Introduction

By Cameron, Maxwell A. | Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies, January 2002 | Go to article overview
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Introduction


Cameron, Maxwell A., Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies


All but one of the papers published in this special issue of the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies were presented at two conferences on threats to democracy in Latin America held at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The first conference took place in March 2000 and was supported by the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL). The second took place in November 2000 at the Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies at UBC. The Institute's support is gratefully acknowledged. Some of the papers were also presented at the meetings of the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies held in Antigua, Guatemala, in February 2001.

The central goal of the UBC conferences was to assess the state of democracy in the region from a multidisciplinary perspective. Our point of departure was the need to broaden the debate on democracy from the institutional and procedural focus found in much of the political science literature and to examine longer-term challenges and opportunities for democratization, especially those arising from ethnicity, the environment, inequality, neoliberal economic transformations, and the changing international context.

The conferences were held at a moment of concern, if not alarm, over democratic backsliding in Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Conference participants also expected that a new administration in the United States would alter foreign policy priorities toward the region in ways that might downplay the importance of supporting democracy. Since the conferences were held, there have been historic developments in Peru and Mexico, and the signing of the Inter-American Democratic Charter has committed the member states of the OAS to respect for basic democratic principles.

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