Tuesday, May 01, 2007

book on the third wave of democratisation in Latin America

The title of the book is " The third wave of democratization in Latin America- advances and challenges"
edited by Frances Hagopian and Scott Mainwaring

It starts with the third wave of democratisation since 1978 and analyses the transition upto 2005, when the book was published. It has concluded that the Latin American democracies have become stable,durable and sustainable. It has pointed out the challenges to some of the democracies by some demogogic leaders, who use the tools and framework of democracy to impose their authoritarianism. But these setbacks are temporary, since even these leaders have to go back to the electorate which has the ultimate power to change their rulers.

The authors have identified three kinds of democratic trends and made individual analysis of sample countries. These are: (1) democratic giants with authoritarian past - Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, (2) unexpected democracies in unlikely countries -Guatemala, El salvador and Bolivia and (3) Democratic erosion in the third wave in Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.

The point which comes across clearly is that in most cases, democracies were disrupted in the past by the oligarchs, whenever their interests were challenged or affected by the rules of the democratic game. The generals and colonels were just the instruments of the elite. The second point is the loss of credibility of the traditional political parties and the entry of outsiders like Fujimori and others. But this did not happen in Argentina despite the call " se vayan los todos" ( out with everyone- meaning all political leaders ) by the people of Argentina at the height of the political and economic crisis which touched a historical low point in 2001. The civil war in El Salvador and Guatemala had devastated the societies but they have made a remarkable transition to democracy after the peace accords.

The authors have brought out the complications of the ethnic factor in countries such as Bolivia and Guatemala. But the Bolivian anamoly has been corrected with the election of native Indian Evo morales for the first time in the history of Bolivia. There could be a similiar historical change if Rigoberta Menchu also become President of Guatemala.

The approach of the authors in the book becomes very academic and theoretical sometimes. But overall they have given a sense of the political transition and process of the selected countries and the trends in the region.

But the classification and some theories need review after the elctions in 2006, which have brought to power more outsiders and leftist Presidents.

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