Consolidating democracy in latin america

13 Apr

One particularly pernicious way of thinking about the consolidation of democracy—a way that is likely to make a contribution to deconsolidation and has done so in the past—is to lay down strict conditions that need to be fulfilled if democracy is to have a chance, such as: dynamic economic growth must be resumed, income distribution must be improved, national autonomy must be asserted, political parties must show a cooperative spirit, the press and other media must be responsible, everyday relations between people must be restructured, etc.

I submit that it is far more constructive to think about ways in which democracy may survive and become stronger in the face of, and in spite of, a series of continuing adverse situations or developments in many of these respects.

The solution found in most regional organizations in Latin America, but also in Europe, has been to keep the definition imprecise, thus making the collective commitment to democracy an incomplete contract.

Certainly, there are different degrees of imprecision, and there are also different ways of being imprecise.

Furthermore, the lack of precise rules paves the way for bringing power and ideological considerations to the negotiation table, as when Argentines and Brazilians decided to enforce democracy-protection rules and suspend Paraguay from Mercosur, while simultaneously approving the accession of Venezuela, hitherto blocked by the Paraguayan parliament. This is largely explained by the fact that Latin American states are all presidential regimes, and also because of the long history of coups d’état in the region.At the international level, this enthusiasm translated into collective commitments to defend democracy against its enemies, through specific instruments added to the legal frameworks of the regional organizations existing in the region.The tendency has continued in the new millennium as new organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) have also committed themselves to assist and, if necessary, to sanction those countries in which democracy is breached.If you subscribe to the print edition, you may also need to link your web site account to your print subscription. Since the early 1990s, political elites have enthusiastically embraced the values and practices of democracy in the Americas.