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The Debts of War

Bifurcated Veterans’ Mobilization and Political Order in Post-settlement El Salvador

Ralph Sprenkels

Abstract

This article examines mobilization by civil war veterans of the insurgency and the government army. These veterans became a major political force in postwar El Salvador. I demonstrate that the ascendency of the war veterans hinged on the combination of two types of mobilization: “internal” mobilization for partisan leverage, and public mobilization to place claims on the state. By this bifurcated mobilization, veterans from both sides of the war pursued clientelist benefits and postwar political influence. Salvadoran veterans’ struggles for recognition revolve around attempts to transform what the veterans perceive as the “debts of war” into postwar political order. The case of El Salvador highlights the versatility and resilience of veterans’ struggles in post-settlement contexts in which contention shifted from military confrontation to electoral competition.

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Introduction

War Veterans and the Construction of Citizenship Categories

Nikkie Wiegink, Ralph Sprenkels, and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen

Abstract

War veterans often constitute a specific category of citizens as they inspire and bring forward particular claims on recognition and resources of the state. The authors featured in this special section each explore processes of the construction of categories of war veterans in different contemporary contexts. Drawing on ethnographic data, the contributions explore the interactions between (those identified) as war veterans and the state, and the processes concerned with granting value to participation in war. This involves (the denial of) rights and privileges as well as a process of identity construction. The construction of war veterans as a specific kind of citizens is a political phenomenon, subject to negotiation and contestation, involving both the external categorizations of war veterans as well as the self-making and identity politics from former fighters “from below.”