University of Oslo
Politics and economic development in Central America have historically been dominated by a small number of elite-families whose fortunes originate in the agro-export sectors. The civil wars of the 1980s, economic liberalization and democratization implied significant ruptures of their activities, and led some to believe that the old family-owned business groups would be weakened. However, they still play a significant role in new alliances with transnational companies, and adjust to as well as attempt to control new political actors, including left-leaning governments. Based on a study of the economic and political strategies of the 68 most important business groups in Central America over the last decade, this lecture will address several questions: Are the dominant groups today the same as those that controlled the old agro-export economy? What strategies have they employed to survive and expand in a global economy? Do they still control politics, and if so, how? And what are the consequences for the development and democracy in the region?