Is Democracy Sustainable in Latin America?
In order to determine if democracy is sustainable in Latin America, it is important to understand or at least have an idea of what democracy is. There are several types of democracy and each is different. According to the English dictionary, democracy is “ a government by the people; especially: rule of the majority by a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections and the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges (Webster’s Dictionary). It is a common view among American politicians that maintaining democracy in Latin America could be achieved through holding honest elections, installing civilian governments, and preventing military coups (Millett). Although Latin America participates in some type or form of free elections, that does not necessarily constitute a legitimate democracy that represents the people. The power is not necessarily vested in the people in Latin America but with the elected officials. Latin American democracy and United States democracy are uniquely different and therefore they are not comparable by the same definition of democracy. The difference results from many factors. In large part, the Latin America is unique because of its Iberian heritage, history, and tradition (Millett).
The conquest of Latin America by Spain and the methods of rule and traditions have largely influenced the development of Latin American democracy. The Spanish mercantile system and the methods and practices it produced have had a direct impact on all the factors that help sustain democracy. The two main factors in Latin American democracy are the society and the economics. Colonial ideas of fueros, caste systems, and church ideologies during the inquisition, have influenced Latin America socially. Economically Spanish mercantilism has made Latin America dependent on outside resources and has given rise to corruption and a loss of trust in the government.
In order to have sustainable democracy it is necessary to have the support of the people. The society must support the idea of government in which, ”there is an absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.” Fueros, caste, and church ideologies still impact present day Latin American society. During Spanish rule, government officials and military officials had “fueros,” or special immunity from prosecution. Fueros still exist today in Latin America and give no recourse for complaints of the population. This situation instills hopelessness in the society overall. A democracy cannot exist, even through elections, if the elite rules it. In order for a democracy to be sustained, the government must be kept in check if not through constitutional powers then the people must check it. A...