first chapter introduces the notion of development in a global context and discusses the ways in which it manifests itself on the ground in the region of Central America. It also outlines the sources of information used for this work.


Chapter 2: The Food Crisis

There is no doubt that there is a recent and genuine Central American food crisis which began in 2007 and continued throughout 2008 and into 2009. After the 2008 ‘food riots’ hit the international media headlines for a short time, the issue dropped from general view. But even after the worst of the crisis had disappeared from view and various measures had been taken to patch over the seriousness of the situation, in late 2009 came the news from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that global hunger had just reached over a billion people on the planet.Despite falling off the media radar, the crisis did not disappear; and it would be a mistake to believe that the crisis was new in any case. Perhaps it reached new depths, but for many of the Central American population the crisis of food has existed as long as they can remember.


Chapter 3: The Water Crisis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that water scarcity is “a potent fuel for wars”, and Fred Pearce has described water as “rapidly becoming one of the defining crises of the 21st century.” Both are fearful of the consequences of the development of water shortages, whether caused by over-use, climate change, conflict or competition.Physically, however, Central America is blessed with plentiful rainfall and well-supplied hydrographic basins. Despite this abundance, conflicts over this vital resource are frequent and occasionally violent in the region.


Chapter 4: The Energy Crisis

Is there an energy crisis in Central America? There certainly was in Nicaragua during 2007 and into 2008 when some parts of the country, including the capital Managua, suffered electricity cuts for up to 12 hours a day. At the time John Perry wrote,“Daily power cuts, dramatic increases in fuel costs, public buildings closed half the day to save energy, generating plants unable to operate, water shortages caused by lack of power to work the pumps, hikes in food prices driven in part by escalating transport costs. Does this sound like a forecast of an energy-starved future in a few decades time? In fact, it’s the present-day reality in the small Central American country of Nicaragua.”

This chapter examines the causes of this mismatch between supply and demand and investigates the introduction of renewable sources of energy to the Central American market.


Chapter 5: Mining

Of all the civil conflicts which concern single issues within Central America, probably those that have led to most environmental and social disturbance and contamination and to most violence are those relating to the extraction of mineral ores.This chapter considers the violence meted out to Central American communities and environments by transnational mining companies.


Chapter 6: Deforestation and Reforestation

It has been said in Central America that in global terms the region’s forests are of little or no significance. Clear nonsense at all levels; but if a case has to be made for their significance, then Hurricane Mitch can make it for Central America at a local and regional level.This chapter briefly discusses the links between deforestation and the vulnerability (as exposed by Hurricane Mitch) of the Central American population. The subjects of deforestation (legal and illegal), reforestation and certification, are covered here.


Chapter 7: Free Trade Treaties and the Failure to Industrialise

Over the last five hundred years Central American economies have become increasingly tied to the global economy. As we all know, this process is now referred to as globalisation, but the process has been advancing since the first western pirates (or heroes – depending on your historical outlook) landed on Central America’s shores. [Strange, perhaps, that I should refer to them as ‘western’ when they all came from the east.] This process of interconnection that we know as globalisation is part of an ongoing transition in the development of global capitalism. The qualitative difference today is the pace at which the process of globalisation has been happening over the last two decades, with a current, extraordinarily intensified phase of global transformation and change.This chapter considers the processes by which the western global powers have prevented Third World countries such as those in Central America from industrialising and have converted them instead into sweatshops and plantations for the provision of raw materials and primary resources to the industries of the so-called First World.


Chapter 8: Indigenous Issues

Indigenous groups are now represented globally by a range of international organisations – the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Assembly of First Nations, Survival International, Indian Council of South America (CISA), World Council of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Environmental Network, among others – and by many national organisations, along with a host of declarations on indigenous issues by many UN agencies and international groups.Acceptance in Latin American nation states of a multicultural citizenship which is inclusive of indigenous groups has become almost standard practice, at least on the statute books. In most cases, however, the recognition is only on paper, and indigenous groups face many obstacles and much violence in their attempts to be recognised and to develop.


Chapter 9: The Violence of Development

The origins of the current crisis of violence in Central American societies lie at least in part with the monopoly of power held by an elite in the Central American region. As the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS, Centre for Exchange and Solidarity) in El Salvador explains:“There is a clear transition of power happening in Latin America. There has been a widespread rejection of the elite’s monopoly of power, which was inherited from Spanish Colonialism and was unconditionally backed by the United States governments for the past century. This rejection has resulted in the replacement of military dictatorships with democratic processes over the past two decades. Given that the economic elite largely maintained political power at the beginning of the transition from military dictatorship to democracy, the elite thought their monopoly was invincible and that their economic domination and privileges would be enough to maintain a monopoly on political power.”

This chapter analyses the nature, extent and origins of violence in Central America.


Chapter 10: Other Issues

This chapter does not appear in ‘The Violence of Development’ book. It was omitted because of the need to cut the number of words for publication, but its inclusion here illustrates the advantage of a linked website. 

It is an impossible task to cover the full range of environmental issues that are thrown up by an analysis of the political, economic and social development of a region as diverse as Central America. I am aware that the coverage so far still leaves so many problems untouched by my analysis. In this chapter I try to cover a number of the other crucial issues that affect the region of Central America in as brief a manner as possible.


Chapter 11: Whither Development?

That the current level of violence (illustrated particularly in Chapter 9) is so high even twenty years after the end of the region’s wars reflects the same prevailing power structure which reigned during the wars of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. That same power structure still reigns largely thanks to the influence of the US, the international financial institutions and the traditional Central American oligarchies which all combine to promote neoliberal economic development rules that favour western TNCs and national elites over local communities and environments.The violence may range from a bureaucratic refusal to recognise a valid claim to land ownership, the denial of the results of a consultation exercise by indigenous groups, denial of the right to form a union, the use of tear gas by security forces against a peaceful demonstration, unlawful imprisonment of non-violent protestors, threats against personal and family well-being, death threats, assassinations, massacres and the use of terror against whole communities. As the preceding chapters have shown, the inclusion of those last items in the list is not an exaggeration of the levels of violence. Death threats, assassinations and terror are precisely the tactics used to ensure the ‘success’ of development projects.