From an article by Robert S. Leiken in the summer issue of the Journal of Democracy:

If there is a solution to Central America's political problems, it is not to be sought in personalities, or in arrangements that appeal to the West (or the East). Rather it must be sought in representative institutions that can democratize and modernize the political culture.

Central American democracy will require not only modern political institutions but also economic recovery. Democracy is not edible, as Panama's newly inaugurated president Guillermo Endara tartly reminded the U. S. some weeks after its intervention. Sandinista rule brought chronic depression to Nicaragua, which is now desperately poor and yearning for help. But it would be a mistake to assume, as has been done previously, that political development is the dependent variable, and that economic prosperity alone will convert dynastic vanguards (revolutionary or otherwise) into moderate pragmatists.

The combination of economic underdevelopment with political underdevelopment (the absence of a democratic political culture and effective modern institutions) in Nicaragua makes that country's transition problems look more like those of Romania than of Czechoslovakia or Hungary. Nicaragua faces the difficulties both of former totalitarian (or semitotalitarian) societies and Third World societies.

Western assistance programs for Nicaragua should be designed to foster both the economic and political resources of civil society. The need to fortify local government and the legislative and judicial branches, as well as the need to help build political parties and other grassroots organizations, must not be overlooked.