Latin America’s Military Factor

Although the global economic crisis did not affect Latin America as dramatically as it did other regions, the continent's political and institutional weaknesses and perils worsened. The greatest cause of concern is that the military question – supposedly resolved after the transition to democracy, the end of the Cold War, and efforts to achieve regional integration – has reappeared.

BUENOS AIRES – In 2009, Latin America scored an unrecognized achievement: the global economic crisis did not affect the continent as dramatically as it did other regions.   Politically and institutionally, however, Latin America’s weaknesses and perils worsened.

Indeed, while the various legislative and presidential elections held throughout Latin America reinforced – beyond the outcomes in each case – popular commitment to pluralism and democracy, they also reflected growing levels of political polarization and persistent institutional shortcomings. In a way, this reveals a paradox of Latin American democracy: exclusive, minority governments that devalue and weaken the state are no longer acceptable, while the rise of personalismo – a concentration of power and coupled with refractory political tactics – are bringing about fragmentation and unruly governance.

In the region’s international relations, there were both promising and discouraging signs. On the one hand, Brazil continued its successful rise as an emerging power with global aspirations. On the other hand, intra-regional ruptures were an indication of the deterioration of Latin America’s current collective negotiating power, despite the inclusion of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in the G-20. The region as a whole continues to lose weight in world politics, largely because it lacks a coherent, common project.

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