The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics, and U.S. Policy

The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics, and U.S. Policy

The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics, and U.S. Policy

The Democratic Revolution in Latin America: History, Politics, and U.S. Policy

Excerpt

Only a few short years ago democracy in Latin America seemed everywhere to be dead, dying, or under siege. In the spring of 1978 twelve of the twenty Latin American countries (and the vast majority of the Latin American population) were governed by military regimes. The list included Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. In five others—Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua— either a system of authoritarianism if not (in one or two cases) full-scale totalitarianism was ensconced, or else the military was so close to the surface of power, so much a part of a superficially civilian government, that the familiar distinction between civilian and military regimes was rendered meaningless.

It had become commonplace, in the scholarly literature as well as at the policy level, to emphasize—and lament—the decline of civilian democracy and the rule of law throughout the continent; the rash of military coups since the early 1960s; the rise of brutal, authoritarian, and repressive regimes in such formerly democratic nations as Chile and Uruguay; the widespread use of torture and officially sanctioned murder in such civilized countries as Argentina and Brazil; and the widespread violations of human rights throughout the hemisphere. Meanwhile the number of genuinely democratic regimes had shrunk to a mere handful: Colombia, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. Even these were often categorized as elite-directed democracies (Colombia and Costa Rica) or else were the product of such . . .

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