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

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

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

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

Excerpt

In the past decade, many Latin American nations have been involved in a remarkable political experiment. The historically ubiquitous authoritarian regimes, usually in the form of military juntas and dictators, have gradually been replaced by constitutional democracies. 1 This process — usually referred to as the transition from authoritarianism to democracy — is, however, far from complete.

Economic, political, and social stability has not yet been secured. Corporatist political and social structures have not yet been transformed to allow for a more equitable distribution of goods and services so that the neediest members of society gain access to the basic necessities required for a life of dignity. Institutional structures must be developed and stabilized. The rule of law has to be consolidated and become a basic, accepted requirement of government practice and daily life.

These issues are more complicated than they first appear. Although these issues may be theoretically severable, they are also inextricably intertwined. The rule of law, for example, must be consolidated not only to protect human rights, but also to help secure a satisfactory level of economic, political, and social development. Moreover, virtually no Latin American nation remains free from these problems. Indeed, even in the nations that claim to have been the most successful in making this transition, problems abound.

One of the best examples of the promises and pitfalls of such an undertaking in Latin America is Argentina. The 1983 election of Raúl Alfonsín, the leader of the Radical Party, came after one of the bleakest periods in Argentine history. From 1976 until 1983, a series of military juntas ruled Argentina. 2 They conducted a "dirty war" against leftist terrorism resulting in the disappearances of anywhere between 7,000 and 30,000 mostly innocent people, 3 started and lost a war with Great Britain over the Falkland/ . . .

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