The Transition to Democracy in Latin America: The Role of the Military

The Transition to Democracy in Latin America: The Role of the Military

The Transition to Democracy in Latin America: The Role of the Military

The Transition to Democracy in Latin America: The Role of the Military

Synopsis

This book examines the role of the military in the wave of democratization that has swept through Latin America in the past decade. Although much of the leading literature on the transition to democracy recognizes the importance of "hardline" and "softline" factions within the military in this process, the author takes this study one step further to investigate the motivations of the military officers themselves. Using the cases of Brazil and Bolivia, and relying on dozens of interviews with military officers, politicians, jurists, and other observers throughout Latin America, he determines that the factions' attitudes do not depend primarily on ideological commitment but on the leaders' calculation, as to the career benefits to their followers of either supporting or opposing democratization. In terms of policy making, it is important to recognize this distinction in order to help preserve the fragile democracies which are already under threat from the military once again.

Excerpt

One of the characteristics which apparently distinguished the generation of military regimes which swept over Latin America from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s from those which came before was the intended permanence of the new regimes. The former moderator model of military rule which had dominated civil-military relations in the region during the first half of the century, in which the military would step in to remove an unsuccessful or unwanted civilian administration, slightly modify the rules of the game, and step aside for a more acceptable civilian regime, had seemingly gone out of fashion. The new regimes, beginning with that set up in Brazil in 1964 and following through with those taking power in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay by the mid-1970s, were headed by a new breed of military technocrats who had plans, not just to replace an objectionable leader or to deal with a specific political issue, but who claimed to have a blueprint for a new society in which their professional skills would enable them to rule more effectively than partisan political parties and demagogues. They intended to remain in power indefinitely and to reorder society to suit their tastes from the ground up. Such regimes, or at least regimes propounding broadly similar attitudes, were established throughout the region, with only the exception of the stalwarts of the pacted democracy, Venezuela and Colombia, and the unique cases of Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.

Political scientists found themselves faced with the task of explaining a phenomenon which flew in the face of the rosy optimism of the modernizafion theory of the 1950s (upon which American economic aid policy was based), which predicted that rising levels of social and economic development would bring with them an irresistible wave of democracy as societies, even in the Third World, had become too complex for traditional authoritarian regimes to manage. Samuel Huntington opened the debate by suggesting that political . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.