Dilemmas of Democracy in Latin America: Crises and Opportunity

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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005 - Political Science - 249 pages
Democracy is deep peril in Latin America, as is U.S. policy in the region. Public support for democracy has declined dramatically since the impressive "third wave" transitions to democracy in the 1980s and 1990s, and public opinion surveys show almost half of Latin Americans prefer "strong government," often a euphemism for authoritarianism. Meanwhile, U.S. policy toward Latin America has returned to far-from-benign neglect. The democratic gains of the last two decades are under threat, neither in Latin America nor in the United States do policymakers seem to have any viable alternatives or solutions to the present malaise. This balanced, clear study explores why democracy in Latin America is so troubled, and why U.S. policy in the area so often goes astray. Howard Wiarda argues that because Latin America was built on a different basis than the United States and has a different history, political culture, and social foundation, it cannot possibly imitate the U.S. model of democracy. Indeed, U.S. policy in Latin America goes astray not just through neglect but through misunderstanding. Ultimately, the author argues, it is only with a renewed and respectful U.S. policy approach-one that includes engaging with the myriad histories and cultures of the region-can the United States hope to encourage a strong and effective democratic tradition there.

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About the author (2005)

Howard J. Wiarda is Dean Rusk Professor of International Relations and head of the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. He is also Senior Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

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