Throughout Latin American history,there has consistency with imposing rulers holding power. With waves ofdemocratization that began in the late 1970’s, there has been a shift ingovernment ruling structures along with rulers. As a result, these governmentalterations varied in different areas of Latin America. Even with a presence ofprominent rulers, during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s there was amanifestation of elections in Latin American Countries, including countrieslike Mexico and Venezuela that were previously non-democratic. However, not allLatin American countries transitioned in democracies as easily as Mexico andVenezuela.
Countries like Argentina and Chile’s military inequitably seizedpower, substituting presidents with their own military members and thensubsequently eradicating democratic governmental systems. The elected Presidentof Mexico came from regular civilian life. Following the 1910 revolutionpolicies were implemented that included an agrarian reform and thenationalization of the oil industry. Political parties that could run inopposition were also in full effect after the revolution, even though electionstook place every six years and incumbent presidents could not run forre-election. Despite this Mexico, the government was set up as a clientilisticsystem, which is the exchange of goods and services for political support, andthe ruling party leader was able to select his successor. “This, in conjunctionwith a variety of different methods to manipulate the outcome of elections- themost infamous of which were the events surrounding the malfunction of thecomputer counting the votes in 1988 presidential election- explains whyPeruvian politician Mario Vargas Llosa describes that party as ‘the perfectdictatorship'” (Democratization293).
The political party that was inpower became increasingly scrutinized after North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) was enacted and this also meant that the 1988 election disaster washighly doubtful because of its potential international denunciation. In termsof Venezuela, its governmental system falls closest to Mexico, but also hasvery significant distinctions from Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Venezuela,like Mexico, had a deceptive government that seemed to have fair electionsduring the same time period, but was awfully debatable. There were multipleattempted military coups during the 1950’s.
Although, after a certain timethere was “a two-party system created whereby power could always remain in thehands of either the Accción Democrática (AD)or the Cristiano de Venezuela (COPEI)”(Democratization 293). What also should be noted is that during the1990’s, there was coup in Venezuela led by Hugo Chávez. It resulted positivelywhen the country was able to be satisfied with levels of stability solely inVenezuela and not in other Latin American countries. Albeit, this had beenattained at the sacrifice of the existence of effective and accountabledemocracy. With Mexico and Venezuela’s relatively stable militaries with shadygovernmental structures, Argentina and Chile also faced political hardship. In1973, the Chilean army overthrew their incumbent president Salvador Allende,who was the first elected socialist president in the Western Hemisphere. Due tothe United States war on communism, the US was nervous that there would anothersocialist regime influencing the area and that the US funds in that area wouldbe not properly invested.
Because of this the United States government let theCIA apply multiple policies that would eventually destroy President Allende’seconomy. This would eventually cause for his removal from office. Despite this,it was the army’s want to have support from the electorate of the people ofChile that caused the military’s downfall. Like Argentina, governmentalpressure increased during the 1980’s because of their economic struggles. Inorder to consolidate democracy in these geographical regions, they must enhancetheir abilities in handling economic factors, political culture andsociety/social movements, and institutional challenges. In the early 1980’s,the Mexican government defaulted on its debt. Not only was the catastrophictrigger to the 80’s debt crisis, but it also horrified the US banking systembecause they had lent massive amounts of money to Latin American countries. Thiswould go on to effect democracy in Latin America during that decade.
In orderto recover from the debt crisis and the all the money they were lent from Westernbanks, the Mexican government (along with many other Latin American countriesthat suffered from debt) chose the neoliberalism economic model as a way to bein better solidarity with its United States counterpart. While it might havehelped the Mexican and other governments get out of debt, there was a downsideof attaining a neoliberal economic approach. It was a huge problem fordemocracy because it leads to unequal distribution of wealth and that has beennoticeably increased in Latin America. In order to consolidate democracy,Mexico included with other Latin American countries must adapt a morecontemporary economic model. In terms of political culture and society/socialmovements, there was a shift that enhanced democracy. Regardless of how effectivethe civil society organizations had been in Latin American countries, theyfaced a huge blow from the time that non-democratic regimes were ruling.
However, a significant amount of trade unions and human rights organizationssuccessful at regrouping and this was obviously huge part of transitioning todemocracy for apparent reasons. With consolidating democracy in Latin America,previously neglected groups like women and native indigenous have been aided.In spite of the instability of how instable Latin American politics have provento be, a major part of the region’s consolidation of democracy has been strongsocial movements and the increasing improvement of political parties. Asa way of Latin American countries like Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and Chileto overcome democracy challenges, they must fix their apparent social capitalissues. Social capital is a great aide to problems in democracy and itessential for rise of a civic community that participates.
If these countriesare deprived of social capital, then they are huge hindrance of improving thedemocratic culture. However, there is a huge paradox that comes with socialcapital that most of these mentioned countries are not properly addressing.After the Latin American financial crisis, these mentioned countries had moreof a focus on the increase of social capital as opposed to have a primary focuson democracy. What they forgot to consider is that there is no absolutelyproven to be true relationship between the strength of social capital thatwould translate into an improvement of democracy. They are associated together,but it is not completely valid to say that democracy improves social capital orvice versa.
With an over appreciation and too much emphasis on social capitalcomes very negative repercussions that include: strong links and loyalties,unfair networking amongst top politicians and the wealthy that deterioratesequality, and an increase in corruption that have been seen in Latin Americancountries.