Democratic Transitions in Latin America

Reynaldo Yunuen Ortega Ortíz

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Democratic Transitions in Latin America

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Since gaining their independence at the beginning of the 19th century, the Latin American states have tried to establish democratic regimes. However, most of these efforts failed during the 19th century, in which dictatorships and oligarchic rule were the norm in the region. In his useful classification of electoral regimes in Latin America, Peter Smith distinguishes among electoral democracies, electoral semi-democracies, oligarchic republicanism, and nondemocracies (see Smith 2005, cited under Explaining Transitions to Democracy). Between 1900 and 1930 there were only three electoral democracies that lasted between one and fourteen years: Argentina (1916–1929), Mexico (1911–1913), and Uruguay (1919–1933). Between 1930 and 1975 there were processes of democratization and de-democratization in the whole region. The Latin American cases are a central contradiction to modernization theory, which connected the emergence of democracy with certain economic and social background conditions, such as high per capita income, widespread literacy, and prevalent urban residence. We saw the demise of democratic regimes in the most affluent countries of Latin America: Argentina in 1955, Brazil in 1954 and then again in 1964, Chile in 1973, and Uruguay in 1973. The last twenty years of the 20th century, however. saw important changes in the democratization processes of the region. Most of the nineteen Latin American countries experienced processes of electoral democratization. The literature on democratization in Latin America has followed a tendency in political science to emphasize the role of elites and pacts. In a way, as Nancy Bermeo (see Bermeo 2003, cited under Breakdown of Democracy) and Adam Przeworski have argued, the group of the Woodrow Wilson Center (see O’Donnell, et al. 1986, cited under Foundational Works) was not only analyzing the democratization process, but wanted to “stop the killings.” The most robust structuralist theory, that of Barrington Moore, Jr., on the origins of democracy, was not that promising. The most recent works on democracy and democratization in Latin America are trying to analyze both structure and agency in the processes of democratization.

Article.  13528 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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