Between Tyranny and Anarchy: A History of Democracy in Latin America, 1800-2006

By Paul W. Drake | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
two Centuries of Building Democracy in
Latin America, 1800–2006

As often happens with complicated construction projects, the developers took an unexpectedly long time to build democracies in Latin America. They encountered enormous obstacles and setbacks, compounded by an inhospitable environment and severely divided societies. Even from the 1970s to the 2000s, when they at long last managed to erect most of the edifices, many features remained incomplete.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the initiators of this project bulldozed the landscape and removed the previous authoritarian occupants. They quarreled over whether to replace them with dictatorships, constitutional monarchies, or democratic republics. Many of the founders drew up blueprints for either protected—or, much less commonly—popular democracies. Most recommended centralized, representative, elected governments presided over by powerful presidents and weak legislatures and judiciaries. However, other early leaders deviated from those plans or even tore them to shreds. Although the original buildings did not survive, many of the blueprints did. By the 1820s, the liberators left to their descendants the task of following their rough drafts to construct democratic systems that could withstand the winds of tyranny and anarchy.

From the 1820s to the 1870s, marauders and despots seized most of the neighborhood and razed most of the early dwellings. The original project

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