posted by Christi on .
Evidence clearly demonstrates Latin America’s political systems transition to democracy. Though unstable, it’s long democratic history reveals progression from oligarchy, to semi-democracy, to an electoral democracy. Thus, with these three cycles of democratization trace the political changes that demonstrate Latin America’s consistent effort to implement electoral democracy.
Oligarchy dominated Latin America’s political structure from 1900 to 1939. At the height of the European industrialization, Latin America became Europe’s main provider for raw materials. Mexico, for instance, provided Europe and North America with hemp, copper, and zinc. By 1910, Latin America was being integrated ever more strongly into the world of capitalist economy, given the role of “peripheral producer” of primary goods and consumer of industrialized goods from the developed nations at the center of the system. Hence, Latin American countries produced raw material in exchange for European manufactured goods, further, embedded the pattern of economic control by foreign countries.
This pattern already established due to colonialism, continued, and Latin America became more dependent on foreign country’s economy for its prosperity. However, in the minds of many political leaders, this new economic order was reasonable and endorsed, as a result of the growing dominance of liberal ideology in most parts of Latin America. In fact, due to the new ideology, throughout this phase of free-trade, political parties were established. Many political liberals who favored less centralized state rule formed liberal parties, while the traditional agricultural interests and pro church conservatives formed conservative parties. Moreover, as free trade was glorified because of its intrinsic worth, political leaders and foreign counterparts open their borders. This action was largely due to the ideological perspective of many Latin American political leaders, which viewed as abnormal to stand in the way of the economic and social progress that free trade would contribute. With regards to local governments, conveniently took the opportunity to collect revenue from commercial trade which during colonial times had thrived illegally outside of their control. However as it would be expected, it was only a small percent, since only 5% of the populations benefited from the free trade agreements.
Indeed, they did. Thus, this period reveals democratization being adopted by the traditional elite social-class. In fact, between 1900 and 1939 oligarchic regimes were widely common, among Latin America about 40% of the time. Local elites further repressed the indigenous population and middle- class groups, by completely excluding them systematically from the national political life. Chile, for instance, although it had more than one oligarchic party, competition between upper-class factions was highly competitive, since literacy requirement limited votes. Further, elite’s domination of the political system, at the same time, replaced the dominance of the local caudillo. For example, iron fisted dictator Porfirio Diaz dominated the Mexico’s politics. Though, by this time, the largest classes in most countries were the urban working class, which included formal and non formal actors. As these new classes were joined by new segments of the upper class tied to industrialization and commercialization and increased involvement of and foreign investor’s new political forces were mobilized in developing new political coalitions. These issues led the development of the Mexican revolution, the first great revolutionary movements of twentieth first century.
The dominance of the traditional landowners, the Church, and the Diaz dictatorship kept developing social and political forces in check for many years. However, this led to a significant period of Latina American history, in which rural workers formed masses that mobilized and participated in a full force revolutionary armies under generals Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. After the revolution, a radical constitution of 1917 manifested many essential ideals that set for the development of modern Mexico, and implemented the rest of Latin America with new ideas and expectations. Since the Mexican revolution, “land reform, legislation, protecting workers, secular education, reduction of power of foreign investors, and the church’s power and influence as well as the ability to break with overly European models in favor of those that recognized the culture, history, and ethnicity of the masses began to filter through Latin America” (55). Although there were many reforms in this first cycle, this is not a time of democratic governance rather it was an era of oligarchic domination.
The second phase cycle in Latin America between 1940 and 1977 marked by a partial a rise and near- entire end of electoral democracy. There was a temporary downturn in the early 1950’s, largely as a result of military coups. During the second cycle, the middle classes played a major role, this group included urban professionals, public and private employees, artisans, craftsman, and entrepreneurs, and some farmers. Throughout this period Latin America experienced many more socio-political revolutions including Guatemala in 1944-1954, Bolivia 1952-1964, Cuba 1959-Present, and Nicaragua 1979-1990. All were socio-political motivated with the common goals of land reform, workers rights, nationalization, and self-determination. However, although the many of the revolutions succeeded, due to revolutionary fighting led to alternations of military domination with a semi-democratic system, under which elections were understood to be free but not fair.
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