Por Victoria González Rodríguez - International Relations Student
What do healthy democracies in Latin America look like? How much power have the institutions to ensure the wellbeing of the system? What else can be done to consolidate democracy? In the 20th century, countries centered their attention on the polarizing concepts of “dictatorship” versus “democracy”. They thought they had achieved their goal by being able to vote and have the state’s power split into different branches, but little they knew it was just an illusion of democracy; yes, we can vote, but is this all we can do to maintain the democratic system? Nowadays, we aim to improve the quality of democracy, taking into consideration social and economic perspectives.
Latin America shares a colonial past that is difficult to ignore when it comes to understand the present reality. Historically, a few rich landowners took control of the land. In Guatemala, for instance, as colonel Rubio Castañeda (2017) states in his work, there are 22 families (oligarchies) who held the power of the political situation until present day. We can talk of a democracy kidnapped by minorities. The big institutional problem is the lack of check and balance mechanisms. For this reason, accountability of the political system is a must in Latin América.
Corruption is a scourge on democracy, difficult to eradicate in this region, where more than a “dozen ex-presidents are in jail, fugitive, involved or removed due to corruption”, according to José Ugaz, ex-president of NGO International Transparency. To consolidate and maintain a democratic system, first we must strength the democratic structures to make them more accessible and representative; second, empower the institutions (parties and the judicial system); third, check the regime performance (maintain order and fight corruption), (Diamond, 1997, p. 12); and finally, make sure the parties follow the rule of law.
The key for a powerful democracy is a strong and transparent state with efficient Ministries and Secretaries, National Audit Office, Congress, and Judicial Body. Only by these control mechanisms we will be able to maintain a stable and more real democratic political system that will thrive in the years to come. Latin America deserves leaders and institutions trustworthy who work for the people and for the interests of the nation.
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Diamond, L. (1997). Consolidating Democracy in the Americas. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1047703
Rubio Casteda, E. (2017). Desde el cuartel. Otra visión de Guatemala. F & G Editores.