The search for democracy in Central America: Spain's foreign policy in the 1980s and the Spanish democratic model

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


International Studies

First Committee Member

Jaime Suchlicki - Committee Chair


Spain, a middle-power whose tangible policy instruments are limited, has aspired to influence Central America, a region immersed in extreme political and economic crisis, and dominated by great power interests. A "strategic space" has been opened up by the failure of regional actors and the great powers to resolve the crisis and to foment democratic development.Apart from cultural and historical linkages with Central America, Spain has the advantage of its peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy, which it has used as a vehicle for foreign policy initiatives. The international metaphor of Spain's democratic transition becomes a realistic vehicle for the maximization of power in the international sphere. Lacking tangible military and economic resources, Spain has nevertheless achieved influence in an area where nation-states have historically competed with their democratic models for predominance. Nevertheless, the establishment of democracy in any region of the world rarely is the result of intervention from outside policy actors.The Central American initiatives come at a time when Spanish foreign policy resources are being exhausted by the geopolitical pull of the EEC. The European orientation of Spanish affairs has resulted in the decline of the importance of Latin America as a trading partner and as an area where Spanish national aspirations will be realized.Spain's diplomatic initiatives in Central America have been cautious and conservative in character, reflecting strengthening ties to NATO and Washington. The resolution of the crisis is seen as having strategic importance for Europe, yet commensurate and decisive development aid has not materialized. Spanish and Portuguese accession to the EEC threatens to further jeopardize Central American development by diverting trade in primary products and by absorbing development aid.The establishment of "congruence" between Spain's internal democratic project and its foreign initiatives has been put at risk by serious social and economic problems at home, as well as by the sometimes undemocratic practices of the government. As Spain looks over the Pyrenees to fulfill its own national democratic aspirations, the rhetorical commitment to Latin American development and democracy will become increasingly more difficult to match in deeds.


History, Latin American; Political Science, International Law and Relations

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text