Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

he has seen even more of this after the 1982 election. And Peeler, writing in 1985, concluded:

Thus some of the spirit of power-sharing that characterized the National Front remains, reflecting the continued perception of the elites of the two parties that they are jointly responsible for the political system. Moreover, the public discourse of Colombian politics reveals a continuing awareness, rooted in the experiences of La Violencia and the National Front, that liberal democracy can be maintained only if it is actively tended. . . . Liberal democracy in Colombia is a finely tuned mechanism, assiduously tended by those who operate it, in order to keep it working and to maintain their control of it. 121

At this point it is difficult to conclude which of the above arguments is more nearly correct. Gerardo Molina saw the difficulties in predicting change: "Will we be present at the final act of bipartyism? We believe so, without that implying that the current parties are going to topple over right away, since in the eighteenth century David Hume saw the phenomenon clearly when he wrote, 'Nothing is more common than to see parties, born when real differences led some to oppose others, continue after the differences had disappeared.' " 122

I believe that the Hume quote applies to Colombian partisan politics today, yet I am not quixotic enough to predict the imminent demise of two groups with such institutional inertia.


NOTES
1
This chapter makes no pretense of analyzing meanings of democracy beyond its being a system in which leaders are chosen by competitive elections. This is not to belittle the other characteristics needed for a "true" democracy; a discussion of them is simply beyond the scope of the chapter.
2
The best works on the first two periods include John D. Martz, Colombia: A Contemporary Political Survey ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1962); Robert H. Dix, Colombia: The Political Dimensions of Change ( New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1967); and Orlando Fals Borda, Subversión y Cambio Social ( Bogotá: Tercer Mundo, 1968). I have summarized the major characteristics in Harvey F. Kline , Colombia: Portrait of Unity and Diversity ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1983).
3
John A. Peeler, Latin American Democracies: Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. 24.
4
Francisco Leal Buitrago, Estado y Política en Colombia( Bogotá: Siglo Veintiuno, 1984), p. 125.
5
Peeler, Latin American Democracies, p. 50.
6
Fals Borda, Subversión, pp. 101-2.
7
Orlando Fals Borda, Peasant Society in the Colombian Andes ( Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961), p. 241.
8
Enrique Ogliastri, Liberales Conservadores versus Conservadores Liberales: Faccionalismos trenzados en la estructura de poder en Colombia," paper presented at the XI International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, October 1983, p. 9.

-41-

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